Nudity, Niqab and the illusion of ‘free choice’

Published: November 28, 2011

A young woman blogger in Egypt (shown above) posted a photograph of herself, naked, as a symbol of resistance against the patriarchal conservative forces that are threatening to overwhelm Egypt.

Today, I read what are possibly the most beautiful opening words of any essay or opinion piece ever. It went like this:

 “When a woman is the sum total of her headscarf and hymen – that is, what’s on her head and what is between her legs – then nakedness and sex become weapons of political resistance.”

This comes from a powerful essay by Mona Eltahawy in the Guardian, called “Egypt’s Naked Blogger is a Bomb Aimed at the Patriarchs in Our Mind” (Eltahawy was recently sexually assaulted and beaten by police in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, her left hand and right arm broken by the force of their blows).

The background is that a young woman blogger in Egypt posted a photograph of herself, naked, as a symbol of resistance against the patriarchal conservative forces that are threatening to overwhelm Egypt in the post-Mubarak era.

The response has been incendiary; read it for yourself. But it proves that women’s bodies are still seen as public property, to be violated by soldiers, discussed and debated on by men as if they were the experts on women and their feelings, thoughts, sensations, inclinations. Our minds are seen as weak, unable to reason, to think for ourselves. Instead of believing that women have moral agency, we are seen as morally inferior in every way to men.

 Is the real war against terrorism, or against patriarchy?

What men do to women on a daily basis, demeaning, insulting, patronizing, and physically and mentally hurting them, IS terrorism, plain and simple.

It reminds me of a news clip I saw several days ago, in which it was declared that Saudi Arabia might enact a new law in which women who are deemed to have “tempting eyes” and “tempting faces” would be forced to cover them up.


Because one of the men behind this bill saw a woman with “tempting eyes”, felt attracted to her, and ended up having a fight with her husband. Then he stabbed the man in the hand. The logical conclusion was that the woman who tempted him with her eyes was at fault, so such eyes can and should be hidden away from view.

I brought this up on Twitter, adding my own comment that perhaps it was the men who should be covered up instead of the women, so that they couldn’t see the tempting eyes, faces, hands, and perhaps the entire existence of women on this planet to avoid being tempted by them.

A young man decided to take up this argument with me, accusing me of being against women choosing the hijab and niqab of their own free will. He said he was sure that the majority of women who take up these coverings do it voluntarily. I decided to respond by asking this man if he would consent to covering himself up to avoid arousing the lust of homosexual men. He wouldn’t answer.

My point: why do men believe women are so willing to choose the bars of their prison so happily?

What justifications have taken place in their mind to make them believe that women are not coerced into wearing the veil? After all, coercion takes many forms: Legal. Physical. Mental. Emotional. Social.  Many people use blackmail to convince women to wear hijab or niqab: you won’t be a good Muslim, you’ll go to hell, you’re pleasing God, you’ll be subject to harassment and molestation if you go outside without a veil. By playing on women’s vulnerabilities, by bringing up the imagery of women being sexually violated or bringing shame upon their families by walking around unveiled, by implying a woman’s morality is linked to how she dresses, women are coerced into believing they are making a free choice in the thousands and millions, every day of their lives.

The hidden pearls. The precious jewels in velvet boxes. The sweets that attract flies without a wrapper. The metaphors used to convince women that their worth is higher if they remain covered makes clever use of a great deceit: that women are objects to be kept on shelves, their value directly correlated to their shininess, their newness. When are people going to realize that women are not objects or things or possessions? That we are human beings with as much autonomy, independence, sovereignty as men? That we must be left alone, to make our own decisions about what we do with our lives, our bodies, our selves?

The truth is that mental, emotional, physical, social or legal coercion over the issue of the veil immediately takes away the “freedom” of the “choice.”

Men have no right to exercise control over women in any way, shape, or form. Their opinions have no validity in what concerns women’s bodies and lives. Recruiting, paying, or giving some women a portion of the patriarchal privilege in order that they may influence and coerce other women over the issue of the veil, whether by “gentle persuasion” or out-and-out blackmail, is merely another trick men use to exercise control over and dominate women.

Here’s what freedom of choice really looks like when it comes to the niqab, the hijab, the burqa, and the abaya:

“Nothing happens if you wear it. Nothing happens if you don’t wear it. Now, it’s up to you.”

Then stand back and let the woman decide for herself. And stay out of it, for good.

And for those of you who feel a hijab or a niqab or a burqa or an abaya is not a prison, but a symbol of empowerment, I want to ask you why a piece of cloth on your head or face has so much sway over your lives that it transforms you from a whore into a virtuous woman.

Remember that in Pakistan, even the prostitutes wear veils.


Bina Shah

Author of A Season For Martyrs. She tweets @BinaShah (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Fahad Raza

    The key is what in the heart when some does something. Veiled prostitutes, veiled nuns differ from what they practices. Simple. Recommend

  • Fahad Raza

    some1 thereRecommend

  • Shumaila

    Thank you so much for writing this. I cannot agree with you more. You’ve placed in eloquent words the thoughts and opinions on the whole cover/uncover debate which have been circling in my head since ages. Recommend

  • SomeGuy

    Brilliant read. Perfectly demonstrates what patriarchal mentality is about and how some people don’t get it.Recommend

  • Amna

    How come if I want to walk around in public absolutely topless in the US, its inappropriate, but a man can do so? I feel like this free choice thing is an illusion here too….

    if we want to be “free” why do we let the West tell us whats free and whats not?Recommend

  • ahsan

    well said Recommend

  • ekbal

    women! U don’t need hijabs in kitchen! Stay there!Recommend

  • ahsan

    may be u find my comment outrageous but post your naked pic is literally the most pathetic way to show your resistance against any sort of Iniquitousness……she could chose some decent way in this regard .!dear, this is muslim world not AMERICA where women get charity on nudity ……we support liberalism of minds not bodies. Recommend

  • Cynical

    Superb! The last line has the killer punch!!Recommend

  • Ali Tanoli.

