Which is More Important: Food or Hijab?
By: Amin Kawa
Recently, the painting and writing on public walls urging women to wear proper hijabs has been drawing people‘s attention. These scripts, prepared by the Taliban, have been displayed at crossroads, city entrances, and highways. It is clear that the Taliban group, which now considers itself an Islamic system, has made it a priority to enforce the Islamic hijab on women. One of the wall writings states that if women do not observe hijab, Islam will be in danger, while another claims that the thousands of Taliban members were sacrificed so that Muslim women would respect their hijab. The Taliban have made it clear that the obligation of hijab on women is of great importance. In another place, it is written that the West and colonialism are attempting to disrespect Muslim women and spread the culture of not wearing hijab and nudity. Therefore, it is necessary for us to stand against this culture with all our strength.
When reading these propaganda writings, one with an empty mind may get the impression that prior to the Taliban, Afghan women were in a dire situation in terms of clothing, hijab, and nudity, or that corruption and prostitution were rampant, and that the Taliban had come to save women from deviance by making them submit to religious laws in order to purify society. However, the reality is contrary to the Taliban‘s propaganda claims. It has only been less than two years since the return of the Taliban, and people cannot forget everything so quickly. Although women enjoyed freedoms before the Taliban, and the government had not implemented any rules regarding their clothing, the absolute majority of them still observed the religious hijab. They did not display behavior that was sensual and provocative in the eyes of the city officials. Their hijab in that era could have been due to belief or fear of confrontations with family and society. Whatever the reason, most of them adhered to the hijab, and compared to many Islamic countries, Afghan women kept their hijab. A few years ago, an educated Afghan, who was a traditional person and had lived abroad most of his life, returned to the country. After spending a few weeks in the country, he said, “despite all the efforts of the West to remove the hijab of Afghan women, their hijab is still more acceptable in comparison to any other Islamic country. The West has not yet managed to penetrate among them.”
Throughout the centuries, Muslim scholars have had numerous debates and disputes concerning the definition of Islamic hijab, resulting in a variety of opinions. However, none of these definitions correspond to that of the Taliban. Despite their self–proclaimed adherence to Imam Abu Hanafi‘s religion, the Taliban‘s treatment of women‘s rights and freedoms and their interpretation of hijab are not in line with even the most conservative views of the past. In the name of hijab and family privacy, the Taliban are imposing their culture and tribal experiences on society, without taking into account that this could lead to a negative perception of religious concepts rather than strengthening the status of religion in society.
Apart from that, poverty and starvation have always been a harsh reality for a large portion of Afghan society. However, with the Taliban‘s return, these issues have intensified dramatically. There is no need to look at statistics to understand the depth and severity of poverty in the country; one need only go out to the streets of Kabul in the evening of Ramadan to see people in different corners waiting to receive help from charity organizations or wealthy individuals. These are not professional beggars, but individuals who were able to provide for their families before the Taliban. The Taliban have collected thousands of beggars from the city, but have also created conditions that have led thousands of others to beg. With half of the country‘s population now begging and another half dealing with mental health issues, the future of Afghanistan remains uncertain.
The question now arises: is the hijab and the confinement of women more important than the economy of a country? Why does the Taliban place such emphasis on women‘s hijab rather than taking measures to reduce poverty and hunger? By imposing stringent restrictions on women and girls, silencing the voice of civil society, and killing and imprisoning those who oppose them, why does the Taliban obstruct their ability to interact with the world? Why does the Taliban take Afghanistan hostage and impose all kinds of sanctions and restrictions on the country? In a society where poverty and hunger are at their peak, and people struggle to meet their basic needs, why should the hijab be a priority? Do the Taliban inhabit a different world and not know the country‘s problems?
Reports indicate that since the Taliban‘s return, prostitution has increased and spread throughout the country, which is a natural and expected consequence. Prostitution increases in societies where people struggle to meet their basic needs. This is evidenced by reports from various countries. The question then arises: if the Taliban values the dignity and virtue of women, why do they not implement programs that would bring society to a level of prosperity that does not compromise the dignity of human beings in general? Is it possible to maintain the morality of a society in an ideal state in the presence of poverty and hunger?
For the past four decades, the ruling political system in the Islamic Republic of Iran, located in our neighborhood, has been attempting to enforce the wearing of hijabs on women. However, these efforts have been unsuccessful and have caused women to become increasingly distant from the hijab. If the ruling regime in Iran could achieve some level of success in the political and economic fields, it may be able to promote the hijab among Iranian citizens. Unfortunately, the economy of this country is now on the brink of collapse due to the policies of the ruling regime, and Iranian women and girls are protesting against the hijab, showing no signs of giving up any time soon.
If the Taliban wish for women and girls to wear the hijab, they must demonstrate their capability in political matters and create a verifiable record of success in various areas. In the short term, empty promises and campaigns may deceive some people, but in the long run, it is only a good performance and record that will make a lasting impression. To date, the Taliban have done nothing but alienate people and make them more distrustful and pessimistic of the “Islamic government“. People can now see for themselves that the Taliban are violating rights, attempting to conceal their true identity behind Islamic rhetoric and using Islam as an impenetrable shield to justify their actions.