Read this before you share that hijabi sexual harassment video

Many of us are aware of the viral and currently circulating video, 10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman by Hollaback, an organization that wishes to eradicate street harassment, intimidation, and catcalling of woman around the globe. The video featured a young woman walking around Manhattan for 10 hours all the while being harassed by men, whistled at, and even forced into conversation with a man who, for a consistent 5 minutes, insisted on having her number. And what was this woman wearing? A t-shirt and jeans.

These results are, to many of us, not at all surprising. According to the National Street Harassment Report,

“Sixty-five percent of all women (two out of three women in the United States) said they had experienced some form of street harassment, as had 25% of all men (one out of four men in the United States)”.

Most people who were street harassed experienced both verbally and physically aggressive forms. Furthermore,

“More than half of all women (57%) said they had experienced verbal harassment and 41% of women said they had experienced physically aggressive forms, including following, flashing, and groping. Among all men, 18% had experienced verbal harassment and 16% had experienced physically aggressive forms.”

A few days ago, in response to this viral video, Karim Metwaly from “Are We Famous Now” released a video comparing two situations of a woman walking through NYC for 5 hours: one wearing pants and t-shirt, and another wearing the hijab and a full black burka. Although it is true that no vulgar comments were addressed to the women later dressed in the hijab and burka, this video gives out the wrong message. Metwaly essentially states the notion that women must cover themselves up from head to toe in order to be free from harassment and cat-calling; when in actuality it is a man’s responsibility not to sexually harass a woman. It is the choice of a woman to wear what she deems comfortable and walk down the streets free from the fear of sexual abuse.

Not only is this video placing undue restraints on a woman’s choice of clothing, but it also places the hijab in a very male-centric light, as if the whole purpose of donning the hijab is for men, when it’s supposed to be a personal commitment to God’s love of modesty, the fulfillment of a commandment to his servants, and for the love of their religion. It is also a man’s responsibility to adopt modest practices and lower his gaze; the clothing of a woman is entirely her choice and should not be the reason she suffers from such vulgar treatment.

Allah states in the Quran (24:30-31),

“Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that will make for greater purity for them… say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; and that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what must ordinarily appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands…”

Hijab is not worn for men; to keep their illicit desires in check, that is their own responsibility, as the above verse and Prophetic sayings show. Rather, Muslim women wear it for God and their own selves. Islam is a religion of moderation and of balance between extremes. Therefore, it does not expect women alone to uphold society’s morality and uprightness. Rather, Islam asks men and women mutually to strive to treat one another with the utmost respect and dignity. Being a hijabi myself, I do understand the importance of modesty, yet I think what needs to be highlighted in the video is the sickening mentality that some men have.

Women, from all races, religions, and ethnic backgrounds, have the right to be respected, regardless of what they choose to wear or the status they hold in society. Nobody, and I meannobody, has the right to treat women the way these horrible men did in the first half of the video – it has degraded the very fabric of a human’s existence and the value they hold. It is ALWAYS the aggressor’s fault for sexually harassing someone (male or female)– no one in their right mind dresses up in the morning hoping to be harassed or degraded while going about their day like anyone else. No one should have to worry about being sexually abused, especially in this day and age, no matter their gender, sexual appeal, or choice of clothing.

Karim Metwaly’s video presents the hijab as some sort of bullet-proof protection for a woman. Something that will guard her from street harassment; thus leaving those who choose not to wear the hijab vulnerable to prejudice and discrimination. Now men will be able to say if you don’t want to be raped, carry a gun and cover yourself. Where do we draw the line between self-control and freedom?

Honestly, anywhere you go, it doesn’t matter what you wear. There are psychopaths everywhere, and if a man has no empathy, no heart, no fear of God, and an evil mind – he’s going to do what he wants. The women in both videos were not in any way or form dressed in outfits that screamed: “Hey look at me; ogle me – make me feel like a cheap piece of meat!” – and yet that’s what some men did to varying degrees with each one. In the end, it’s our duty to support the choice of women and not force them to adopt any body covering. Especially not by insinuating that, if they don’t wear a hijab or a burka, they might get raped. Rather our main goal should be to educate all to treat women with respect and dignity – the same way you would want your mothers, sisters, and daughters to be treated – with utmost kindness and honor. Remember that. The last thing we need is a bunch of men threatening women to wear the hijab and using such videos as evidence to prove their point. It’s a choice – not a burden.

What are your thoughts on this video?


This post is a feature of the altM/ sisterhood.


  • Omar says:

    So there is direct evidence that something works. That evidence should be ignored because it doesn’t fit with your world view? This is where liberal Muslim feminists get annoying.

    “Hijab is not worn for men; to keep their illicit desires in check, that is their own responsibility, as the above verse and Prophetic sayings show. Rather, Muslim women wear it for God and their own selves.”

    Really, so, when you’re alone in the house, only God and you, hijab is worn? How about in front of women only? Hijab is worn? Why do liberals accuse conservatives of not using common sense, when they readily suspend common sense to serve their own arguments? “As the above verse and Prophetic sayings show…” Wow.