    I think women are more safe and secure in Niqab or Perda than naked head and face and
    naked legs because woman is man Kumzori.Recommend

  • Clouded

    First you say:

    Then stand back and let the woman decide for herself.
    And stay out of it, for good.

    IMO, your article should have ended there. However, you then go on and launch a scathing attack on the hijabis etc. by saying:

    And for those of you who feel a hijab or a niqab or a burqa
    or an abaya is not a prison, but a symbol of empowerment,
    I want to ask you why a piece of cloth on your head or face
    has so much sway over your lives that it transforms you from
    a whore into a virtuous woman. Remember that in Pakistan,
    even the prostitutes wear veils.

    a) Your personal bias was uncalled for, as it ruined a decent enough article.
    b) There is no correlation between feeling a sense of empowerment and attaining piety. It rendered your argument immature.

  • Woman

    Good article. Thanks.Recommend

  • Saad

    Brilliantly written! Recommend

  • Dr. Ali Ahmed

    most of the times problem is “men” i mean why can’t there be self control.. why don’t we touch fire or why can’t be the source of benefits to other human beings…. probably we all gonna debate and be the best in virtual world.. but in real world it gonna be a U turned life…. till the time we have a “women’s day” and talking about women’s rights all the time, nothing will change.. they would be taken as object with material value only..Recommend

  • iqbal faraz

    she’s a very brave have attached a woman’s worth to her virginity status and they discriminate against and abuse women based on this’s time the term ‘izzat’ was detached from the virginity status of a woman.a woman’s izzat or ghairat has got nothing to do with her sex life,it is insecure animalistic men who’ve made up these definitions of what a ”good girl” should’s time women broke these chains imprisoning them.Recommend

  • Zee

    “A young man decided to take up this argument with me, accusing me of being against women choosing the hijab and niqab of their own free will. He said he was sure that the majority of women who take up these coverings do it voluntarily. I decided to respond by asking this man if he would consent to covering himself up to avoid arousing the lust of homosexual men. He wouldn’t answer.”

    Why resort to gay men? That’s the worry of Western men in locker rooms. There’s aura for men too. If a man knows that the other man is gay, would he want to show certain part of his body to that gay man? Well, as a woman, do you want your husband to walk naked in front of gay men? Surely you want him to be covered, don’t you? Maybe not. You might be afraid to be painted as an uncivilized homophobic brown woman.

    I am just playing your game here. The game that has a lot of your confusions. Hence, you throw the in cool words of today’s like “patriarchal society”, “women’s rights” etc..

    You see, women who cover up, who wear bras and panties are themselves being “coerced” by society, culture, religion, gender norms, and even feminists into covering up and being told about norms that they need to adhere. Feminists do advocate wearing no make up (Islam does that too). They also advocate that women should not be judged by her look alone but also by her character (Islam does that too). There are overlaps there. But Islam also advocates MEN and women to stay away from premarital sex, adultery and other sins. The question of being aroused is tackled honestly by Islam. Know your limits and this applies to both genders (O believers, lower your gaze). This, of course, outraged feminists.

    Why only struggle against hijab? Go and burn bras and fight for the right of women to walk topless like men. Come on, no “patriarchal society” should tell women how to dress. Show that you refuse to bow down to “patriarchal society” norms. Just because for thousands of years women have been told that their chest should be kept hidden away from the gaze of the public does not mean it should be followed by all women in today’s time. Surely, bras are women’s bars and prisons imposed by men’s guarding eyes.

    Muslim women do have aura, not prescribed solely by “patriarchal society” but by God Himself (now, please excuse me if you think God is something that only people with low IQs believe in) but for Pakistani women, hijab is the dress of their faith. The reason for prostitutes to wear hijab in Pakistan is the same reason why women in many part of South Asia cover most part of their bodies: it’s the culture of this region. It’s not a symbol of piety. After all, no feminist will wear hijab but they will openly wear dupatta (only as a fashion symbol) and salwar khamez. What the dress code of choice of upper class prostitutes in Pakistan? For sure you are smart enough to know the role of culture and class in dictating women’s dress codes throughout the world. Upper class Pakistanis will never niqab. It’s too backward for them.

    Why do you fake outrage when men talked about women’s clothes when as a feminist you talked about Muslim women’s dress and judge them in this site? Recommend

  • Observer

    A brilliant and articulate column. Can’t agree with the author more.

    Just one comment on authors statement:
    “why do men believe women are so willing to choose the bars of their prison so happily?”

    There are indeed women who claim they do so by their own choice. However, in reality what they are doing is subliminal parroting of what they have been culturally and religiously brainwashed to believe. Systematic brainwashing right from the childhood is a very powerful technique that casts a person’s world outlook in stone forever by inhibiting any logic and reason.Recommend

  • Mustafa Moiz

    As long as King Abdullah is alive, no such bill will be passed in Saudi Arabia. When Prince Naif takes over, all the cards are on the table, but I still don’t think this will pass. The Saudis aren’t so dogmatic, or fanatical.Recommend

  • alisha

    Wow that was an amazing read. You are right I am sick of men debating on womens issues as if they know everything about how we feel. Recently I read an opinion piece in a Urdu newspaper on womens day by a man. That man had tried extremely hard to convince everyone that family planning and birth control were sazish against muslim women by yahoodis. Why? because according to him muslim women are mentally inclined to have as many kids as they could and by restricting the amount of kids they became unhappy. I have not read such dribble in my life.Recommend

  • Mustafa Moiz

    You have brought up a good point. Whenever I hear the arguments of women being like precious jewellery or whatever I always feel that its degrading to be objectifying a woman. I am reminded of the story a few years ago of some Sheikh or some other grand religious figure in Australia, saying that a woman who was raped had only herself to blame, giving the example that if uncovered meat is left out, can you blame the cat that eats it? This sort of argument is degrading to both men and women.Recommend

  • http://carmaichael najib

    thank you, spot on. Recommend


    Great article! Do keep writing more…. Recommend

  • Saqib

    “I decided to respond by asking this man if he would consent to covering himself up to avoid arousing the lust of homosexual men. He wouldn’t answer.”

