Don’t tell women how to protest


Sofia Majeed, Media editor and business manager

Amid protests centered in Iran’s capital city, Tehran, the global digital community of activists is weighing in. These protests are a result of the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who died in the custody of the Iranian morality police. Since then, over 200 deaths and arrests have occurred as a result of the uproar. 

In all honesty, as a Muslim woman myself, I feel the Muslim community is throwing stones at a glass house by criticizing the protests. How can we sit comfortably in our cars, and in our homes, dressed to our liking, and record videos explaining why we think that the oppressed should not act in certain ways? People who are not currently affected by the Iranian government will never fully understand the nuances of the situation, and should refrain from engaging in discourse online aimed at discouraging protests and spinning a narrative against the protesters. 

Iran’s conservative Islamic state has long imposed strict modesty requirements for women. The basic requirement is that all women, regardless of faith or nationality, must cover their hair with a headscarf in public and wear loose-fitting trousers under their coats or outerwear garments. Fed up, the women are protesting, which they are quite literally risking their lives to do. Many have been met with brutal police forces who use extreme violence to silence them. The protester death count as of Oct. 14 is 222 lives, not including people who have been hospitalized or injured. 

Protesters have been using fabric hijabs and burning them in protest in order to show their discontent. Burning a piece of fabric is a trivial issue in comparison to the dictatorship at hand, yet outsiders continue to share their unsolicited opinions. Instead of fighting the culture war within the Muslim community, we should be redirecting that energy into expressing dissent towards the extremist regime that goes further than just forcing a dress code, one that reinforces a fear-based mindset and uses violence to suppress the voices of Iranians. 

Internationally, these protests have received much attention both from press outlets and social media in general. However, not everyone has been supportive. Some Muslims on social media have expressed outrage at the burning of the hijab, as they believe it is disrespectful to the Islamic religion. Many videos with the #Iranhijab show Muslim men or women explaining why they believe the hijab is a symbol of God and how there are other ways to protest. Regardless of your personal opinion on the hijab and its place in Islam, it is not right to disregard the protests and the daily struggles of Iranian women. Some Muslims may believe that the hijab is a compulsory aspect of the religion, and regardless of that Iranian women deserve the ability to choose. Furthermore, they deserve the right to protest their living conditions without people accusing them of abandoning their culture and or disrespecting their religion. 

This level of hypocrisy exists on so many levels within the community, even at an international level. We criticize the community for facing issues we could not even fathom.  At the end of the day, it comes down to choice. In some lands, Muslim women have that right of choice. Earlier this year, India instituted a hijab ban in the southern state of Karnataka in some schools. This caused an uproar on social media and within that community. The families of the victims are attempting to take the issue to the courts. They were able to ban it on grounds that the hijab is not an essential part of the religion. However, this is simply not true. In Iran, they don’t. The circumstances are incomparable, so let’s stop comparing and critiquing them.