    Hijab exists because of men. Get over it. God isn’t attracted to you. And God doesn’t make up random tests just to see how you can serve Him. All Islamic rules are for the benefit of the individual and society, not because God has any need of you to do something.

    It does matter what you wear. If you wear clothing that is equivalent to body paint, then I know what you look like naked and you are now entertainment for most men. For immodest men who don’t lower their gaze, you have invited their attention.

    Since the author cites 24:30-31, let’s use it. It clearly says cover your bosom. Discussions about hijab get lost when it becomes about hair. Let’s focus on reality, it’s a scientific fact that men are attracted to breasts. On the left hand picture, they are hanging out, heck I can even tell it’s at least a C or D. This will invite attention from the sleaze men who don’t guard their modesty–the world is full of them, and instead of pretending they will go away, the Qur’an makes the common sense rule for women to at least cover breasts.

    That’s the story. Not a woman in hijab, but a woman who isn’t showing the exact size and shape of her breasts, and the exact size and shape of her butt, isn’t getting harassed.

    WIN: Common sense and Islam.

    And for all this talk about men… why isn’t this an issue for men? Maybe because men’s clothing doesn’t outline the exact shape of their private parts or rear ends. In every instance, men are covered more than women… construction workers, business suits, athletes, weddings, even the beach! When a woman simply covers the same amount as a man (except for the hair covering), it becomes news. In all those instances I mentioned (except the beach), men are showing only their hands and face, the same Qura’nic command for women!

    • Safiyyah says:

      “On the left hand picture, they are hanging out, heck I can even tell it’s at least a C or D.” Your entire argument is now invalid.

  • Mona says:

    Firstly, you just admitted that you’re one of the many “sleaze balls” that ogle at women’s breasts, because you just pervertedly described the woman’s breasts in the photo above, so maybe reread your comments before you stupidly contradict yourself. How do you know with such accuracy what size her breasts are? You’re not a woman. Someone is exposing themselves…
    I don’t think you understand the purpose of this article. The author is saying that women do NOT wear the hijab FOR men, and if you think otherwise, you’re one of the few loud ignorant Muslim men online, that make people think that all Muslim men are as ignorant and sexist as you are. We wear the hijab FOR Allah, and part of the reason we were commanded to wear the hijab is to not display our sexuality AND be modest. As the above verse says, BOTH men and women need to be modest in front of eachother. So yes, a woman should cover her breast because exposing them is not modest, as a man should cover his private parts as exposing them are not modest. However, that does not mean either sex does this FOR the other, because the opposite sex is not entitlted. So do Muslim men walk around the house lowering their gaze in front of their mothers and sisters? No. They do so in front of strange women in order to respect the women they are interacting with and themselves. To guard their OWN chastity and to obey to their own Lord. Islam is not a religion that serves men, or only has rules in order to make the lives of perverted sexist men easier, which is EXACTLY what people are associating this video with. We wear our hijabs for Allah, not for you or any other man. And there is hijab in front of women, as there is hijab between men, just a different type. However, by your logic, lets say there wasn’t. There is no such thing as a man lowering his gaze or being “unfriendly” in front of another man, so does that mean the ONLY reason his eyes are capable of lowering their gaze, or his change in “charmingness” is for women? Was the only reason he had this ability or command from Allah FOR women? No of course not, and I’m sure you’re shaking your head/ freaking out right now, because even the thought of a man having to do something FOR a woman is just so incredibly insane! Right? It just so frustrating that people are now identifying our hijab, which is for our God, with pleasing men. This is not correct, and people like you are confusing unknowledgeable non-Muslims that the hijab is for men. Allah does create tests and situations for us to test our loyalty to Him, so I don’t know where you got your nonsense from that He did not? The hijab most certainly is a test for many women, as it is a very difficult task to do, especially in the west.

    The author was also saying that just because a woman is wearing fitted clothing, she did not ask for sexual harassment. This is completely true, and often times gets ignored. Besides all of this, I have gotten sexually harassed several times when walking about in a FULL ABAYA outside. What should we do then? If the islamic dress was strictly a repellent for men, then why doesn’t it always work? Oh yeah, because it isn’t, and if a man is a pervert, he always is a pervert. If the hijab were a repellant, why would men have to lower their gazes? Why don’t you copy the example of the amazing sahib you were named after? Omar was a feminist and respected all women.

  • Leely says:

    I completely agree with the previous comment.

    In the article you provided a Quranic verse and stated, “Muslim women wear it for God and their own selves.” Yes, you *could* say that you wear it for God because he has commanded it in the Holy Quran. And, you *could* also say that you wear it for yourself because it protects only you when you are wearing it. But, what exactly does it protect you from? Men! Not to say that men are bad, but it is meant to protect you from men with bad intentions or even men whose minds would turn to sinful thoughts upon seeing a woman dressed a certain way. You cited the Quranic verse, but then used it to support your own angle on the issue. The verse tells women to lower their gaze, not display their beauty, and cover their bosoms…EXCEPT from their husbands. I don’t think it could be more obvious that in this verse, Allah is telling us to protect ourselves from the eyes of men (except for our husbands).