    Men cannot cover up simply because not every other guy is gay. Recommend

  • Jassi Singh

    I couldn’t agree more to your article until I read:

    “I want to ask you why a piece of cloth on your head or face has so much sway over your lives that it transforms you from a whore into a virtuous woman.”

    Ouch! why so much frustration ma’am? Bad choice of words. If you’re happy the way you are ..just BE..dont worry about women who do take some for of covering dupatta, hijab, burqa etc. Let everyone decide for themselves as you have mentioned in your article in context to males. I’m quite sure if a pro hijab male or female comes up with an argument as a reply to your last question, you will already have a rebuttal because although you demand neutrality, you certainly aren’t unbiased. Recommend

  • Samia

    Superb piece!Recommend

  • khan

    i am not against you for not wearing a veil…but i dare you to go to peshawar bara bazar wearing jeans or just a tight shalwar kamiz….and see how many pokes you get…so if ur happy with that then go ahead and wear whatever you want but dont complain when something bad happens to you….and for your point of prostitutes wearing veil these days shows you admit that keeping veil equalls them to the virtous women when it comes to going outside your homes……what we want you to do is that wear anything you want at home but when you come out cover yourself good for your sake because after all it still is a man’s world whether you want it or not….so my point is not here to jail you…its just that it portects you from so many things….and being a man(and i m sure many of the male readers would agree with me) i respect women who are covered more than the ones wearing jeans a T.Recommend

  • Mehrunisa

    What a load of rubbish. Recommend

  • maria tahir

    n saqib wt if the other guy is gay ? Recommend

  • Amer

    quite true….men need HIJABED eyes tooRecommend

  • Dr Killjoy

    If women’s free will must direct them to walk around naked, then men’s free will may direct them to past lewd comments. Women should be ready to deal with that, just as men should be ready to deal with it. Boobs on display? Penis on display. By your arguments, that’s equality. Recommend

  • Ali

    You are one confused girl.Recommend

  • Rais

    The foundation of dean of Islam is believing and submission to God and His messenger (Peace be upon him). Allah says in the Quran that Allah has purchased your (Muslim’s) life and property in return for paradise. Since a Muslim’s life and property does not belongs to him/her therefore there is no freedom of choice in these matters and either you submit to God (be a Muslim) and live a life based on the example of the messenger of God (Peace be upon him) or you submit to your desires. If you don’t want to submit to God then you are free to do what ever you like and also God is not obliged to you in any matter as well.Recommend

  • Aswad

    I agree with a part of this Post , Covering up the Sick men who behave like lunatics as soon they saw beautiful eyes etc ..and few other points … But i strongly disagree with few points…The point when the writer start comparing “The Privileges Men Vs Women”.
    Both have different sets of Rights and Duties and many of them do overlap .. But the way author is demanding “Freedom of choice ” that is not right ,
    Covering Up /veil is the main point of this post and author associates it with “Freedom of choice”.
    A few thing are pre set by our religion and there are no if’s and But’s… A lady has to cover her self [period] . Because there are so many things involve !! its not like asked and granted kind of thing!!

    P.S Males of our society are also turned into Animals / Desperate beings …Recommend

  • Ali

    You have not followed the same path for proving a point as this girl, although you seem to be very frustrated with hijab and duppata. Is it that you are trying to marry two issues that have nothing in common? Her going to this extreme may have something to do with her individual circumstances and you are trying to make it look like a general case study on women. You don’t want to take hijab, don’t. Move on!Recommend

  • maria tahir

    niqab n hijab are completely different things plus if a woman dsnt feel like wearing hijab dsnt mean she wants to frolic naked ! same is the case with choosing between hijab n nikab …..n even in quran wen allah speaks of women covering their body He says frstly tht lower ur gaze……n wt bout tht ? if ud jst lower ur gaze (men boys wtever) u wudnt even knw wt the other person is wearing…….n im sure with an attitude like this women wud themselves feel like covering themselves up! ever thought about tht? but no men wud never want to take blame on themselves ??? its nt tht easy tht we see a woman without a head gear n we stigmatize her as a temptress . ever wondered wts her stry ? ever wondered tht she might have real jerks livin with her (her father brother or son r nt supporting her) n she is forced to work n she is not even learned enuff? n she is forced to take her veil off coz tht way she cant land a decent job? Its us women always blamed for not havin a minuscal of intelligence and havin a blabber mouth wt bout men? n quran taught me tht woman was a gift to man it ws his duty to love n respect her n take care of her ……n since he has failed to fullfill his duty hence the result ! Recommend

  • Abu Bakr

    Fantastic write up. The road to equality is a long one with obstacles that are rooted deep within history and culture. So much that some of us are nearly oblivious. Recommend

  • AMQ

    “And for those of you who feel a hijab or a niqab or a burqa or an abaya is not a prison, but a symbol of empowerment, I want to ask you why a piece of cloth on your head or face has so much sway over your lives that it transforms you from a whore into a virtuous woman.”

