If you are a member of this FB group I’m talking about below, I urge you to re-think your values. If you have ever used the word “hojabi” to refer to a woman whose hijab style you don’t approve of, with the excuse that it’s “un-Islamic,” I urge you, too, to re-think your values and re-evaluate your relationship with the divine and with fellow humans. You’re doing harm to yourself and to those on whom you put such labels.
Because, as usual, this post got longer than I’d intended for it to, here’s a brief outline: I’ll first introduce this FB group, then share some of their photos with group members’ comments on the photos, and then discuss ten things that are wrong with the group itself as well as the broader concept of a “hOjabi” woman and what it means for Muslim women.
Introduction to the Facebook Group
There’s a Facebook group called “hOjabis.” This term itself is so problematic, so un-Islamic, so unacceptable that I am at a loss of words on what to say about it (but I discuss the word “hojabi” and the many problems with it below). The group, though, is one of the most insensitive, most gossippy spaces for Muslims to come and attack the way Muslim women dress. What the admins/members do is take pictures of random Muslim women wherever they are found wearing the hijab in a way that doesn’t suit the group members’ preferences and expectations, post the photos to the group without their consent or knowledge, and invite other members to attack those being photographed. Some of the photos are taken from the net and are of celebrities, but most are of ordinary Muslim women wearing the hijab in a way that the judges (ordinary Muslims like you and me with clearly no decent purpose in their lives) there do not find “appropriate” enough; they admit to “stalking” the women to take photos of them, some of them proudly professing that they had to run several miles to get the picture and were excited to post it on the page.
The creators of the group claim that:
The creators of this group neither support or are against hojabiness. Our purpose is to allow us to laugh at ourselves and find humor in all the creative ways Muslim women practice hijab. We mean no harm, so if you can’t handle our personal sense of humor then peace out! 🙂
That’s a lie – because if it’s to find humor in all the creative ways Muslim women practice the hijab, why are the photos only of those hijabis who do not practice it the (conventionally/traditionally) “correct” way? If it’s just for fun, and if it’s for “all the creative ways Muslim women practice hijab,” where are the photos of women wearing it — for real — in the many different styles the hijab comes in? What’s with the attack on women showing skin or hair while wearing the hijab, or smoking or dancing or holding a boy’s hand or doing something else you think a hijabi girl should not be doing? Who exactly are you fooling with that disclaimer?
Even so, even if all types of hijabi Muslim women were equally ridiculed on this page, why? Why is it so natural for these members and admins to allow for women’s bodies to be up for mockery and scorn? And even if their bodies were to be praised, why this display? We have no problem attacking the Western media for doing this to women (and we shouldn’t have any problem doing this), but we are guilty of doing this to Muslim women who don’t dress according to our standards, either, okay?
What’s more, this actually isn’t funny because it cannot be funny to the ones it’s being done to. If you disagree, how about testing this out with your photos or with those of your loved ones? Take your own photos and put them up like you’re doing others’ without letting the other group members know whose photos they are, and waiting for their responses? That’s when we’ll know for real whether it’s all just harmless fun or attacks on people’s choices and values. If you won’t like it being done to YOU or to someone you care about, it’s not funny and it’s not fun. If those to whom it’s being done do not find it funny, then it’s not funny – you don’t get to decide that.
What’s Wrong with the Word “Hojabi” – stop using it!
Urban Dictionary has caught on with this term and here’s what it says about it: “I was at the mall the other day and I saw this girl with a shiny headscarf and a skirt which stuck to her so tightly that I could make our her nipples. What a hojabi.”
A blogger writes of hijabis who wear make-up and all:
What is it with women that wear hijabs but still wear figure hugging clothes, full make-up and designer shades and handbags like the Saudi women you see in Kensington and Chelsea?I don’t know whether to judge them or not. You do notice them more than women who don’t wear the hijab because they’re wearing a great skirt or shoes or whatever and you think ‘Ooo, that would be nice in my wardrobe!’
