Muslim campaigners slam New Zealand women for wearing hijab in solidarity: 'The hijab is not empowering'

Muslim campaigners slam New Zealand women for wearing hijab in solidarity: 'The hijab is not empowering'
(Source : Getty Images)

Muslim campaigners have reportedly slammed New Zealand women who wore headscarves in solidarity with Christchurch mosque shootings victims, saying that the garment is not "empowering."

Multiple women, including Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern covered up their heads in the wake of the shooting. The shootings at Al Noor and Linwood mosques on March 15 left 50 people dead and dozens injured. The attacker was identified as Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian white supremacist, who is currently in police custody.

Although Ardern was praised for putting on a headscarf when she visited the members of the Muslim community affected in the attack, multiple women's rights advocates said that it was a sensitive issue for many Muslim women who campaign against wearing of headscarves. Wearing the garment is mandatory in many sections of the Muslim community.



Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hugs a mosque-goer at the Kilbirnie Mosque on March 17, 2019 in Wellington, New Zealand. 50 people are confirmed dead and 36 are injured still in hospital following shooting attacks on two mosques in Christchurch on Friday, 15 March. (Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

A Muslim women's rights advocate and author in Malaysia who chooses to not wear a hijab, Maryam Lee, 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," Lee said, according to the Daily Mail.

Reports state that women across New Zealand had worn headscarves as part of a Head Scarf for Harmony campaign last Friday. The initiative was started by a doctor who heard about a woman too scared to go out because she felt her headscarf would make her a target of terrorism.


In this handout photo provided by the Office of the Prime Minister of New Zealand, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern meets with Muslim community representatives on March 16, 2019 in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Getty Images)


Lee added that women in Malaysia who opted not to wear headscarves would now face more pressure or even harassment to wear the scarves. She said that the Muslim community in these regions will cite Ardern's actions. An Iranian activist and journalist, Masih Alinejad, who hosts the website My Stealthy Freedom where women in Iran post photos without headscarves, said that she had mixed feelings about the headscarves campaign in New Zealand.

Women wearing headscarves are invited into the grounds of the Hastings Mosque before Friday prayers on March 22, 2019 in Hastings, New Zealand.  (Kerry Marshall/Getty Images)


"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 who is living in self-imposed exile since 2009 and received death threats while campaigning against obligatory wearing of headscarves.

"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," she added.


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