    I respect your overall arguments and opinion however, the above line is a bit harsh in my opinion. I read about it and decided that wearing a headscarf is my way to go. Yes, I do feel more confident after I have started it. It is similar to women who straighten their hair or make their hair in anyway. You choose to represent yourself in that way and I choose to represent myself in this way. It has nothing to do with being a whore or a virtuous woman. It’s just simple logic for me and my choice.Recommend

  • White Bhabi

    Examples of such insane stupidity just anger me. It shows a person’s IQ level to assume that more coverings on women will stop such ridiculous male behavior. It won’t. Women in burka’s still get raped, teased and beaten just as often as women who wear short shorts or halter tops. It has nothing to do what a woman is wearing and everything to do with an overbearing, spoiled, controlling jackass who’s mother never taught him that no means no. And I didn’t say man in that last sentence on purpose. Men rape, women rape. Rape and sexual assault are not a sexual crimes, they are all about domination and control. Enacting laws or even advocating for them is the same as rape because it too is all about domination and control. This man couldn’t control himself and rather than taking responsibility for his actions he is trying to blame a woman – who probably was not even looking at him. I think this man should be reminded that consensual sex is between two people who both want it, not between some man who attacks and a woman who had the misfortune of living and breathing in the same airspace as him. His indication that covering a woman’s eyes would solve the problem only solidifies that women have much more control over their hormones and actions than men. It’s like he’s admitting defeat to his manhood by even requesting it. He’s not a strong enough man to be able to manage his own body. I think he doesn’t belong in any position of power. Perhaps he should be picking up trash – a job where he will fit right in with the work. Recommend

  • Adeel Ahmed

    Pakistani society is so much polarized and inclined toward extremism. This article reflects the thought process of an extreme behavior.

    Why dont we be a moderate? I categorize these articles as reactionary and its a fact that reactionary thought is never moderate.Recommend

  • maria tahir

    whr r my comments :(Recommend

  • Tayyab Tariq

    It is true there are a lot of atrocities against women. However, IMHO articles like these do not help. It is just another form of saying “US is responsible for all the problems in the Muslim world.” It might be true but there is no proof and saying this solves nothing. It is just a way for people to run away from their problems by blaming someone else.

    As for “if you wear it nothing happens, if you do not wear it nothing happens”. Actions have consequences, whether or not certain actions should have certain consequences is debatable, but it is not in anyone’s control to choose and action and then choose a consequence too.Recommend

  • Asjad Khan

    Well I agree to it completely but unfortunately in some cases maybe its 60… 40 in your favor but the 40% have an effect on the rest n also on male behavior …the problem or the core of the issue also lies within women.The point is its women exercise this suppression as a leverage tool to use it to become a victim in the eyes of their sons or to be husbands…or for that matter bfs…Its they who make them selves vulnerable to being abused than complain hey look im being abused…From my personal experience I can speak from experience that when women are kept to hold up strong they give in and later they fight n cry.Sacrifices are meant to be for the right reasons! Many guys would agree I think that the most easiest way to attention and affection of a girl is through admiring how she is sacrificing for the family and when we tell them to stand up for themselves than they think we are against their family.Hurtful comment this one:)!Recommend

  • Abdul Rehman Gilani


    Would the author kindly walk on sea view in a bikini please? Because one has gone so far ahead in religion phobia that now even hijabis are mocked at.

    And by the way, maybe the author has forgotten the Islamic injunction in the Noble Quran, asking women to cover up, AS WELL AS ASKING MEN TO LOWER THEIR GAZE AND GUARD THEIR MODESTY.Recommend

  • AB

    khan: “but i dare you to go to peshawar bara bazar wearing jeans or just a tight shalwar kamiz….and see how many pokes you get”

    What the hell? If men in Pakistan don’t have manners, women should be imprisoned? What kind of logic is that? Pakistani men need to learn how to behave in public. Period. It’s not biological. You just never learned how to respect women at all if you decide who to respect more by what to wear. I am sick and tired of hearing illogical arguments for the subjugation of women on these blogs. Are you implying that men are no more than animals in that they simply can’t resist groping any women who passes by in jeans? Do you know how many little girls are groped in Liberty market when they have not even attained sexual maturity as yet? I can cover myself with a chador and wear the most horrible, flowy shalwar kameez in the world and still cars will slow down as they drive past me. Why don’t you see this behavior in other countries? What makes Pakistani men, in particular, so uncivilized? As a women, I can wear the most oppressive clothing in the world and still not feel safe walking in the streets in Lahore. Why can I wear a skirt abroad and feel safe? And why in the world do all these rules apply only to women? Surely public decency dictates that men shouldn’t be peeing out in the open in cities? Surely it dictates that they shouldn’t leer at every women who passes by? You object to jeans? Surely then women should object to all the men who don’t wear shirts or wear tight sleeveless shirts to show off their muscles! Ridiculous. Oh I forgot. Women feel no sexual desire whatsoever (yeah right!). It is a “man’s world” because you insist on it being a man’s world. Being a woman, forgive me if I object to my low status in society and demand equal treatment. Forgive me for not being satisfied with the status quo and demanding change. Forgive me for not understanding how wearing jeans can instantly snatch away the respect I would get by wearing clothes I despise wearing.

    Thankfully not all Pakistani men are as narrow-minded. There are places where you can wear jeans and no one will bat an eye-lid. And no, they are not the cities. I have more hope for and faith in your sex than you do. Recommend

  • AA

    Here we have another confused liberal. Recommend

  • AM

    Excellent piece. Am in complete agreement to the writers views. Recommend

  • watever

    wouldn’t it be better to quote God’s verses from the Quran that stress upon a woman to cover and talk to HIM direct?.. c’mon take HIM on.. tell HIM whatever He put in the Quran makes no sense(Naoozubillah).. c’mon lady, u surely have the guts to do it..Recommend

  • AM

    but women have to cover up because every man is a tharki? whats ur point?Recommend

  • Rukhsana Shama

    A great read, and yes, why men or for that matter anyone else or for that matter even emotional or whatever coercions decide for what women should/shouldnt wear??
    women dont decide what men should wear…so why any one else has to regulate ‘how women should look like’???Recommend

  • Hmmm

    so what’s your point exactly?Recommend

  • azhar

    all i have to say is that u have a lot of time. lol ur response would probably go over the word limit even in an essay [email protected]: Recommend

  • Adeel

    Although I completely agree with you when it comes to wearing a veil, being a women’s choice I disagree as to what you mean by choice. Furthermore your characterization of the issue (women’s empowerment) is inaccurate.