The whole idea of a “ho”jabi is highly offensive. It is slut-shaming at best. The “ho” in “hojabi” refers to the English slang “hoe,” which refers to a woman who’s “too loose” in her clothing and/or is sexually promiscuous – whether this is true or not, whether anyone knows this for sure or not, we determine this by looking at how she dresses or talks to men or carries herself in public. (Note: I condemn such references to women who are “sexually loose”! No society speaks out against the sexual promiscuity of men, but most seem to do for women. This double standard needs to die asap. What are the masculine equivalents of slut, bitch, whore, hoe, etc.? None exist, right? Because men are totally allowed to use their bodies however they want to get pleasure and women are not. The terms “shame” and “virtuous” never apply to men but only to women, and religions have further increased the shunning of women who don’t fall into this chaste vs unchaste binary. How often does anyone talk about men’s virginity, chastity, immodesty, clothing, etc.? To quote the character of Lilly Singh’s mother, “I never heard before.”) No, actually, “hoe” is patriarchy’s code word for any woman who makes her own choices, is confident in herself, stands up for herself; its synonyms include bitch, slut, whore. One might have no idea of the woman’s sexual life, but only because she dresses a certain way — the way that “justifies” rape — she’s declared a whore, a hoe, a slut, a bitch. And, so, when a Muslim woman doesn’t wear her hijab “properly,” it only makes sense that we all pounce on her and put her private life/choices on trial, publicly declaring her a whore, because, look, a strand of her hair shows! Or her skin shows! Or her curves show! Or she’s not slim enough to be covered fully by her hijab and has larger breasts than many women around her!
“Hojabi” Assholery on Twitter
Forget this Facebook group – we have plenty of folks on Twitter calling hijabi women out when they don’t wear their hijab properly. It’s you either wear it the way these men want you to or don’t wear it at all! There’s no in-between, and there’s no such thing as your own choice. (But make no mistake, non-Muslims: The hijab is “a Muslim woman’s choice! Leave her alone!” Even though, in reality, it’s other Muslims’ choice for the ones who wear it.) Check out the following tweets, where mostly men are out to tell us all what the difference between a “pure” hijab and a “ho”jabi is:
Respect the scarf, or don’t wear it #Hojabis
— Ahmad Bazzoun ™ (@AhmadBazzoun36) March 10, 2013
I swear some Hijabis are undercover pornstars. #Hojabis
— Tao (@Tayyub24) December 23, 2012
Man, this frustrated pious brother of ours is really upset with us, girls; we have GOT to start wearing the hijab his way or continue getting his wrath:
— Sohail (@SohailBuddy) July 23, 2012
And yet one more from him! My:
— Sohail (@SohailBuddy) December 6, 2011
But we ain’t being spared by other women, either (more proof of this below in the comments on photos to the FB group):
And good God, there’s a whole Twitter account dedicated to the struggles, whatever they may be, of a “hojabi”!
I don’t wanna ruin how the designer of this gorg see-thru blouse intended it 2 look so I’ll wear a nude tight skin shirt under it #hojabi
— hojabi problems (@HojabiProblems) December 22, 2011
— hojabi problems (@HojabiProblems) December 22, 2011
Texted w/ a guy till 3 in the morn & he didn’t text the next day-> Hojabi equivalent of hooking up w/ no call the next day #hojabiproblems
— hojabi problems (@HojabiProblems) January 8, 2012
Let’s just do it this way – and we’ll stop right here with the Twitter assholery:
This idea of the “ho”jabi promotes this misogynist attitude that women’s bodies, women’s choices, women’s lifestyles are a valid source of enjoyment, amusement, ridicule. On the FB group, even in the cases where warrior-like women’s photos are displayed on the group, the comments from the Muslim men are vulgar, sickening, and disrespectful. Check this out, for example:
The above photo with more comments:
Maybe they’re just jealous, I onno … like:
And now, boys and girls, a round of applause for this one sweet boy for whom this is the dirtiest thing he’s ever done: stalking a “ho”jabi to take her photo to get approval from this group:
This one below is one of the most insensitive ones they’ve got – and the comments … oh my God. This particular poster has some of the most harmful things to say about the women whose pictures he posts. I have no idea in what world he can be allowed to speak this way of other humans.
