Even though we commonly associate head covering with Islam and the Hijab is the most commonly spoken about piece of head covering, do you know that head coverings are common to all Abrahamic religions?Abrahamic religions are commonly Judaism, Christianity and Islam ( though there are some lesser-known religions such as Bahai, Yezidi, Druze and samaritanism). “Prudery and puritanism were not part of the original Hindu or Buddhist traditions. The idea of associating sin with the naked body is a judo- Christian construct – lust is seen as the original sin, the body as the temptation that leads to the fall.” (Art of covering up in the Hindu JULY 04,2014 Vaisha Roy).It calls upon cultures of Srilanka where covering of the upper body was not done and so are many temple sculptures naked.The veil, Kamilavka & Epanokamelavkion and Miters are all seen in Christianity to denote elements of humility and modesty. It takes mentions in Paul notes to Corinthians.In Judaism again the hair is considered to be an object of sanctity to be seen by the husband only and involves covering head in the form of Sheitel, Tichel and kippah. In fact, some very orthodox Jews in the Hasidic communities are known the shave their head too.Now in Islam though the word “Hijab” is commonly used other forms of head coverings are included which are Niqab, Burqa and Chalor.Feb 1 st since 2013 is even celebrated as the world Hijab day.The Quaran makes mention of this in 24:31 and does not specifically mention veils but only shawl which covers to the chest region. Interestingly Amish communities and Sikhism also advocate head coverings for both sexes.One common feature to be noted in this is that all religions that advocate head covering do so to promote modesty in clothing and to curb male sexual desire.The first knee jerk reaction to the head covering from someone like me who is an atheist and believer of gender equality is that it may be one that is one of suppression and regressive step.However, I thrive on countering my own thinking and arguments against it to have a balance.One argument is the commonly talked about “choice”. If one is pro-choice, should one not be free to be able to choose one’s clothing including head coverings ?Second argument is that the opposite of a modest clothing may be one which could be revealing and sexualizing or objectifying a woman and this can be seen as a regressive and anti-woman step too ! Carrying on with the same argument then does it mean that just by dictating a woman to dress modestly one automatically implies that women are objects of sex and must be covered up ? Food for thought right?Being highly pro-choice, I strongly believe it is right of every woman to wear what she pleases. Some women feel exactly empowered in modest clothing and the others not. Feminism is not about becoming men or dressing lesser like women ! It is fighting patriarchal oppression and demand equal treatment. Being same is not being equal.Common sense is so very rare these days. For e.g., it may not be appropriate to wear a bikini to office and so forth. There are dress codes for clubs and parties, isn’t it? So even though a woman may feel empowered in exactly what she wears there are rules to be followed in certain places and these are common to all genders. We are coming to the recent ban on Hijab in educational Institutions in Karnataka. It is clearly a politically motivated move and must be strong opposed and any institution banning students from entering on basis of their religion but be reprimanded with legal standing. It is totally unfair to target one particular religion and allow religious symbols of other religions in these schools.However how about removing all religions and religious symbols from schools ? Leave every rudraksha malai, thulasai malai , cross, symbols of religion such as the vibuthi , bottu and so forth from school ? There are reasons why schools have uniforms. It is a dress code to be followed and must not be deviated to accommodate ANY religious symbols.When we talk feminism and equality let us talk equality in treating ALL religions fairly and just. The Hijab can be an assertion of feminism or not for a woman. It sheerly depends on WHY she wears it, how it makes her feel and how she looks at it.

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