    Freedom as you defined it doesn’t exist.”Many people use blackmail to convince women to wear hijab or niqab: you won’t be a good Muslim, you’ll go to hell, you’re pleasing God…”. Every choice that one makes has some sort of external influence aka input from society. That doesn’t mean the external input has rendered that choice coercive. There is a clear and distinct difference between coercion and influence. If a father/mother tells his/her daughter to wear a scarf to be a good Muslim he/she hasn’t impeded the daughter’s free will. This is because the choice you make is considered free as long as you have another viable alternative available. Free-will doesn’t imply or mean making a choice in some sort of a vacuum, it means making an informed choice where alternatives were available and one wasn’t forced into a decision. Lots of women freely choose to wear the veil. If nudity was a measure for how free a women is then one would find a societal cross-section of women in western strip clubs. At the end of the day women take their respective backgrounds and cultures when making choices as to how to dress. They also look at the event they are going to and the cultural implications that prejudice the host, just like men.”He said he was sure that the majority of women who take up these coverings do it voluntarily. I decided to respond by asking this man if he would consent to covering himself up to avoid arousing the lust of homosexual men”. The problem with that statement is that women don’t cover themselves up because of lusty men they do so because they think it makes them better muslims or they are conforming to societal norms just like men. Following societal norm is okay so long as one’s liberty and social mobility isn’t restricted and if they feel they wearing a particular clothing affirms their faith then they have every right to dress themselves as such.

    What is referred to as black-mail in this article is instead persuasion, parents often do it and it is okay. Its okay for parents to try and convince their children into conforming with their societal norm. This is because in most cases a child cannot make its decision for itself. Furthermore a parent tends to have the best interest of a child in mind whenever they are imposing rules and boundaries.

    I agree that what happened to women in Tahir square by soldiers was wrong. I agree that laws in KSA are plain stupid and a violation of women’s right. But I fail to see how a scarf or niqab can’t be worn by a women as a rational choice, just as a cross is worn, just as men grow beards. At the end of the day just because a women’s choice differs from yours doesn’t make her wrong or oppressed she may simply have a different background and perspective. Something does happen for some women who wear niqabs, they perceive themselves as better muslims. Same happens to men who grow beards. As such both are rational choices,Recommend

  • watever

    APPLAUSE! :)Recommend

  • Iram

    46 comments…coming other 200 comments too dont worry …only argument from masjid ka mullah to road and *sadak chap badmash* and intilectual’s drawing room same issu… a women dress …..” jume ka khutba ho ya amma abba ki dant ….argue is same…”how u dress” not how u “behave….” when there is any artical about traffic law or good behaviors and tax chori…poor writer dont get more thn 12 comments……
    another argu …”also prostitute cover them up”…..women are sweets…no problem they are fresh, good or whatever just cover up like in halwai shop….to protect from flies…..why dont control dirty pond where produced these flies…no no…so we will get dirty our dress and hands….its better cover sweet its more easy ..u know…my doughter, wife, sister even mother under my control…why because i give them to EAT….get up women have economical power….and take charge of yourself…..and dont give any importance to mentally sick barbarians, just give importance what YOU WANT TO BE…….good luck Recommend

  • AB

    watever: I’ll take you on. What if I don’t believe in your God? Now what? Can I do what I want now or do you have an argument that is not based on religion? I don’t why people hide behind religion all the time. Give me arguments that use common sense. Something no one in the world will be able to refute. Hopefully, with some luck, you’ll be interacting with people other than Muslims…as well as Muslims who believe more in doing what they think to be right in their own life rather than policing the lives of women. I say women because obviously you’ll never have any problem with what men do. Why would you? Because then you’ll be restricting your own life and movements, won’t you? Maybe I’ll advocate covering up when men start lowering their gazes. Maybe I’ll do it when the sheer hypocrisy of men who behave in ways that are much, much worse than anything I’ve ever seen a woman clad in jeans do doesn’t overwhelm me. Recommend


    Throw two toffees before anyone, one is covered and other is not,which one would you prefer to pick?? Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    Many “pious” Egyptians are considering punishing the blogger with eighty lashes. Because nothing says, “we’re moral people” like lashing a woman to death.Recommend

  • mariam paras

    mam i do believe doing veil is women own choice but u said how can u feel secure and a veil can transform you in to virtous lady … yes i started doing abbaya at my own no1 in my family or friends circle is even near to this but i started and yes it has turned me in to (i wont say virtous but) ) a better girl … i have seen the difference ..
    people look at u (without veil)if theyre going to eat you up and now i do feel secure mam alot …
    men is creature which will never stop lustyfying over anything but we do have a choice if we want to sell our selves or save ourselves….
    when u start thinking u want to do right and i think this is the first step awomen should take ..
    no offence im just giving my point of view..Recommend

  • Khatti Chousney

    Her point is ” shed clothes if you like.Its is cool . We will hang out, got to parties and tell people the scriptures are outdated……………..but I am still slave to my narrow social setup and
    you can strip though , if you do, you cannot marry my son or my brother you shameless woman!
    Our liberal are such hypocrites…………. esp. men. The buck women up for obscenity but wont allow their own sister to have a relationship or become a table dancer!Recommend

  • Ammar

    and then we have pictures of lollypop all over the internet where the unwrapped lollypop has flies hovering all around it and we compare this analogy to women without veil.
    How disrespectful.Recommend

