Islamic hijab is a tool of preventing contacts between “non-mahrams”. “Non-mahram” describes the man or woman with whom a Muslim adult can marry, marriageable. Therefore, for Muslims, there are two groups of people in the society:
The first group called mahram people is a little group of non-marriageable closed family members - parents, grand-parents, children, brothers/sisters, uncles/aunts, grand-children, stepchildren, parents-in-law and stepparents.
The second group called non-mahram people is the rest of society. A Muslim woman should wear hijab in front of all adult males of this group.
Non-mahram is the most determinant factor of character formation in all Islamic societies. It has created a religious based- collective consciousness. In extension, it is cumbersomely present in any aspect of social life. For example, we can retrace its footsteps in Islamic architecture:
A typical Muslim house is built around a central, mostly rectangular, courtyard. To respect the dogma, the interior space is important, not the outside. Therefore, a part of the house is separated for females. The men’s reception (or guest) room tends to be located next to the entrance lobby of the house so that non-mahram visitors do not see the females. The windows are inside not outside of the house so that eye contact between non-mahrams does not occur. In the big house, where several generations can dwell together, measures are imposed so that the contact between non-mahrams like cousins or brother/sister-in-law of opposite sex dwellers does not lead to an eventual sexual temptation.
In Islamic countries, we see more clearly the marks of the non-mahram traits in the old palaces, where no access to the harem area, except for castrated servants, was possible. Such palaces had to conform to the restrictions of non-mahrams. Here, the Woman’s body is the red line to be far from visual and acoustic fields of non-mahrams. The palace, as a house of Caliph or king, must conform to Islamic principles. Therefore, its aspect must respect the rules of gender segregation. Therefore, in such palaces, paintings, frescos, music, theatre, ceremonies…, are all male domains—no woman statute, no female artist, no female… It is important to know that from these palaces, official and domninant styles and norms were being extended into the whole Islamic society.
“Madresseh” (traditional school) was preferably built for male Muslim children. Such a school had to respect the rule of non-mahram by imposing gender segregation as a moral requirement. Madresseh taught children the phobia of sexual temptation if the gender segregation would not be respected.
One of the
main components of Islamic hijab is its sense of misogyny, which is older than
hijab itself. It is a primitive tradition of social hierarchy, when the strong
sex had the upper hand.
In Iran, with the adoption of Western culture, hijab began to disappear, but the Islamic regime in Iran gave it a new life in recent decades. For the IRI, hejab is allegedly the only safe guarantee for the Iranian women’s protection against the danger of brazen indecency and eye contacts of non-mahrams.
Effects of sex segregation have left crucial results in social backwardness. Under the strict conditions of Islamic hijab, work conditions, education, sport, and entertainment are particularly difficult for women. Women’s non-participation in the economy and production of social needs is another reason for backwardness.
Today, Islamic society seems to be so amalgamated with the Islamic hijab that it represents an obvious emblem for such societies.
Whatever the origin or reason of Islamic hijab is, Islamic hijab is today an important blockade to woman’s freedom, gender equality, and democracy for the Islamic world.
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