Catalan writer Najat el Hachmi defends a political sphere without hijab

Catalan writer Najat el Hachmi defends a political sphere without hijab

“Thank you, Ada Colau, Mónica García, Mónica Oltra and Yolanda Díaz for incorporating into your ranks the symbol of our oppression. It will be that the Spanish mulberries are not women and our freedom can wait. It will be that our feminism is second-rate and you can sink us a little more so that we can continue to be locked up in the prisons of Islam and Islamism. ” This is how blunt the writer Najat el Hachmi, Nadal 2021 award winner, was shown on her Instagram account on November 15. The source of his outrage was the event organized in Valencia It was attended by the spokesperson for the Movement for Dignity and Citizenship in Ceuta, Fatima Hamed Hossain, dressed in the Islamic headscarf. “Putting the hijab in an event like this is to legitimize its use, and with it, the entire network of norms on the bodies of Muslim women – says El Hachmi -. The veil is the visible part of an infinity of rules that tell us how we have to dress, behave, with whom we can relate and with whom not, with the question of virginity… “.

Behind the post of Instagram, applauded or cited, among others, by the filmmaker Isabel Coixet, by the writer Mimunt Hamido and by the journalist of Saharawi origin Ebbaba Hameida, many voices were raised to claim the freedom that assists every woman to wear a hijab, if so decides it, or its importance as a sign of identity. Among them have been the vice president of the Generalitat Valenciana Mónica Oltra, Mar García Puig (United We Can) or Loreto Arenillas (More Madrid). “But what they defend is the freedom you have to submit, to enslave yourself, and that does not exist!” Says El Hachmi. “And there is not that supposed scenario of freedom in which Muslim women choose to wear the headscarf. To say that this is not the case, that there is no oppression against us, is to put oneself on the side of those who discriminate against us, instead of siding with the victims. And yes, it is true that this is discriminating against the handkerchief: but that discrimination of discrimination seems reasonable and pertinent to me. It is not about pointing out or persecuting women who wear headscarves, but about questioning their introduction into the spheres of representation. “

And this introduction, he assures, has a lot of aesthetics. “Policies of Muslim origin that are not veiled remain in the background, these events are never called because they are not visible as” diversity. “So, on the one hand, we have the extreme right instrumentalizing feminist discourse every time that a Muslim woman speaks of discrimination; we already know that what the extreme right says in terms of feminism has no validity. We should not give any legitimacy to this instrumentalization, much less respond with a different instrumentalization, quickly resorting to the veil to give that image of inclusiveness. “

Mónica Oltra’s comments (“There are many symbols of oppression in the world and we only wonder about that [el hiyab]. We don’t ask ourselves why we were wearing makeup or heels “) they have particularly outraged him.” I would say to him: how many girls are forced to wear makeup and heels, how many girls are told that if they don’t wear heels they won’t love them because are they not good women? It is a demagogic argument, which confuses an aesthetic pressure with a prison whose main symbol is that handkerchief “.

The writer regrets the little understanding that her position has found among politicians and among feminists. Regarding the former, he affirms: “It hurts me a lot that we are so alone in this fight. Many of us have had to overcome very painful situations, and we hoped to find support in policies that supposedly are in favor of equality and that are putting up a very strong firewall. important to the feminist struggle in Muslim contexts “. Regarding the ambivalent position of many feminists regarding the headscarf, she assures: “I think that the intersectionality of feminism, in relation to Islam, has been interpreted completely the other way around. What is being asked is that it incorporate the struggles of women into its struggle. women who do not belong to the majority group, and that means incorporating the struggle of Muslim women against Islam, not incorporating the machismo of Islam, which is what is being done and which is something tremendously racist. “

The writer, who came with her family to Spain from northern Morocco when she was eight years old, points out that the presence of the hijab, far from diminishing, is increasing. “When I was a child, in my town married women wore a headscarf, and it was not by far the one we see now, it left some of the hair exposed. My grandmothers, Rifeñas, didn’t even wear it: they wore a scarf. an invention of the fundamentalists. ” At a certain point in her life she also wore it. “I came into contact with a fundamentalist family, that’s why I know them so well, and they convinced me to become a ‘good Muslim’. I was 12 years old. When I showed up with the handkerchief at school, the principal told me that I couldn’t go in that way. And the truth is that he did me a huge favor, because I didn’t know where I was getting. Putting on the hijab is very easy; taking it off is very difficult. “

