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Cross posted at MMW and Tales of a Modern Muslimah

American hijabis often have a lot to think about when they step outside their doors. Will we be denied a job because of hijab? Will we be asked to take off our hijabs at work or school? Will our hijabs make us a target for racists and xenophobes? Will we be pulled out of line at the airport because of our hijabs? However, one place we don’t expect hijab to cause us issue is in court. In courtrooms throughout the U.S., Muslim women wear hijab and Muslim men wear kufis if they’re inclined to do so. My mother, who is a social worker, wears hijab when accompanying clients to court.

 

Lisa Valentine. Image via AP.

Lisa Valentine. Image via AP.

So it must have been completely shocking for Lisa Valentine to be denied entry into a Georgia courtroom because of her headscarf. I’m sure it was one of the most racist incidents in her entire life. Despite the fact that Valentine’s civil rights were violated and this incident was inspired by racism, the media’s coverage of Lisa Valentine’s ordeal has been mixed at best.

One constant issue that I have in the reporting of Valentine’s ordeal is the reporting of her using a swear word. Every article and news clip on this story has mentioned it. “When she turned to leave and uttered an expletive, Hall said a bailiff handcuffed her and took her before the judge.” “Frustrated at being prevented from entering the court, the woman reportedly uttered an expletive and sought to leave the area.

Why is this fact so important to mention in every news story about Lisa Valentine? Wouldn’t a lot of people use an expletive if they were denied access to court? It’s almost as if the mention of Valentine’s use of a swear word is being reported as a cause for her arrest instead of a law that was abused by the bailiff and the judge. I wonder if the mention of Valentine using an expletive is to make her seem at fault or to simply make hijabis look bad. Either way, I found the constant mention of this fact to be really annoying and unnecessary. She cursed. So what? No matter what Valentine said, there’s no reason why she should have been arrested and sentenced to ten days in court.

Additionally, the coverage of Valentine’s ordeal hasn’t focused much on the racial dimensions of the incident. Valentine’s civil rights were violated because she is a Muslim. Even though she was barred from the court because of her “headwear”, her headwear was religious in nature. There’s little mention of the fact that Valentine’s headwear wasn’t ordinary headwear at all but part of her religious attire. In most of the stories I’ve read on Valentine, this distinction isn’t made except by Valentine herself.

Also, I have seen no discussion of how xenophobia and Islamophobia probably influenced what happened. I doubt that a nun would be asked to take off her habit in court because Catholics are not seen as foreign. However, Islam and symbols associated with it (such as hijab) are. Without looking at the issues at these issues, the stories on Valentine seem incomplete.

I’ve decided that every week I’ll post a list of links to various articles on Muslim women, Islamic feminism, and Muslim women’s activism. It’ll be in the same vein as link lists seen on other blogs. So here we go:

As salaamu ‘alaikum all,

Welcome to Muslimnista! This is the first post of the blog. This blog was created to promote feminist ideas and thought from a Muslim perspective. You may wonder why there needs to be a blog dedicated to Muslim feminist thought. There are a number of reasons why I felt this was necessary. The first reason for creating this blog is to show that feminism and Islam are not antithetical to each other. Unfortunately, there is this view among both some Muslims and some non-Muslim feminists that Islam and feminism are not compatible. This is just not true. From the earliest stages of Islamic history, there have been women who have fought for the rights of women in the ummah (Islamic community). They believed that Allah (God) not only spoke to men in the ummah but that He was speaking too members of the ummah. Women such as ‘A’isha, Hafsa and Umm Salama (ra) all fought to have women be inclusive in the early Muslim community.

The other primary reason for starting this blog is because I couldn’t find a blog that was just dedicated to Muslim feminist thought. There are blogs done by Muslim feminists. I am one of those feminists with a blog. However, there didn’t seem to be many blogs just dedicated to this topic. So, I thought Muslimnista could help to fill in the void. Insha’Allah, this blog will help to start a movement both on the Internet and in real life.