Saudi women slam state-imposed hijab customs online

Saudi women slam state-imposed hijab customs online
Women in Saudi Arabia demanded the right to practice their faith in a way they resonated with, as opposed to conforming to a state-imposed version of Islam.
3 min read
20 Sep, 2018
Taraf's selfie inspired women across the country [Twitter]

Saudi women have sparked a debate online after some called for the freedom to practice their faith in a way that resonates with them, in a new hashtag that gripped the kingdom's virtual world.

Due to the global phenomenon of patriarchy, states and societies have formed a standardised perception of the “ideal woman” based on their own socio-political bias and interpretations of faith.

In Saudi Arabia, all women are legally obliged to wear a loose fitting traditional dress called an abaya and covering of the head is mandatory in most parts of the country.

Meanwhile, the presence of Saudi Arabia's religious police operates as a quasi-police force with patrols in major cities, enforcing so-called religious decrees to make sure standards are sustained by society.

In a hashtag trending in Saudi Arabia, which translates to “so you can live happily”, one Saudi woman called Taraf al-Assiri posted a Snapchat video selfie of herself without her hijab.

Translation: I let my hair out and I removed the niqab. All of this time I covered, but why? Because society told me to? 

After a backlash, women followed in support of Taraf with a hashtag that translates to "in solidarity with Taraf al-Assiri" noting the choice to cover up is a personal decision between the Muslim woman and God, not a Muslim woman and a state.

Translation: I'm with you girls

Some men had also expressed solidarity:

But many had slandered and gaslighted women for wanting to choose:

Translation: A woman in a hijab vs an uncovered woman

She was even accused of being a disbeliever - a move which ironically, in Islam, is a sin that could take the accuser out of the fold of Islam:

Translation: A vile person with no religion nor principles. And God knows if she is actually a part of her family name.

But the comments are neither new or surprising. Muslim women are objectified and policed across the world.

Last month, former UK foreign minister Boris Johnson sparked outrage after he compared Muslim women who choose to wear the niqab to letterboxes and bankrobbers.

The controversial comment instilled fear in many Muslim women who wear the niqab, or even hijab, bringing their autnonomous choices into the spotlight.

"I've had uncomfortable stares, and there was a time when a mother and daughter kept turning around to look at me rudely while I was on the train in north London", niqab wearer Nadia Choudhury told The New Arab.

I said to them: 'You don't have to be scared of me, I'm not an alien, just a normal woman like you,' to which the mother replied: 'Women are beautiful you shouldn't be covering it all up.'