El Hachmi has devoted practically all of his literary work to exploring this conflict between his roots and his identity and freedom: The last patriarch, The body hunter, The foreign daughter, Mother of milk and honey, On Monday they will love us and the essay They have always spoken for us (all, in Planet and Destiny) address different aspects of the oppression of Muslim women and their painful escape mechanisms. To do so, Najat had to confront her family and break up with her father. Isn’t that middle way possible that progressive headscarf women like Fatima Hamed seem to promise? “I would have liked, and many of the girls and women I talk to, too. Of course we would have liked to be able to reconcile everything, for families to accept their daughters as they are, that they did not have to break up with everything; because breaking is break, you amputate a very important part of your own person. But that will come the day we change the mentality of our parents and our families. What we cannot is, to avoid that conflict and that rupture, perpetuate that women have to hide, hide, do things they don’t believe in. How many generations of girls are we going to sacrifice like this? “

So, is it not possible to reconcile faith and feminism? “It has not been possible for me,” he acknowledges. “For consistency with feminism, I had to stop being a believer. I understand that it is a very painful step and that there will be people who do not take it; that is part of their freedom and their desire to reconcile both, or to assume their own contradictions. I have my itinerary, and if another woman chooses another, go ahead. The problem comes when we try to introduce religion into the political spheres, because then we give it a power that it should not have, and even more so if we take into account that the agenda Islam is going in that direction. “

The rise of fundamentalism in Europe is, in fact, one of the writer’s concerns. “I think we cannot continue to act as if it did not exist: it is here, and it has a very important influence among the youngest. 20 or 30 years ago no one would have thought of defending the handkerchief as something you freely chose. But characters like [el controvertido teólogo musulmán] Tariq Ramadan spread the idea that Islam is persecuted in Europe, and that Muslims had to ‘come out of the closet’ and achieve representation in all spheres of life, including politics. Fundamentalists want Islam to carry political weight, to go far beyond a private belief. And therein lies the great danger: convincing ourselves that women are not victims because of Islam, which is sexist, but because of society, which discriminates against us for wearing a headscarf. “

El Hachmi assures that “marking” women as Muslims is part of that Islamist agenda. “They are very aware that it is going to be much more difficult for a woman with a hijab to progress in European society. So making them wear it is a way to stop them. And it really breaks my heart when I see women. that they are in tremendous situations, that they are looking for work and that they cannot find it and that, knowing that more doors would open to them if they took off their headscarf, they do not. And the fact is that, among the migration of Moroccan origin, it is the girls those that advance the most, those that access the baccalaureate and university the most. But I believe that fundamentalism is a reaction against that advance, precisely: the extreme right and political Islamism are not so different, both are a reaction against equality ” .

Discussing these issues on social media is often frustrating, as the writer knows. “For example, if I criticize the handkerchief, they align me with the extreme right, when I have been writing against it all my life. But right now the extreme right is conditioning the discourse: I can speak in my columns about the violence that any man exercises against any woman, but I cannot speak of the one practiced by people of the same origin. So where do I have to go to report the violations and harassment carried out by men of Muslim origin? Because it is necessary to educate them in feminism or we will find ourselves in a terrible scenario. “

This polarization and simplification of the debate on the networks make him consider, on occasions, expressing himself only through his books. “Many girls tell me that my books help them, that they feel that someone is telling their story. What is not told does not exist, it is not present in the imaginary, and it is important that we are in that imaginary. Public discourse is more direct, but fiction allows a complexity and nuances that networks do not have. Sometimes I consider limiting myself to writing, because in literature I feel very calm and very free. But I also consider that I am in a privileged situation, in which It has not been easy for me to get there, it is true, with an environment that supports me and where the things I write about no longer happen to me; and I feel the need to help those who are still there. I can’t do much for them. except writing. And that is important: telling ourselves and being able to see ourselves in the mirror of representation “.


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