  • cyra

    I would suggest a survey. First go and ask women who cover on their own will. Get their opinions. And then of those who are forced into it. Get their opinions too. Then write an article. Your article is very partial and biased.Recommend

  • Salman Qureshi

    very impressive!Recommend

  • Saqib

    @maria tahir:

    in that case men should better cover up!Recommend

  • nida haroon

    Well Done. Exactly what the men and Women in our society need to listen to, know and follow.Recommend

  • wahab

    No doubt discrimination against women is at its height in the muslim world but you have to keep in mind the intentions with which a women is covering herself or being asked to cover herself. A muslim women has to cover her “sattar” as prescribed under islamic law and that should be the end of any argument. If she is not following that, she is commiting a sin and if she is doing more then that, its purely at her own will. If she is being coerced to do anything extra than the minimum limits of pardah, i think that is against the spirit of Islam and should be condemned. BUT, freedomdoesnt mean women getting license to do anything whatsoever. Follow Islam, and all the problems/ issues will be solved (for both men and women)
    p.s. your last para of article has a big contradiction in itself. Review it again.Recommend

  • AB

    mariam paras: “men is creature which will never stop lustyfying over anything but we do have a choice if we want to sell our selves or save ourselves….” Are you implying that by not wearing hijab women are trying to sell themselves? Act like prostitutes so to speak? Are you also implying that men have no control whatsoever over their bodies? That they are not in possession of their brains at any given moment in time and that a woman walking past will just entice them to act? Why do we punish rapists then? They probably had no control, haina? I am very offended and every person reading it should be as well. It holds men as well as women in very low esteem. Why don’t you stay at home and never venture out? I guarantee you, you’ll feel even more safe. Me? I’ll try to make the streets safe for women and hold men accountable for looking like “theyre going to eat you up”.

    Adeel: Please read mariam paras’s post and then reevaluate YOUR statement: “The problem with that statement is that women don’t cover themselves up because of lusty men they do so because they think it makes them better muslims or they are conforming to societal norms just like men.” Also, and I’m being as polite as I care to be at the moment, screw the sanctity of societal norms. Just because something is a societal norm does not mean it is etched in stone and should be preserved for all eternity. We have the option of changing the norms. The world keeps changing, doesn’t it? So-called “norms” change all the time.Recommend

  •!/menteliscio mentelisco

    funny why playboy has faild to bring revolutions every month! its just a stunt -nothing more.Recommend

  • Lolla2010

    Bina, are women capable of logical thinking or are they not? Please choose your stance and argue accordingly because I believe your argument is an example circular reasoning.

    You say Hijab/Niqab can not be a woman’s choice because no reasonable woman would choose to wear something you perceive as a ‘prison’. You then explain that women who do follow this dress code and say they do it out of free choice don’t realise that it’s not free choice,they are subjected to ‘blackmailing’ ‘tactics’.

    These tactics you list as being used to ‘convince’ women to wear hijab are unfortunately widely used in all societies for many other purposes. The advertising industry is based on playing on people’s vulnerabilities. We try to convince women they must talk, look, act a certain way, they like shopping, they like flowers and chocolates, having someone poke at their nails and toenails is ‘pampering’, and if you don’t believe this then you’re not modern and most likely won’t be successful and won’t find your true love — ridiculous but happening. Even men are subjected to tactics like this. THE POINT IS we are used to these tactics, all falls under the umbrella of persuasiveness that we were taught in schools, now unless you believe that women are incapable of sitting down, thinking and reasoning for themselves and deciding, then I think it’s fair to say the way they dress is by large a choice. Just like A chose to wear a pink top, Y chose a yellow scarf.

    You also seem to have misunderstood the metaphors which is ofcourse always a danger when using metaphors, “The hidden pearls. The precious jewels in velvet boxes. The sweets that attract flies without a wrapper.” you chose to associate the fact these are objects to women, but the idea is that humans are innately programmed to hide everything they think is precious, whether it’s money, gold, photographs or artifacts, it is natural. It is not demeaning or condescending to hide valuables nor does it reduce their worth, we Never hide worthless things, so why would I think my money and objects are more worthy than my own body?

    TO ANSWER YOUR FINAL POINT, the piece of cloth on my head is me making a statement that I chose to adhere to Islam and a signifier of that choice. I didn’t choose to be a woman, to be of a certain race or to come from a certain family but I chose to follow a religion I believe is the truth. My hijab/Niqab doesn’t make me pious, philanthropic or grand. It just makes me a Muslim, with all my virtues and vices still. It’s only a very tiny step on my journey in this world. Most importantly, it is my choice, just like it was my choice to follow Islam, and no one has the right to interfere in the way I want to dress.

    Please, don’t make sweeping generalisations about women’s ability to think and decide. Just like you made your choice, millions of other women chose to make theirs, freely.Recommend

  • Fahad Khan

    “I decided to respond by asking this man if he would consent to covering himself up to avoid arousing the lust of homosexual men. He wouldn’t answer.” Bina I will periodRecommend

  • Uzma

    you’re asking the POINT? SERIOUSLY??????

    @Bina Shah,
    This is an outstanding piece..too bad cant say the same about most of the intellectually challenged people to have commented on itRecommend

  • sajid

    Under Islam men are guardians of women. In strict sharia women cannot go outside without mehram, cannot spend their own money without permission or take up a job without a mans permission.
    Thats why men are allowed to make decisions for their wives, daughters, sisters and in some cases even mothers. Recommend

  • Ibrahim Qazi

    Extremely sad, this perhaps was not an appropriate moral read. No doubt, the evil in the societal norms has went par extreme. The purpose of life is nonetheless is now an error pop up in the windows of livelihood.

    The question is why would a religious force get popular, when such voices gain weight-age in the media. Muslim women are crystal’s of Islam. Why ask a young blogger who is young enough to recognize the reason of existence, she still needs knowledge to differentiate between good and bad.