Now for the ten things I promised above that are wrong with this group and with the idea of telling women how to wear their hijab:
1. While you may think that there’s a specific way to dress in Islam or one specific way to don the hijab, nothing in Islam permits you to mock others, especially publicly. We shouldn’t mock people just because Islam says not to but because it’s simply the right thing to do as humans – don’t insult others. At the very least, it’s gossiping. And while everyone loves to cherry pick their favorite hadiths, imposing some on other Muslims while ignoring others for themselves, remember that hadith that says that gossiping and backbiting is like eating a fellow Muslim’s flesh?
2. You might be thinking that the “ho”jabis whose photos you’re sharing and mocking on social media are simply facing the consequences of their “mockery” of Islam and the concept of hijab — no, YOUR concept of hijab — but the fact is that that’s actually subjective: you don’t get to go around telling others how to dress, mock them because they’re wearing leggings or tight jeans with their hijab or are showing some strands of hair with the hijab on. But what’s not subjective is that what you’re doing is hurtful and disrespectful not just to the women you’re attacking but to all women. Most Muslims might not agree on the basics of Islam — for example, you guys clearly think it’s more important for a woman to cover her hair and body a certain way while many other Muslims and I believe not making fun of people is more important than whether someone’s hijab is done “right” — but what we should ALL be agreeing on, and what all religions and faiths agree on, is that it is wrong for anyone and everyone to laugh at people. That’s not open to debate – that’s just a fact. Laughing at people is wrong everywhere. Also, man, is it heartbreakingly telling that the creators of the group are women (more on this below)!
3. You do not have the permission of the women whose pictures you’ve either stolen off the internet or whom you stalked to take their photos and post on social media without their approval or even knowledge. What form of Islam do you think would permit you to do such a thing? Oh, yes – YOUR form of Islam. After all, there are as many Islams as there are Muslims, as your practices show.
4. This is one of the misogynistic attitudes among Muslims. As if it’s not enough to simply correct women about their practice of Islam or to tell them they’re wrong in the way they dress, but on top of that, this Facebook group takes their photos, puts them up for display for group members and others to see, and subjects them to ridicule by any and all viewers. While I’m fully aware that women are sometimes the most strongest supporters of misogyny and patriarchy, it is saddening, heartbreaking to see Muslim women ridiculing their fellow sisters. I’d like to remind these women that the Muslim men you’re sitting there laughing at your sisters with are actually not your friends; if they can take pleasure in mocking, harassing, stalking, and humiliating other women, they can, they will, and they probably have already done it to you, too. I’m not suggesting Muslim men are our enemy; I’m saying the patriarchy and misogyny you’re promoting and tolerating on your page are our common enemy no matter how you choose to wear your hijab. Next time you laugh at a woman because she’s not wearing the hijab the way you think she should, pause for a moment and ask yourself what right you have to tell her what to do.
5. If the intention behind this is to teach Muslim women a lesson about HOW to wear the hijab properly, there are many things wrong with this, too, including:
a) That’s not your prerogative; you have no right or authority to do that.
b) Even if you did have a right to tell other women how to dress or what the correct form of hijab is, this is an offensive and un-Islamic platform to send them that message.
c) You think you’re simply pointing at the “hypocrisy” of these hijabis (e.g., they claim to be pious by wearing the hijab (!!) on the one hand, but on the other hand, they’re not doing it right – like “wearing nail polish, seriously?! Going to a bar, seriously? OMG! Wearing a tight shirt? What a slut!” or “holding a boy’s hand or, God forbid, kissing a boy while wearing a hijab?! What a total complete whore!” What you’re insinuating is that when a woman wears the hijab, there’s not only one specific narrow way she must wear the hijab and which parts she should be covering and showing, but on top of that, she should also not be doing certain things in public. Like being an Olympic Figure Skater (whose photo you folks ripped apart with disrespectful, destructive comments on your page – she shouldn’t be subjected to such comments even if she weren’t dressed that modestly, but for God’s sake, what more do you expect of women! Not that anyone should care what you expect of women, though); in other words, the moment a Muslim covers her head, she has to fulfill a whole bunch of other criteria in order to be considered a true Muslim or a true hijabi — which basically breaks down to “she can only pop out babies and do nothing else, especially something like pursuing her dreams!” — and if she doesn’t fulfill that criteria, she’s a “hoe” covering up her hoeness with a hijab. You’re also implying that only hijabi women are prone to being hypocrites. Which, by the way, this isn’t hypocrisy because you don’t know that what they’re doing may actually be totally legit and acceptable in their worldview. But while you pick on women, have you ever pointed to a man’s hypocrisy? Like the last time a Muslim man did or said something that is downright impermissible in Islam – like harassing women, staring women up and down, laughing at women, beat up a woman, drank alcohol (while ordering “halal” meat), committed murder or theft, and so on?
