Islamic Hijabs and Nuns Habits
Apologists often attempt to compare the Islamic observance of hijab with the wearing of the religious habit by Christian nuns. This comparison is fundamentally flawed and is one of many fallacious tu quoque arguments utilized in defense of Islam.
Many people seem to confuse the hijab, an item of clothing, with the observance of hijab. This has allowed apologists to build straw-man arguments defending an item of clothing that was never a cause of objection.
How women follow the Islamic requirement of observing hijab varies. It ranges anywhere from wearing a simple head covering, to the burqa (a form of "full hijab"), which covers almost all exposed skin.
Full hijab can consist of the following elements:
- Jilbāb; this refers to any long and loose-fitting coat or garment worn by a women.
- Khimar; a scarf or wrap, often referred to simply as 'hijab', used to cover the head and neck.
- Niqāb; a piece of cloth which veils the face.
Some Muslim jurists regard the wearing of a niqab as wajib (mandatory), while others believe it is mustahab (favored by Allah). When reading the sources concerning hijab, it is apparent that the stricter form of dress which covers the face is scripturally and theologically the most correct.
The comparison made between the hijab and habit has many faults, including:
In addition to being a tu quoque argument, those who use the nun's habit to defend the hijab are guilty of a logical fallacy known as a false equivalence. Unlike the compulsory observance of hijab for practicing Muslim women, practicing Christian women are not required or expected to wear a nun's habit. Naturally, only nuns are. In fact, it would be considered quite bizarre for a Christian woman to wear a nun's habit if she were not a nun.
Choice and Compulsion
By becoming nuns, this tiny percentage of Christian women are voluntarily choosing with their own freewill to wear the habit. On the other hand, Muslim women are compelled by their religion to observe some form of hijab (the severity of this requirement may be disputed among mainstream Muslims, but the requirement itself is certainly not).
Christian girls face absolutely no pressure from their parents or community to become nuns, and most orders of Christian nuns require that women be adults (at least 18 years of age) before joining. Even then, there is an induction period of about 4-5 years before they can become fully fledged nuns. On the other hand, many Muslim girls are pressured or forced from a very young age to observe hijab and are eventually conditioned to accept this as the norm.
Ostracism and Violence
If a nun were to remove her head covering, unlike a Muslim woman (even in a non-Muslim country), she would not run the risk of being intimidated, ostracized or honor killed by her co-religionists. In fact, Christians girls who do not veil themselves are infinitely more likely to be attacked by Muslims than they are by Christians or any other religious group.
Those who put forward this comparison are usually guilty of attacking a straw-man. Most critics of the "hijab" have a problem with the "full hijab" (e.g. the burqa) which leaves women unrecognizable, visually impaired, and closed off to social interaction. They do not see the covering of ones hair as a problem, hence no objections to a nun's dress. Additionally, most nuns do not wear the stereotypical full-body uniform. Instead, they choose to wear their own clothes in addition to a headpiece. Some nuns do not even wear the headpiece.
If you will use possibly the most religious women among Christians in this comparison, you will have to do likewise for Muslim women, i.e. those who wear the full hijab. Full hijab is a lot more restrictive than a nun's habit, covering everything but the eyes (in some cases, even the eyes are not spared).
Nuns have their male equivalents who are monks or friars. Monks also have their own uniforms which cover the body and includes a hood. Islamic female dress does not have any such male equivalents. Outside of a mosque, Muslim men are not pressured or compelled to wear any particular items of clothing or to cover their heads.
A nun has the choice to not wear the habit. She can always leave her order and still remain an observant Christian. Conversely, a Muslim women cannot discard her hijab (remove all head or facial coverings) and remain an observant Muslim.
Quoting Bible or Qur'an passages to claim Christian women have to cover their heads or that Muslim women do not, is pointless. What matters is how mainstream Christianity and Islam interpret these texts, and the real-life consequences from those interpretations.