    On the other hand women who stand bewildered on their loyalties towards morality eventually support moderate religious forces, who would perhaps take care of their honor, and the number is growing by leaps and bounds.

    I wonder when, i would happen to read a good op-ed on modest life, anxiously waiting for some goodness from the publishers.

    Talking of Pakistan, moral bad exist however on the other side moral good’s volume is far far better. We need to get united against the moral corruption that indeed is the legacy of our corrupt leadership. Setting examples would do, the dreams of a free society shall never realize, as the majority is for otherwise.Recommend

  • Dipankar Nath

    When I first heard about it, I was unsure about how should I react. I still am, but I suppose to to make a deaf hear you might need to explode a bomb. There has been too much of domination of women by men. Men need to accept the fact they have no right to control any woman’s life. Alas we are too deaf! I thank you for writing this article and it makes my own position on this very much clear. Recommend

  • Tanzeel

    I see no religion in this particular blog. Recommend

  • ahmer

    Hi, in my opinion you do not want to talk about freewill of women, you are just against the Concept of Hijab, Niqab etc. you should not write articles on topics such as these if you do not know the values of these religious followings!

    May Allah have mercy on your heart.Recommend

  • Faz

    I have sympathies and respect for all those women who got sexually assaulted including Mona Eltahawy, yet its her individual act of retaliation and avenging the system. Its like killing someone as a protest after wrongly serving imprisonment sentence upon false charges of murder,and I am not being insensitive here. She chose her way of protesting, may be it is fair on her part under so much emotional torture, right or wrong is not even the question here.
    As for writer’s generalization of this incident to overall male chauvinist behaviors is a tad too simplistic and reactionary.
    Why every incident which involves a woman victim ends up at being labeled as the outcome of male oppression against women ? Isn’t this incident and act of assault, an example of oppressive and tyrant regime rule in Egypt, where subjects are put under all kinds of humilation for raising a voice against it, though it has enough content for everyone to extract their own meanings and emphasize their own causes.
    Finally, concerning the topic, the ill-treatment of women whether in the name of religion,law or traditions, in certain parts of the world and sections of scoieties deserves condemnation. Hopefully, times will come where men and women both will rise above their gender prejudice.Recommend

  • Meher

    @ ekbal….plz remember the kitchen is where the knives are!u fool!Recommend

  • Pir Ali Raza

    @Fahad Raza:

    if key is whats in the heart then the judge should be only Him.Recommend

  • http://Islamabad Taha Ceen Tayyab

    Very well said Fahad….summed up all I could have said about the issue!
    @Fahad Raza: Recommend


    @Ali Tanoli.: Missed you Ali…kithhe si yaar?
    Kumzori? A wise Afghan man once said “jo apne qamar se neeche ka hissa qaabu na kar paye toh woh mard hi kya”! Recommend

  • sh

    Total trash.!Recommend

  • M


    “My hijab/Niqab doesn’t make me pious, philanthropic or grand. It just makes me a Muslim…”

    No it doesn’t. It is a trait of your appearance, yes. But it does not make anyone a muslim. It is not in any definition of Muslim.Recommend

  • Kite

    I’m a white Western atheist, & it can’t be said that I believe in the idea of moral modesty/purity.

    I do want to acknowledge that in the West, women are policed for what they wear also (but usually not quite as overtly). (The West is seething with hypocrisy.) Muslim women having hijab or niqab banned or forcibly ripped off their bodies (FOR SHAME), women being called sl*ts for, you know, just wanting to feel a cool breeze in summer. Nothing to do with the observer, yet the observer insists on controlling women’s appearance, with physical or verbal violence,

    Seems women’s bodies are used by society as ideological battlegrounds and moral scapegoats, wherever one goes.

    I’d rather give an individual woman (Muslim, Christian, non-believer, whoever) the benefit of the doubt when she says she chooses what she wears, for cultural reasons, practical reasons, safety reasons, whatever. Over-riding her by saying “you’re too stupid/oppressed/immoral/obsessed to know your own mind, to CHOOSE” is oppressive in itself.Recommend

  • Marium

    Stupid article!! Recommend

  • MX

    Yes I agree islam says that

    At the risk of going on tangent, why do you think someone should follow a religion (and that too 100%) because their parents put something in the religion box when they were born, and now they have to stick to it under penalty of death. Thats why everyone take liberties with the religion.

    Talking of freedom of choice, lets also give everyone choice to follow a religion, not follow a religion, or partially follow a religion. It will solve more problems then you think.Recommend

  • Javed Miandad

    actually the courts have ruled it legal in New York State for a woman to be topless in public, just as it legal is in much of continental Europe and Ontario. Not many do it though, but it is legal.Recommend

  • LL

    No woman should feel threatened by a man nor anyone for simply wearing jeans and a tshirt! What sort of world is that? How is it a womans fault that a man is weak, that he has so little respect or self control?! That disgusts me. It is the fault of the parents and society for allowing them to think that is acceptable. I am glad it is a world I was never born into.

    Where I live, men are brought up to respect women. And because of that, when it’s really hot, I can go outside and wear perfectly practical SHORTS and a SINGLET. And not raise eyebrows, risk being poked, prodded, groped, insulted or raped for being a “temptress.”Recommend

  • Faizan Farooque

    Meaningless just wasting of time writer n readers :( where are we going .. It is time to do somehing positive but instead of this we are ruining our time Alhumdulillah 1433 years ago we got the solution of each n everything e.g how to wear what to wear how to walk what to do i mean every solution of mankind..
    After reading this blog it is clear like a crystal that our elders were more smart n genious than this useless generation trying to ruin this world..n Nothing..

    Study islam learn deen there is 4 major school hanafi, hanbali, maliki n shaafi.. All has different opinion on parda issue follow anyone of them….

