Hijabis are often treated as religious idols, a problem that has given rise to the socially constructed idea of appropriate and inappropriate environments for veiled women. Nightclubs are out of the question, bars are not OK, and restaurants with alcohol on display are best avoided. Some people believe hijabis shouldn't be entering such areas as a sign of respect to the hijab. Others, however, advocate for autonomy and believe hijabis are free to choose the environments they partake in.
Hijabis shouldn't be treated like religious figures because they are simply not; however, societal norms and discriminatory policies often deny hijabis the freedom of a personal choice. When a hijabi challenges such norms, she is shamed by members of her own society. When she conforms to them, she is blamed for her so-called oppression by members of other societies. Hijabis try to practice their faith in the best way they can or in the way they deem most applicable with their own beliefs. But, they are often judged according to the standards society has imposed on them. It's either that or plain-old Islamophobia.
The most recent case involves a Muslim woman named Soaliha Iqbal, who had to deal with both of the aforementioned obstacles. The 21-year-old was recently asked to remove her hijab to be able to enter a venue in Sydney because an Islamophobic bouncer denied her entry. She was refused admission to Paragon Hotel, a resto-pub located in the Australian city, on Oct. 25. She recently shared her story in a blog post via 5Why.
"He pointed to my hijab and said 'take it off,'" she wrote, explaining exactly what had happened that night.
After telling her story, she was criticized by members of society due to the ubiquitous social norms occupying the lives of hijab-wearing Muslim women.
"His threatening demeanor kicked me back into reality, my face burned with humiliation and rage. Seething, and on the cusp of tears, I could only respond with a shaky 'Are you serious? This is my hijab,'" she added.
She was told to step aside and was then called out for "overreacting" to the bouncer's Islamophobic decision.
"Instead of apologizing, the bouncer told me I was the problem for overreacting to a simple request," she wrote and then added that she was humiliated, violated, and gaslighted into questioning her attitude towards the whole incident.
"It's funny how it's more offensive to tell a man his behavior is inappropriate than for a man to behave inappropriately," Iqbal wrote.
The police, who arrived at the scene shortly after, also attempted to discredit the 21-year-old in a bid to avoid the labeling of the case as "discrimination."
"The question of whether a hijabi woman should be going to a club or not, is frankly irrelevant"
Iqbal later said that Craig Wesker, group operations manager for Ryan's Hotel Group which owns Paragon, sent her an apology after she shared the incident with the public.
"As this was [the bouncer's] first shift on the venue, he no doubt wanted to impress the venue management with his professionalism and attention to detail in carrying out his duties and responsibilities diligently. Due to this diligence when checking you [sic] ID and trying to ensure he had facial recognition, he asked you to remove you [sic] hijab interpreting it as only a headscarf," Wesker wrote in the aftermath of the incident.
Many news sites have reported that the woman attempted to enter a "nightclub" when in fact Paragon doesn't describe itself as such. Iqbal wrote on her now (possibly temporarily) deleted Facebook page that the labeling of the venue as such has tripled the amount of hate she has received from the self-proclaimed halal police, aka a group of misogynists who believe they have the right to patrol women's bodies and actions.
Members of the halal-police were literally everywhere
Some went as far as judging the way the woman puts on the hijab
Others think it's their RIGHT to dictate how another woman should live her life
An unacceptable shaming game
Hijabis are policed from nearly every corner in society. On one hand, Islamophobes have made it extremely hard for them to practice their faith in peace. On the other side of the spectrum, the self-proclaimed halal-police meddle with every aspect of their lives.
Hijabis don't owe anyone their faith, but somehow many Muslims tend to hold them up on a pedestal and expect them to express their religious beliefs in a certain manner. Muslim men, in particular, feel entitled to comment, judge, and shame Muslim women - hijabis specifically - when they don't conform to the norms set by patriarchal systems.
In Iqbal's case, she was denied entry because of her faith and was then rejected by the Muslim community for sharing her story due to the venue in question. News sites' portrayal of the venue as a "nightclub" added insult to injury, but does the venue really matter? Will society ever stop dictating and writing the lives of hijabis in a way that serves the patriarchy? Choosing to partake in certain events in whatever venues is a personal choice, as are your religious beliefs and expression of those beliefs. The presence of a hijab does not justify any type of shaming game and it's time members of society understand that.