- Hijab - A hub page that leads to other articles related to Hijab
- Tu Quoque - A hub page that leads to other articles related to Tu Quoque
- The Difference Between Nuns and Muhajaba - Plancks Constant, June 9, 2010 (archived), http://plancksconstant.org/blog1/2010/06/the_difference_between_nuns_and_muhajaba.html
- "Hijab In The Al-Quran And Sunnah", Khalifah Institute, accessed July 3, 2011 (archived), http://islamic-world.net/sister/hijab_in_quran.htm.
- "False equivalence is a logical fallacy which describes a situation where there is a logical and apparent equivalence, but when in fact there is none. It would be the antonym of the mathematical concept of material equivalence. It is achieved by "shifting, imprecise, or tactical (re)definition of a linking term. A common way for this fallacy to be perpetuated is one shared trait between two subjects is assumed to show equivalence, especially in order of magnitude, when equivalence is not necessarily the logical result. The pattern of the fallacy is often as such: If A is the set of c and d, and B is the set of d and e, then since they both contain d, A and B are equal. It should be noted though that d existing in both sets is not required, only a passing similarity is required to cause this fallacy to be able to be used.", "False equivalence", Wikipedia, accessed July 25, 2013 (archived), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_equivalence
- "A survey conducted in France in May 2003 found that 77 percent of girls wearing the hijab said they did so because of physical threats from Islamist groups. A series in the newspaper Liberation in 2003 documented how Muslim women and girls in France who refuse to wear the hijab are insulted, rejected and often physically threatened by Muslim males. Muslim women who try to rebel are considered "whores" and treated as outcasts. In fact, around the globe millions of women are forced to wear the veil for fear of physical retribution. And the fear is well-founded. Every year hundreds of women in Pakistan and Afghanistan alone are killed, have acid thrown in their face", Olivier Guitta, "Opinion: Why France is right about the burqa", GlobalPost, February 26, 2010 (archived), http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/worldview/100225/france-burqa-ban-human-rights?page=0,1
- "Aqsa "Axa" Parvez (April 22, 1991 – December 10, 2007) was the victim of a murder in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. During the murder trial, Superior Court Justice Bruce Durno acknowledged the slaying as an honour killing, stating, "that he found it "profoundly disturbing that a 16-year-old could be murdered by a father and brother for the purpose of saving family pride, for saving them from what they perceived as family embarrassment."". Her brother, Waqas Parvez, had strangled her to death when Aqsa would not wear a hijab covering.", "Honour killing of Aqsa Parvez", Wikipedia, accessed July 25, 2013 (archived), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honour_killing_of_Aqsa_Parvez
- There are hundreds of such incidents, e.g: "...the victory of the Muslim Brotherhood in parliamentary and presidential elections has changed the mood - particularly as the biggest opposition party is the even more hardline Salafist movement which wants strict Sharia law implemented. "Salafis meet Christian girls in the street and order them to cover their hair," Father Mina said. "Sometimes they hit them when they refuse." President Mohammed Morsi has promised to respect Christians' rights, and issued a New Year message insisting Egypt was "one homeland for all". But several Brotherhood leaders and clerics issued thinly veiled threats against them during protests in late 2012, accusing them of being part of a plot to overthrow the government.", Richard Spencer, "Egypt's Coptic Christians fleeing country after Islamist takeover", The Telegraph, January 13, 2013, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/egypt/9798777/Egypts-Coptic-Christians-fleeing-country-after-Islamist-takeover.html
- "A straw man or straw person, also known in the UK as an Aunt Sally, is a type of argument and is an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent's position. To "attack a straw man" is to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by replacing it with a superficially similar yet unequivalent proposition (the "straw man"), and to refute it, without ever having actually refuted the original position. This technique has been used throughout history in polemical debate, particularly in arguments about highly charged, emotional issues.", "Straw man", Wikipedia, accessed July 25, 2013 (archived), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man