New Zealand women who wore a hijab in solidarity with shooting victims have faced a backlash from Muslim campaigners.
Some women have covered up with hijab in the wake of the Christchurch mosque shootings. Even Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern showed sympathy by wearing a black hijab.
She won widespread praise for wearing a headscarf when she met members of the Muslim community after the horrifying incident.
However, women’s rights advocates said it was a sensitive issue for many women who fight against the obligatory wearing of the hijab.
Maryamn Lee, a Muslim women’s rights advocate who chooses to not use a headscarf, said: “When we see non-Muslim women wear the hijab in solidarity of Muslim women it is very ironic and contradictory because our experience with the hijab is not empowering or uplifting in the political sense.
“I wish [Ardern] hadn’t but I understand where she is coming from because she is not a Muslim and not from a Muslim majority country.”
Women across the country wore headscarves as part of a Head Scarf for Harmony Campaign.
It was a doctor who started it upon hearing about a woman who was terrified to go out as she felt her hijab would make her a target for terrorism.
Lee said women in Malaysia choosing not to wear headscarves would receive more pressure and harassment by Muslims citing PM Ardern’s actions.
Women in Muslim-majority Malaysia have been barred from government offices for an outfit that officials deemed as indecent, such as shorts and skirts.
Masih Alinejad, a journalist and activist, had mixed feelings about the campaign. She has received death threats for her campaigning against the obligatory wearing of the hijab.
“I felt admiration that a prominent leader and women in New Zealand showed compassion to the Muslim community, but I also felt that you are using one of the most visible symbols of oppression for Muslim women in many countries for solidarity, and it also broke my heart,” Alinejad said.
“That is why I call on them to show their sisterhood and solidarity with us, who are being beaten up, imprisoned and punished for fighting against compulsory hijab as well.”
Mutiara Ika Pratiwi, national secretary of women’s rights group Perempuan Mahardhika in Indonesia, backed Ardern.
“Giving sympathy to a victim’s family is part of a feminist position, and the veil is a symbol for a community that is currently a victim,” she said.
“Although there are those who criticize her, the majority respect the move. What is important is that Jacinda is able to build a movement of New Zealanders who sympathize with the victims.”
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