In 1936 sociologist Robert K. Merton popularized what is now known as the law of unintended consequences—i.e., an unforeseen and unintended outcome of a purposeful action.
Well-intentioned Western women, seeking to show solidarity with Muslim women by publicly donning the “hijab”—commonly but incorrectly called a headscarf—unwittingly trigger the law. This was most recently demonstrated by Wheaton College political science professor Larycia Hawkins’ hijab campaign.
Posting a December 10 Facebook picture of herself wearing a hijab, Hawkins wrote she intended to continue wearing it during the entire Christian season of Advent in support of “human solidarity” with Muslim women as Christians and Muslims “worship the same God.”
Larycia Hawkins decided to wear the hijab during the Christian season of Advent in solidarity with Muslim women. Screenshot.
Hawkins probably foresaw as a consequence of her purposeful action her subsequent suspension by the evangelical Christian school. It is much less likely she foresaw the unintended consequences her action actually wrought on the Muslim women she sought to help.
Under the unintended consequences law, there are three possible outcomes: unexpected benefit, unexpected drawback and perverse result. It is the third category—a result not only contrary to what was intended but one serving to worsen the situation—into which Hawkins’ effort squarely falls.
Hawkins is not alone in complicating an already complex situation concerning the hijab that most non-Muslims simply do not understand, leading them to embark upon damaging courses of action.
Similar initiatives have been undertaken in U.S. schools and other venues generating similar unintended results—all a consequence of actors’ ignorance about the underlying issues as to what the hijab really symbolizes.
A Muslim women who does understand this is Asra Q. Nomani, author of, “Standing Alone: An American Woman’s Struggle for the Soul of Islam.” She leads a Martin Luther-esque effort to reform Islamic thinking into one advocating peace, human rights and secular governance. Hawkins would have been well advised to have consulted Nomani before launching her own hijab campaign.
The title to a Dec.27, 2015 article Nomani wrote for the Washington Post clearly states her position on efforts undertaken by well-intentioned non-Muslim wearers of the hajib. Titled “As Muslim Women, We Actually Ask You Not to Wear the Hijab in the Name of Interfaith Solidarity,” she explains exactly why.
Nomani has borne witness to the effort of “conservative Muslims to dominate modern Muslim societies.” Such fundamentalists spread “an ideology of political Islam called ‘Islamism,’ enlisting well-intentioned interfaith do-gooders and the media into promoting the idea that ‘hijab’ is a virtual ‘sixth pillar’ of Islam.”
However, she adds, “We reject this interpretation that the ‘hijab’ is merely a symbol of modesty and dignity adopted by faithful female followers of Islam.” Far from it, it symbolizes oppression—and anyone wearing it thereby deems this oppression acceptable.
Nomani points out no where in the Koran is it mandated women should wear the hijab. It is the Islamic fundamentalists who have endeavored to impose this upon women to symbolize their submission to men. Thus, actions by Hawkins and others only embrace fundamentalist efforts oppressive towards Muslim women.
(AP Photo/B.K. Bangash)
Sadly, over the years, many Muslim women have been so indoctrinated by fundamentalists, they have come to believe wearing the hijab is, as Nomani described earlier, a “sixth pillar” of Islam, when it is not.
The Western media only furthers this false belief by failing to provide a correct interpretation of the word “hijab.”
In Arabic, hijab literally means “curtain” or “hiding” someone. But its use is within the context of non-believers being prevented or denied access to God. Over time, it came to mean headscarf—a clear misinterpretation as any careful reading of the Koran reveals.
In fact, of the eight times hijab appears in the Koran, never once does it connote an act of piety by Muslim women.
Little pressure was exerted upon women in modern times to wear the hijab—not until both Sunni and Shiite fundamentalism were resurrected in the 1980s. While the hijab is claimed to be a part of Islam, its derivation has been a cultural, not a religious, evolution. In fact, its evolution more accurately is connected to the “lust factor.”
Clerics, viewing women as sexual distractions for males, placed responsibility upon the former to cover up, so as to prevent the latter from becoming sexually tempted. While the hijab is part of this initiative, so too is the burka, the niqab, etc. Thus, it is because of the Muslim man’s lust, they were to be protected by mandating women hide themselves!
Accordingly, it was man’s weakness that resulted in this symbol of modesty being imposed upon women, making the hijab a garment representing female discrimination.
Listing numerous authorities from the seventh century on, Nomani says they “have clearly established that Muslim women are not required to cover their hair.” Accordingly, what is a purely cultural tradition has been imposed upon women as a religious edict by Muslim men.
Nomani discourages non-Muslim women from undertaking actions that only serve to strengthen the Islamic fundamentalism from which Muslim women need to escape.
Well-intentioned actors are being duped, Nomani says, noting “in exploring the ‘hijab,’ they are not exploring Islam, but rather the ideology of political Islam as practiced by (strict fundamentalists).” They are “unwittingly pushing a platform to put a hijab on every woman.”
It is said the road to hell is paved with good intentions. So too is the road seeking solidarity with Muslim women. The law of unintended consequences tells us non-Muslim women going down this road donning the hijab are only strengthening the chains of political Islam, making it more difficult for Muslim women to cast off the bonds of oppression. As such, this should be a road less traveled.
TheBlaze contributor channel supports an open discourse on a range of views. The opinions expressed in this channel are solely those of each individual author.