6. Goddamnit, STOP it with this whole hijab-policing! Stop telling women what to do!
7. There’s a whole history of men dictating to women how to live Islam, how to dress, how to think, how to do this and that – how to be – and it’s nothing less of men’s desire to control women. I don’t care if a man insists he’s just doing it because he means well and that he’s just trying to guide women; it’s still about control. Men have always done this throughout history, and they’ll continue to do so until the women they’re controlling and telling what to do and how to dress and think and be and live and practice Islam shut them up. So this needs to stop asap, and a perfect example of this patriarchal dictation is this group I’m so sickened by. Women are fully capable of deciding for themselves what is right and what is wrong, and that includes the style of their hijab. YOU don’t get any say in it, and I don’t get any say in it. At the very most, you (but not I) may dismiss their choices as un-Islamic – but that’s where it should stop, if it goes that far at all (it shouldn’t); you have no right to take pictures of them and publicize them on social networks and encourage others to mock them and their choices. You accuse them of not having any Islam or faith, but where’s YOUR Islam/faith? Why is it that in
8. For the last time: If you think what “ho”jabi women are wearing is something God would disapprove of, do you think what you’re doing in response is something God would approve of? That is assuming that you get a right to respond to their hijab styles in the first place.
9. There’s no one particular way to wear the hijab, and every woman who wears it and only her herself gets to decide how, when, and where to do it. YOU don’t get to decide that for her, and you don’t get to decide whether how she’s dressed is appropriate or Islamic or not. You have no idea why the women you’re mocking are wearing the hijab – maybe they’re doing it by force, and if so, they might be retaliating by wearing it their particular, individual ways. Maybe, maybe just maybe, they actually have more important concerns in life to worry than whether their hair and bodies are covered properly or not.
10. You people belong to that brand of Muslims (and others) for whom a woman can never get it right. This “it” can be her life style, career, opinions, whatever – anything. Whatever it is is, a woman is just never doing it right. That’s why you not only attack women who don’t cover their hair and bodies properly, but also those who cover “too” much! We women just aren’t wired to be moderate, that’s all. And you’ve taken it upon your righteous selves to guide us by putting us in our places by stealing our photos (property) and setting us up for ridicule unabashedly by those who think and live like you. So for you, the woman wearing a niqab is also subject to scorn because, goddamnit, why won’t she cover just enough! Why does she have to cover every damn thing?! Doesn’t she know her Islam?!
P.S. I was invited to this group over a year ago by a friend. Upon seeing what its intentions were and what a toxic environment it was, I send this friend and her sister (who are both moderators there) telling them that I found this place to be un-Islamic and unacceptable and harmful to Muslim women and so I’m leaving it. Over a year later, another friend mentioned it to me saying he found the captions hilarious. I joined it back to check the captions out, and now it came up in a conversation with another friend, and as I went through each photo and its caption, I felt like vomiting at the lack of humanity in the members posting these pictures and taking a good laugh out of them. I have no doubt that I’ll be banned from the group the moment the admins come across this blog post – and I’ll be sure to post it there.
Edit: Actually, I posted this article to the group under one of their posts as a comment, and they’ve now banned me. Free speech for the win! Or, as someone named Y.K. said on Facebook when I said this under a friend’s post about this article, “In the interest of free speech, #jesuisHojabi” LOL.