The congruence between Iran, France and India
It pains me, as a writer, to begin an analytical article with the following sentence, but it is nonetheless true: much has been said about what is happening in Iran in recent weeks. The comparison of the lens on the bodies of Muslim women in Iran, France and India was also done tirelessly.
More recently, I have also seen videos, articles and Instagram posts from the West appropriating the protests and from sections of the left associating the protests with the CIA’s fostering of anti-Iranian sentiments.
However, this article does not aim to examine the causes of the protests in Iran and India and the sentiment in France or what prompted them. It’s about taking a closer look at why women are generally seen as incapable of organizing and protesting against state oppression, despite repeatedly exposing their strength. He also talks about how the act of oppression and the manifestation of the patriarchal mentality differ, but yet, therein lies the congruence.
It is also important to add context to why I decided to write this article. I lived in Karnataka for much of my formative life. I’m a Shia Muslim (the majority religion in Iran) and I’ve also been living in Europe, just across the border from France, for a year.
Ideally this would mean I have a multitude of emotions to represent, but often I find myself saturated and forced to comment. Being so close to the issue, personally too, I feel uncomfortable (to say the least) that a fundamental right is always infringed when fundamentalism comes into play, the right fundamental principle of women’s free will over their bodies.
Varied events, a common thread
Radically different expressions are at play in Iran, France and India (Karnataka) when it comes to the hijab or headscarf. It is also important to mention that it is a headgear and not a full veil or full dress – the Burkha. There is also no compulsion for a Burkha in the Quran.
While Iran is on the religious end of the spectrum, France, in its secular stance, embodies anti-Muslim sentiments. Religious symbols/clothing have been banned in French schools since 2004. There is also a constant attack on the bodies of adult women in public spaces. While the moral police in Iran are tasked with enforcing the hijab and the correct wearing of the hijab, their French counterparts spend their day asking women to get rid of their burkinis (swimwear that covers the entire body and head) and vote to ban the hijab in sports events.
In India or precisely in Karnataka, the policing of women’s bodies is linked to the insecurity of a majority religion, and the background remains the same: fundamentalism. At the heart of what has been dubbed the ‘hijab line‘ by the media, was the situation in an Udupi college where 6 girls were not allowed to go to class with their hijab.
However, their main complaints »external forcesfor having wanted to wear the hijab at school, the one he claims is a new request. This is another example of the patriarchal mentality that women are not able to make choices about their own bodies, they must have outside encouragement.
The other commonality in these countries is the claim of an apparent threat emanating from the way a Muslim woman chooses to behave. While a woman without her hijab or a ‘inappropriate hijab‘ is a threat to Islamic values, a woman with a hijab is a threat to the French idea of Eurocentric secular sentiments, and a woman demanding to wear it in school is a threat to the majority religion for no rational reason in India .
Boys were seen wearing saffron shawls to counter the hijab and also threatening girls. Sentiment towards hijab in schools has been politically sensationalized to such an extent in India that a woman in another part of the country was not allowed to access funds from her own account because she entered the bank wearing a hijab or headscarf.
I find monitoring Muslim women seems easier because they can”look muslim”. However, this also leads me to look at the chicken and egg problem – do they appear overtly Muslim and therefore attacked, or was the hijab designed in such a way as to make women more Muslim women and then further oppressed – in any case, by men who make laws, execute laws and men who interrogate women in personal spaces?
The male gaze is another aspect related to the hijab. In the Quran, men are required to lower their gaze – this is the male hijab. But there is no measurement for that, is there? Now compare that to the Muslim woman, and that’s a visible physical feature for criticism. There is less debate about “how muslim“A man looks compared to what a Muslim woman should look like. It often also means how “ideal” she is. This is also common in the so-called West and refers to the legend that woman is the root of evil – like Eve who ate the forbidden fruit.
As for my personal experience, I’ve had DMs asking if I’m Muslim and if so, why I don’t wear hijab. It’s almost as if there is a male brigade appointed to bring the good Muslim woman back to the straight and narrow as she wanders off.
From Muslim women I know, I have never heard of them asking their male counterparts if they look down, but every Muslim woman I know has received such unsolicited questions about their faith and their bodily attributes.
The myth of no agency
A common thread running through these events is the myth that Muslim women lack agency. Frequently asked questions are “she needs to be protected“, “maybe she is forced to wear hijab”, “maybe she was tricked into marrying someone“, and “she is unable to raise her voice, there is a hidden motive behind“, etc.
According to a Reuters report As of September 30, at least 83 women have been killed in the protest across the country of Iran since the protest over the death of a young Kurdish girl who was arrested by vice police and faced brutality . Highlighting the typical reaction of states to quell any uprising where women claim agency of what is their own body.
It may seem that the debates on the situations in Iran, France and India are varied in their policy towards the choice of women, because they fall under different ideologies. However, fundamentalism is the core, whether it is religious fundamentalism, secular fundamentalism from “non-integrationor the religious fundamentalism of a completely different religion.
Patriarchal thinking and the suppression of women’s choices and sexuality is the underlying goal. The state apparatus works to advance this thought, regardless of the differences in basic political ideology in the countries. Time and again, women have shown their choice of removing the hijab, wearing it with aplomb, or protesting state rules for infringing on their right to their bodies. But the repression continues.
When I reflect on my lived experiences, I have only scratched the surface here. I had to struggle with my thoughts to avoid the rants. Writing this also meant organizing the different opinions I had growing up, what I think about them now, and how I was taught to cover my breasts with a dupatta while growing up to avoid the male gaze.