How the hijab became this week's biggest talking point: from Lindsay Lohan to London Modest Fashion Week
London hosted “modest fashion” shows, Sweden’s feminist leaders covered up and Marine Le Pen refused. Samuel Fishwick and Lucy Tobin report on the week that the hijab became hot news
Samuel fishwick, Lucy Tobin
Friday 24 February 2017 14:00 GMT
Of all the platforms on which the headscarf debate seemed likely to rear its head, Lindsay Lohan’s transatlantic pit stop at Heathrow Airport was a surprising flashpoint. The Mean Girls star was flying from Turkey to New York via London when she was asked by immigration staff to remove a scarf she donned “out of respect” while working with refugees. The actress later claimed she had been “racially profiled” for the “first time in my life”.
Lohan’s travails were soon overtaken in a week in which headscarves were at the centre of political statements. Over the weekend, a delegation from Sweden’s self-proclaimed feminist government visited Iran, only to be rounded on internationally after female ministers on the trip were photographed wearing headscarves. On Tuesday, Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s Front National party, walked away from a meeting in Beirut with the Muslim cleric Sheikh Abdel-Latif Derian after refusing to cover her head.
“The hijab has become a symbol around the world of how Muslim women are defined,” says journalist Shaista Aziz, founder of the anti-racism digital platform The Everyday Bigotry Project. “If a woman chooses to wear or not to wear a hijab, it should be a matter for only her. And note the word choice.”
For a flap of fabric, the headscarf has had a surprisingly dominant role in politics for years — especially in France, which has the largest number of Muslims in Western Europe and which bans hijabs in the public service and for school pupils. But this week the politicisation of the veil took centre stage — with France again the focus as Marine Le Pen cancelled a meeting with Lebanon’s Grand Mufti, the top cleric for Sunni Muslims, after refusing to wear a headscarf for the encounter.
For many people, Lindsay Lohan seems like the last person you would expect as a human rights activist. Sadly, far too many seem to ignore her accomplishments and focus on the negatives her life. Whenever any child star has seemed to hit a slippery slope, critics and spectators instantly dismiss it as, “Another child star gone wrong,” instead of trying to encourage them and help. It especially it not right when said star attempts to do some good and shed light on an important issue, and then people jump down their throats. This happened to Lohan when she claimed she was racially profiled when an airport security guard requested she remove her headscarf.
Since Lohan is a white woman, the term, “racially profiled,” left many very confused and even angry. Yet, when Lohan went on to explain on Good Morning Britain, it actually made sense.
“I was wearing a headscarf and I got stopped at the airport and I was racially profiled for the first time in my life,” Lohan said. “She opened my passport and saw, ‘Lindsay Lohan,’ and started immediately apologizing but then said, ‘Please take off your head scarf.'”
Lohan never claimed she was profiled as a white women, she was profiled when they thought she was a Middle Eastern woman. The security guard tried to make her take off her head scarf and did not care until they noticed that she was Lindsay Lohan and only then started to apologize when they saw she was a well-known white woman. Even then, they still did not have any respect and told her to take her head scarf on anyway.
Lohan went on to express her fear for not just herself, but for other women who don’t feel comfortable with taking their head scarf or cannot take it off. While Lohan is not sure if she is apart of the Islam religion, she dresses out of respect when going to different countries, so she wears a headscarf.
“I mean, it’s okay,” Lohan said. “But what scared me was that moment, ‘how would another women who doesn’t feel comfortable taking off her headscarf feel?”
Lohan’s experience sheds some light on a challenging issue that has effected so many Middle Eastern and/or Muslim women across the world. It truly is a flawed system with something as simple as skin color or a religious item of clothing it something to prompt fear in others to where they need to be randomly searched. Despite the fact that racial minorities are less likely than the Caucasian majority to be carrying items such as weapons, drugs or more.
While it is unfortunate that many need the tale of a white woman to actually care, hopefully this can bring some good with more mainstream media telling this story and being open to the stories of victims who don’t just deal with this at airports, but in their daily lives. Many victims have dangerous, some fatal, experiences dealing with Islamophobia and/or Xenophobia. These two disgusting forms of hate and prejudice need to end.
Middle Eastern and/or Muslim women’s voices need to be heard and they shouldn’t have to wait for someone who is white or not exactly part of their religion to tell their stories.