Last week, we talked about the upholding of a ruling by the highest court of the EU allowing employers to dismiss employees based on them wearing religious symbols including the hijab. This news was not widely relayed, garnering attention only in specific media outlets and the sporadic attention from more popular ones were more dispassionate in their approach, despite the hugely discriminatory ruling, which would affect mostly Muslim women.
This week, two news items caught the attention of mainstream media and spread like wildfire: the fine imposed on the Norwegian women’s beach handball team for refusing to wear bikini bottoms in the European Beach Handball Championships and the full body suits worn by German female gymnasts during the ongoing Olympic Games. Media outlets were quick to praise both the Norwegian team and the German gymnasts for reclaiming the right to wear what they feel comfortable in, and by extension reclaiming their bodies. And yet, one cannot help but be amazed by the hypocrisy that surrounds the discourse of women “reclaiming” their bodies.
Muslim women have for a long time, shouted from rooftops, that by adopting the hijab and other forms of religious dress, they are reclaiming their bodies in the name of their faith. Yet, they are, more often than not, vilified for their choice, told that their choice is not choice, but imposition, despite them proclaiming the contrary loud and clear. As the Norwegian and German sportswomen are reclaiming their bodies, Muslim women stand in solidarity with them, for there is no one else who would understand the frustration that comes from being told what not to wear and the empowerment that comes from adopting a garb out of personal conviction and comfort, than a Muslim woman who has decided to defy social norms of what women should or should not wear.