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It’s fundamentally problematic for a man to weigh in on hijab. That hasn’t stopped me from wading into the topic before (see: The Burka and the Bikini), but the only conversation of substance that can happen on the topic is between Muslim women, particularly those who wear it and those who don’t. Any discussion about hijab where a male is doing the talking is probably a waste of your time, my efforts included.

In the past 24 hours, however, a genuine debate about hijab, between Muslim women, has indeed arisen. It started when a woman professor at an Evangelical Christian university donned hijab in solidarity with Muslim women, and got fired (though not technically for wearing hijab, but rather expressing the Catholic view that Allah and God are one, which contradicts the Protestant view). There’s a whole spontaneous movement of non-Muslim women wearing hijab, in fact, which sparked its own tangential debate about the tension between American feminism and hijab. (Essential reading: the dangers of modesty-shaming by Nadiah Mohajir).

Muslim women who wear hijab are, by virtue of the iconic headscarf, on the frontline when it comes to Islamophobia, which is at an all-time high due to the Presidential election. Muslim women who choose not to wear the hijab are not identifiably Muslim and thus they do not experience Islamophobia the same way that hijab-wearers do. This is why the act of solidarity of wearing hijab is so powerful.

Enter Asra Nomani, who decided the real issue is not Islamophobia, but an “Honor Brigade” who force Muslim women to wear hijab. Nomani falls squarely into the “Islamic feminism is an oxymoron” category of thought, and the movement of hijab solidarity offended her enough to provoke her to op-ed in the Washington Post: “As Muslim women, we actually ask you not to wear the ‘hijab’ in the name of interfaith solidarity”.

Dilshad Ali, editor of the Muslim Portal at Patheos, and an absolutely badass feminist who puts Furiosa and Rey to shame, wrote a response to Nomani, entitled “Please Do (If You Want) Wear the Headscarf in the Name of Interfaith Solidarity”

I think that the best thing men can do here is to sit down, look pretty, and shut up. Actually, there is one way in which I can contribute meaningfully – Let’s get some data! I am running two polls on Twitter, which will expire in 24 hours. You can vote in the appropriate poll below. It should go without saying, but please do not vote in this poll if you are male, or if you are a non-Muslim. Obviously this isn’t a scientific poll but it does at least ground the debate in some empiricism.

Step 1: read the two essays

  • Asra: As Muslim women, we actually ask you not to wear the ‘hijab’ in the name of interfaith solidarity
  • Dilshad: Please Do (If You Want) Wear the Headscarf in the Name of Interfaith Solidarity
  • Step 2: vote in this poll if you are a Muslim woman who wears hijab:

    Step 3: vote in this poll if you are a Muslim woman who does not wear hijab:

    … step 4, thank Donald Trump for being the prime mover in triggering this debate.

    UPDATE: Haroon Moghul has a landmark series of tweets that take Asra Nomani to task for trying to change the subject. It’s worth emphasising that Haroon is not commenting on the hijab – he is commenting on the call for “reform” by Asra.

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