    Dont decide urself thats wasting of time.. If u will not understand nothen w nearly in ur life u know it for sure..

    In last, do something positive n study islam thats what i can say…Recommend

  • Akash

    beautiful article! It is sad and ironic that a religion that gave women perhaps the maximum equality and freedom is being hijacked by few to dictate terms to others.
    All the best to author.Recommend

  • Sonia

    Good points raised, but your last paragraph or two rendered your argument weak. You say:

    -> Then stand back and let the woman decide for herself. And stay out of it, for good.

    and then go on to judge a woman choosing to wear the hijab/niqab/burqa/abaya

    -> And for those of you who feel a hijab or a niqab or a burqa or an abaya is not a prison, but a symbol of empowerment, I want to ask you why a piece of cloth on your head or face has so much sway over your lives that it transforms you from a whore into a virtuous woman.

    Freedom of choice goes both ways..To DEAL with someone choosing to wear it or not! The fact that you have a different view, means you can present counter arguments…one just has to agree to disagree EITHER way.


  • Maria

    I have confused feelings about this article. It’s brilliantly written and I am outraged at the law proposed by the Saudi Arabian government … but the arguments sound like something coming from an 18 year old. Just because some women choose to cover themselves it doesn’t mean they are being coerced into it. I don’t wear a veil but I do dress modestly. Men and women were created different … it’s biological. I respect myself and don’t want to make myself an object of unnecessary attraction – I am also not comfortable with men walking around with tight t-shirts or too many buttons open or wearing tight jeans. It’s not because I am a pervert but because I am human. If I can prevent lustful looks by covering up certain parts of my body, I will. Our bodies are sacred and we should treat them as such. Covering up doesn’t make me a better human being than a Westerner or any woman who decides to dress differently but it doesn’t mean I am stupid or weak and have been cajoled or blackmailed into it.Recommend

  • 21st century woman

    In the midst of one of the best articles I’ve read in a long time, I can’t help but notice the amount of debate from left wing idiots. I find it exciting that a woman’s sexuality is still causing such an up roar. I mean really? Nudity and it’s subjectiveness can’t still be making people uncomfortable after all these years? You’d think with the burning of the bra’s while marching for equality, would of had made some head way. But considering that woman in the U.S. Finally secured the vote in 1905, it doesn’t surprise me, that traditional, fear tactics and religious brainwashing still rules the middle east. I want to believe in a world were there is equality and women don’t have to be afraid to dress how they please with out, ” having deserved it”. Unfortunately this is the world we live in. Propaganda by religious justifications can’t solely be the one thing to blame. I’d think it’s unfortunate to live in a place were you are judged so blatenly. But until the tables turn, until there is a reason to fear women, men will unfortunately always rule the world, because of there ability to oppress those weaker than them. But that doesn’t mean, they will reach the equal state of thought, that is intuitively a woman’s domain. And for that reason alone, we will always be a threat to men. And that genatlemen is the real veil that has been lifted.Recommend

  •!/iQuotePakistan toobahatif

    Lame discussion just an attempt by the author to justify why she dont wear hijab or why one shouldn’t wear hijab?
    Ma’am as you say men shouldn’t be discussing it or telling us all the stuff about hijab.. same goes for you.. We dont need you t be our lawyer we can do it our self!
    secondly.. Fact-less article… based upon self assumed assumptions and prejudice
    I ahve said it previously I’ll say it again… ETRIBUNE STOP USING “RIGHTS AS A TOOL FOR INSULTING ISLAMIC PRESCRIPTION” and come up with something productiveRecommend

  • Shaza

    Well prostitutes usually end up naked like your blogger Ms Bina. so what if some of them start of with a veil.Recommend

  • Just Thinking

    There are a few flaws I consistently note in feminist arguments.

    1. Generalization: They meet one man, who is probably less aware of the World he lives in as are most people even in these hyper-connected times, who makes arguments based on what he knows and they jump the gun to conclude all men are the same.

    2. Men are evil: An extension of the ‘generalization’ phenomenon is that all men are not only the same but also evil, since one of them apparently has evil designs. They also over look the fact that most of the patriarchal bidding is done by women themselves.

    3. Patriarchy reborn: Most women don’t realize that while making feminist arguments they tend to come up with frameworks that are nothing but rephrased patriarchal attitudes towards fellow women. A classic example of this is the Disney meme that is being passed around, where fictional female characters from long time literature classics have been accused of encouraging subservience to a patriarchal society, end up instructing women and girls who watch these cartoons what attitudes they collectively need to take up.

    If the feminist movement is to really change the World for good it needs to take up a stance that is not just another form of patriarchy, hate, and frothing at the mouth reactionism. Otherwise all I see is this never ending back and forth in the so-called battle of gender morality authoritarianism we all could very well do without. This imo can only be achieved in a society that is tolerant, lets people decide for themselves, and allows them do so with minimal intervention.

    p.s. I think the article is poorly titled. Great post by Bina.Recommend

  • Fatima Gillani

    sorry to say but ur article made no sense….clothing might not always show the true character but being modernized enough to show off ur beauty which is meant to be hidden… you cannot justify it no matter how many articles u right…. think with a brain , with logic and not with just knowing the biasness of a society…..Recommend

  • Parvez

    I am impressed. You certainly have clear cut views and you seem willing to strongly defend them. The man women thing is natural, made by God. The way societies, cultures etc have tried to shape and direct this thing (for want of a better word) is an example of ‘work still in progress’. To a moderate it is best to follow the middle path, because extreme measures have always backfired.Recommend

  • A Man.

    This is kind of a biased articleRecommend

  • awk

    this is what happens when ISLAM gets away from our life.. Recommend

  • sars

    the opposite of hijab/naqaab is not being nude.You can strike a middle ground if you want without being ridiculous.How can someone protest sexual abuse by being naked is hard to understand.Recommend