The Left, the media, and feminists (excuse the redundancy) are rejoicing this week as Sports Illustrated “makes history” by featuring a model in a burkini in their swimsuit edition. The Muslim model Halima Aden is seen striking a pose while wearing a hijab and a full body wetsuit. This, we are assured, is a victory for diversity.
Let’s leave aside the obvious absurdity of trying to combine a burqa with a bikini, which is like putting iced coffee in the microwave. The whole point of the one is that it is the opposite of the other. Burqas are made for sexual modesty. The Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition is made for sexual exhibitionism. By marrying the two, you destroy the purpose of both. But that is not my concern because I have no personally vested interest in preserving the integrity of either the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition or Islamic dress codes.
More to the point, leftists celebrate the burqa and the hijab in an effort to be multicultural, but in the process, they contradict themselves to an absurd degree. Feminism has until recently been a virulent opponent of sexual modesty — especially religious sexual modesty. And it still is, but for the special exemption it provides Islam. This is quite a massive exemption indeed, as the hijab represents not only modesty but female submission.
The website Islam Question And Answer cites various quotations from the Hadith and the Quran explaining why women must remain veiled. Here is a verse provided from al-Noor 24:31 of the Quran, as it appears on the website:
And tell the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts) and not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent (like both eyes for necessity to see the way, or outer palms of hands or one eye or dress like veil, gloves, headcover, apron), and to draw their veils all over Juyoobihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms) and not to reveal their adornment except to their husbands, or their fathers, or their husband’s fathers, or their sons, or their husband’s sons, or their brothers or their brother’s sons, or their sister’s sons, or their (Muslim) women (i.e. their sisters in Islam), or the (female) slaves whom their right hands possess, or old male servants who lack vigour, or small children who have no sense of feminine sex. And let them not stamp their feet so as to reveal what they hide of their adornment. And all of you beg Allah to forgive you all, O believers, that you may be successful.
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) says that the hijab means “power, liberation, beauty, and resistance.” Her own holy book seems to suggest precisely the opposite. Women must wear these coverings as an act of submission to male authority and conformity to religious commands. In some Muslim countries — Iran, for example — women who decline to adhere to this dress code can be imprisoned or worse. A strange form of liberation, that.
A 2014 Pew study surveyed people in a variety of Muslim countries and found that sizable majorities in the polled areas believe that women are dressed inappropriately if anything but their eyes, nose, and mouth are exposed. Over 30% in Pakistan and 60% in Saudi Arabia said that only a woman’s eyes should be seen by the public. In fact, 11% in the latter country didn’t even want the eyes visible. Every country except Turkey had at least some portion of respondents who thought that women should be entirely cloaked from head to toe with no visible body parts at all. Even more concerning, between 45 and 85% of respondents across the seven selected countries said that women should not have any choice at all in what they wear.
This is what separates the modesty of the most conservative Christians and Jews from the modesty of the most conservative Muslims. The latter’s version of modesty is not only far more extreme, but is also obligatory. I’m not sure if any polling has been done recently on the subject, but I highly doubt you would find even one percent of traditionalist Catholics or Orthodox Jews who believe that women should be forced — under secular or national law — to keep almost all of their skin covered at all times. You will probably have no trouble at all finding Muslims who hold that view.
That is why I can, without hypocrisy, criticize the prevalent Muslim approach to modesty while supporting and applauding the Christian and Jewish approach. The voluntary nature of the one as opposed to the other is enough of a distinction. The extreme one-sidedness is another. Some orders of nuns (not all) require their adherents to wear something stylistically similar to a hijab. But women choose to enter into those orders and can leave at anytime with no legal penalty. And men who enter religious orders are required to follow dress codes that are just as strict. The point of the modest dress is to show submission to and humility before God; it is not about a woman’s submission to or humility before men. The same can be said for Orthodox Jews, where both men and women cover their heads. This again distinguishes it from the “modesty” found in places like Iraq and Pakistan.
It is thus perfectly coherent for a proponent of Christian modesty to criticize the attitude towards modesty commonly found in many Muslim countries. It is, on the other hand, perfectly incoherent to do the opposite — to criticize Christian modesty while celebrating its Muslim counterpart. But this is the maneuver leftists have pulled, heaping unabated scorn on conservative Christians, sneering at their modesty and condemning their adherence to traditional gender roles, even while saluting the hijab as a symbol of self-expression and personal liberation. There is no way that this dynamic can be rationally justified. That is because it is not rational. It is fueled only by a bigoted hatred for Christianity combined with an insatiable, unthinking, and self-destructive appetite for multiculturalism.