Hijab for a Cause
This past week, there has been a fairly bitter dispute about the wearing of Hijab in schools here in Azerbaijan. I don’t have a huge stake in this, but it’s a worthy cause to highlight here. Those who already know a bit about Azerbaijan are probably aware of how much of the populace is less than devout when it comes to practicing Islam. The Azeri language is permeated with references to Allah, mosques are in every town and the call to prayer rings out daily, but no one here would mistake these vodka-swilling former communists of being radicals. Instead, many people here are more moderated believers, steeped in a Muslim culture.
So here we are in Azerbaijan, where students are being told they can’t wear the hijab to class. It’s written in the law that students must wear uniforms, and these uniforms specifying nothing close to the hijab. Interestingly, here in Lənkəran, I’m probably in one of the most hijab-wearing parts of the country. The south is a place where there are generally more religious people, probably a bit out of the influence of the neighbors across the border.
I can’t really argue against the Education Ministry, which is purportedly attempting to enforce the law. Enforcing laws is something rather uncommon here in Azerbaijan, and I would like to encourage the practice. Yet, at the same time, telling someone what they can and can’t wear to school, especially when it’s actually something the covers more of the body, as opposed to less, seems a little odd. And that doesn’t even consider that there is an extreme scarcity of hijab wearers as it is.
The only thing I can think of is that the government is further attempting to show its might in being able to keep down radical Islam, attempting to ferret out any Wahhabis trying to cause a stir. I’ve mentioned before that the government here is interested solely in stability, and this is probably a further attempt at enforcing that stability.
Aygun, over at Global Voices, did a fantastic job gathering up reactions and video about the situation and it’s well worth the click over to get an idea of what Azeris are saying about it. Also, as we consider who is choosing to wear the hijab, I think this is an important point to consider:
Reportedly, as of today, some parents have decided that their daughters should not attend school in protest at what they consider to be a discriminative act. Meanwhile, video of last week’s demonstration shows protesters to be mainly men.
Mainly men, huh?