Yesterday, Time Magazine published a very interesting article titled “The 25 Best Inventions Of 2017”. This article included such interesting technology as elevators that can move sideways, glasses that can help blind people to “see”, more effective electric cars, and airless vehicle tires.
You know, actual inventions or innovations that can improve people’s lives in big (and small) ways.
Time also included several other more minor “innovations”, some more groundbreaking than others. Halotop Guilt-Free Ice Cream, for one, is a product I personally love and a very innovative take on something most of us take for granted until we go on a diet! Others, like Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty line, which features makeup for all skin tones, have been done many times before.
One thing on the list, however, stood out.
Out of these 25 inventions and innovations, Time Magazine chose the Nike Pro Hijab to feature in their tweet about the article.
Imagine a cloth being a top invention of 2017. The bar is that low?! https://t.co/5scj3V5MPH
— Stefanie MacWilliams (@StefMacWilliams) November 16, 2017
— TIME (@TIME) November 16, 2017
First, the obvious reason why this is stupid.
The Nike Pro Hijab is not an invention. I would argue it’s not even an innovation, seeing as it has been done before, by a company run by Muslim women, for Muslim women. The Nike Pro Hijab is fitness-friendly material, sewn into a headscarf. Wow! Much innovative! So important! Totally deserves to be considered one of the featured inventions of 2017!
I don’t particularly care if Muslim women wear headscarves, while working out or in their daily life. That’s their prerogative – just as it is for Amish people, certain Christians (I was raised in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and shawls over hair in church were common with older people), Jewish people, etcetera.
I do care when religious garb like the Hijab are glorified as progressive – and that’s exactly what Nike is doing.
Last week on Right Millennial, I had a fantastic chat with activist and ex-Muslim Yasmine Mohammed. At around the 32 minute mark, we delve into the topic of face veil bans, and the Hijab in general.
Yasmine presented a very good point: no other religious clothing is glorified the way so-called progressives seek to glorify the Hijab.
We don’t glorify Jewish women who help other women wrap their hair in a tichel while excercising.
We don’t glorify the undergarments Mormons wear under their clothes.
We don’t glorify Amish bonnets.
We don’t glorify a Nun’s habit.
So why do we glorify a piece of religious garb from the most regressive major religion in the world?
I think Yasmine (an atheist) and I (a complicated believer) differ a little bit on the nature of Hijab and religious modesty in general having an empowerment aspect – I think that they can, and I got the impression Yasmine found religious modesty culture to be inherently regressive.
Considering she was forced to wear a Niqab (face veil) AND an extra mesh layer over her eyes, I can’t say I blame her.
I think a Hijab (in this context I’m referring to a headscarf, not to the broader definition of Hijab), to individual Muslims in free countries with families who allow them to express their religion in any way they see fit, could be empowering.
I think that there are women who find joy in following religion through modesty requirements- but this is not inherently progressive, and must be weighed carefully within the broader religious communities in which they exist, and the broader societies in which they live.
Are they free, or aren’t they?
It depends. In every case.
I can see beauty in a Christian woman wearing a scarf while she prays in my father’s church on Good Friday, and beauty in a Jewish woman covering her hair after she is married. But as a matter of secular culture? It’s nothing to do with most of us, and it doesn’t need to be pushed as progressive.
I also think this sort of group of truly free women following modesty requirements is a minority among Muslims in the world, and the near-collective silence of Muslim “feminists” who can choose how they express their faith when so many of their fellow Muslim women are forced into anything from a Hijab to a Burka, is astounding and unacceptable.
The reality is that Hijab as a tool of subjugation of women is how I would view Hijab across most of the world, and unless and until Muslims (and “progressives”) in West understand this and speak honestly about it, I will continue to find normalizing the Hijab to be disturbing.
But back to Nike.
A woman being able to participate in sports is not progressive. Nor is a woman being allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia.
The baseline of equality in the Western world is not an impressive bar to hit – it is the standard. Viewing these sorts of things as victories only seeks to reinforce just how behind us Muslim countries are in terms of women’s rights and freedom.
Does that mean we can’t encourage them?
Of course not. I am happy there are a few restrictions being eased on Saudi women. I am happy Muslim girls (many likely younger girls from devout families who may not be allowed to otherwise) can participate in athletics more easily thanks to products like the Nike Pro Hijab.
These are good things. But they are not victories.
To put it crassly in the words of Douglas Murray, “Islam is the slowest kid in the class”.
We can encourage these nations to catch up to the wider Western world. But we must never cater our example of excellence in human rights and progress to those lagging behind.