The balaclava trend exposes a double standard when it comes to Muslim women

It’s ‘yes to the headscarf,’ unless it’s worn by a Muslim woman

Analyzing the perceived difference between fashion and oppression.
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While fashion has taken a keen interest in head coverings, be it through balaclavas or a simple scarf, the implications for Muslim women sporting the same attire are vastly different.

The balaclava, a type of head and face covering that originated in ski wear, has quickly grown in popularity as a fashion statement across social media. TikTok has been the epicenter for styling this piece and similar headscarf trends.

Vogue France recently posted a photo to their Instagram of Julia Foxx sporting a headscarf captioned, “Yes to the headscarf!” Vogue’s tone-deaf caption demonstrates a willful ignorance to the French government’s hijab ban.

The legislation in France bans any woman under the age of 18 from wearing a hijab in public, reinforcing the notion that Muslim women need to be saved from their oppressive religion.

Originating in 2004, when France passed a bill to ban religious symbols from being worn in public schooling systems, the law has evolved into an infringement on Muslim women’s freedoms in 2022. Islamophobic sentiments across the country are a colonial legacy that have transgressed into law under the guise of secularism.

Many people on social media have picked up on this hypocrisy, where Muslim women are seen as suspicious when they sport their hijab while white women are anything but. White women are even perceived as fashion icons for their forward-thinking styling.

This pervasive double standard has real life consequences.

Muslim women who don hijabs are faced with criticism and painted as being oppressed by their religion. Quebec has barred government workers in “authoritative positions” from wearing religious symbols, from turbans to hijabs, in what’s commonly referred to as Bill 21.

This extends to teachers, police officers, and many other industries.

Both French and Quebecois leaders cite a foundation of secularism to give reason to their disproportionately discriminating bills. However, this excuse is nothing but a thinly veiled attempt to shift responsibility for the spread of xenophobia from government.

In light of the popularization of head coverings in fashion, it’s becoming evident that those who stand against hijabs and turbans can’t shield their xenophobia any longer.

The institutionalization of Islamophobia still exists in our country and is a major problem. We’re a nation that prides itself on diversity and freedom, yet Quebec Premier Francois Legault has invoked the notwithstanding clause of the Canadian constitution to protect Bill 21 from being challenged in court.

I am a Muslim woman. I don’t wear a hijab, but I deeply commend those who do and condemn those who force it upon others. The reality is women living in North America and Europe who wear their hijabs often do it by their own choice, whether it be to find comfort in their modesty or feel closer to God.

I’m not telling you to throw away your balaclava. I own one, and I love it.

I’m simply asking people to think about the prejudice Muslim women face every day and acknowledge the privilege we possess in wearing such an accessory.

Everyone deserves to exercise their rights to clothing expression, whether it derives from religious undertaking or stylistic choice. Policy infringing on the rights of people to do so shouldn’t be accepted as secularism.

The consequences of this kind of legislation are far-reaching, and it’s necessary to demand change from governments who refuse to acknowledge them.

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