Wearing the Hijab- Solidarity or Insensitivity?

When I professed first vows I chose to wear a veil- it was blessed and part of the liturgy along with my order’s cross. Some of the Sisters expressed their disappointment in my decision, as they felt liberated when they could forgo the mandatory veil and traditional habit. My particular order then and now, allows for the autonomy in this regard. I was not making a judgement on them, but it was my personal choice.

Perhaps this is why I am disturbed to see #HijabSolidarity trending, along with encouragement for photo submissions of Non-Muslim women donning a Hijab veil. It seems insensitive actually. It follows along the lines of Michael Moore’s encouragement of selfies holding signs “I am Muslim”. I fail to see how this shows solidarity. To declare yourself Muslim for a day, or for  a Facebook post, denies your autonomy and makes religion , in my view, and either or. Can I not be who I am AND respect who you are without taking over your choice?

Solidarity, or being an ally, means support. Its’ not assimilation. It is a respect for diversity, for the other’s autonomy.

Well intentioned as wearing the hijab or declaring oneself Muslim for a photo might be, it can be detrimental.  For some women who are Muslim, the choice to wear a hijab is a sign of their faith, an identifier for all. Tragically it brings insults and abuse from those who stigmatize Muslims.

Yet for other women who are Muslim, the hijab is a sign of oppression. In many areas women are not permitted into mosques unless they are covered. There are those Muslims who firmly believe the Qu’ran is explicit that women must be covered. The personal choice of a woman not to wear a hijab may be influenced by this.

The choice does belong to the woman. Whether a woman who is Muslim does or does not  wear a hijab, it  says nothing about her feminism, piety, voice, fears, etc. . It is her choice and she owes no explanation.

Which brings me back to the PhotoOps. The hijab is a religious practice, not to be taken lightly. The images are disconcerting to me. It reminds me of the many , well-intentioned, white congregations that uploaded group photos with caption: “ Hands up! Don’t Shoot!”  In almost every photo you would find several individuals smiling with their hands raised.

They don’t get it.

Being in solidarity with Muslims isn’t declaring yourself Muslim, isn’t dressing “like” a Muslim. It is learning and respecting and above all else, being vocal against the rhetoric and hate. Its being active for more than a set period of time.

I’ve found two insightful articles, pro and con for this. I leave you with them, and welcome dialog. One is from my own denomination, the United Church of Christ. The other is an Op-Ed from  the Washington Post.

“As a Muslim women we actually ask you not to wear the hijab in the  name of interfaith solidarity “

“United Church of Christ- Chicago Seminary offers a visible statement of solidarity with Muslim Sisters”



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