    Yes, as mentioned in the Quran, men are also intsructed to lower their gaze. It is a mutual and effort and responsibility for BOTH men and women as Islam is a religion of complete equality between men and women. HOWEVER, as we know, men are biologically built to have more sexual drive and they are visual creatures. For this reason, women are told to cover up as a means of extra protection.

    And great, Muslim men are instructed to lower their gaze, but especially for us living in the West, most of the men we encounter are NOT Muslim. Which is fine, whatever. But, if you make the argument that no matter what a woman wears, men shouldn’t look, it goes against the way God created men. If God did not wire men to be the way they are, it wouldn’t be mentioned in the Quran like this.

    • Mona says:

      read this :

      “it also places the hijab in a very male-centric light, as if the whole purpose of donning the hijab is for men, when it’s supposed to be a personal commitment to God’s love of modesty”

      and this:

      As if the whole purpose of donning the hijab is for men, when it’s supposed to be a personal commitment to God’s love of modesty, the fulfillment of a commandment to his servants, and for the love of their religion”

      and realize what the article is talking about it. It is saying that wearing the hijab isn’t JUST to “protect” yourself from a man or that its okay for a man to look at you if you aren’t wearing a hijab. It isn’t to make the life of men easier which is EXACTLY what the video made it seem like. It acted as if cat calling was a problem women should expect, which isn’t right. It has multiple meanings, and is more for respect for yourself than anything. YES PART of wearing the hijab is done so that you are not judged for only your beauty, and instead are valued for your brain and views by men. However, the author does not ignore this, she is simply saying that the hijab was not commanded upon women only to make the lives of men easier. It is a mutual effort for both men and women, and yes because the body of a woman is different she needs to cover different things. Obviously she is allowed to show her body to her husband, because he loves her for more than just her beauty and is WORTHY of her, and the verse is just clarifying this. Other men are not worthy of seeing the beauty of a woman because they don’t care about her but are looking at her as a piece of meat. Regardless, once again, the hijab has multiple meanings, and it was frustrating that a random girl played dress up and acted like she knew what the life of a muslimah was like. Also, cat calling exists in Muslim countries… and often times they are MUCH worse. So the hijab is not the only solution to this, which is once again what the author was saying.

    • Mona says:

      If you read the tafsir for that ayah, and hadith regarding hijab, you’ll know what I mean.

  • Omar says:

    Mona, my response to you is simple. Just like the author, you have purposely misquoted something to make your point. You state that I said “hijab exists FOR men.” Not once did I say that. Scroll up and you’ll see I said “hijab exists BECAUSE of men.” The difference in the words right there should be apparent to you. Lots of things exist BECAUSE (and not for) gender relations. The fact that women pray behind men in the masjid is a because, not a “for,” and there are of course many other practical examples. The only legitimate “for” is for Allah.

    In western societies, the will of men is imposed on women daily. Western men have made women their entertainment. This culture has decided that in all instances, a woman should show twice as much skin as men. In the office or on the street, anywhere. While men around the world enjoy a carefree and more modest fashion of loose pants and shirts, showing only their hands and face the vast majority of the time, western women are now wearing leggings (i.e. long underwear) in public, complaining about being looked at. Forget hijab, forget everything… at the very least women should see how ridiculous it is for them to be sleeveless all the time, or in tighter clothing all the time, or simply partially naked, while we men just relax in loose shirts and pants year-round. Hijab is just an article of modest clothing, that’s it. Just like loose pants, long skirts, and modest blouses are modest clothing. If the woman in the video just wore those things and still showed her hair, she would have experienced less cat-calling. Why? Because she would simply be wearing the same amount of clothing as a man!

    On cat calling in Muslim countries, of course, at that point it is the men. It’s about people doing their part, modesty is a task that both genders must fulfill. In many Muslim countries, men do not fulfill their end of the bargain, they do not lower their gaze, they harass, and they are going to be accountable.

    This video of the girl in New York simply and clearly shows what happens when a woman fulfills her end of the bargain of mutual modesty, and it works.

    About me knowing about cup sizes. I can pretend to be 13 years old, or I can be honest about something that all mature men know. In the same vein, pretending that you don’t know where babies come from isn’t modest, it’s fake piety, so let’s move along from that. You need to stop being naive and understand the male mind. Once we see “it”, our subconscious has already calculated size and all, and then that female body becomes devalued in our minds, it’s automatic. If that’s sleazy to you then I’ve got news, all male mammal brains operate like that, grow up. The “good” men have that too, they just have a higher state of control over their nafs and have the will to lower their gaze. The reason I mentioned that was deliberate, it’s foolish to think that one can walk around like that, having breasts barely covered, and not be noticed. Modesty is not pretending to be a naive sheltered 12 year old. An open conversation requires an honest discussion of how people see things.

    Anyhow, I’ve said all I can for this discussion. Take care.

    • Mona says:

      As a Muslim man, It’s immodest for you to blatantly mention her cup size, and talk about her body the way you did, and I don’t think you can disagree with that. You can re-read the portion of your comment about her and tell me if you think it was an appropriate response. I’m not saying that we should be naive sheltered 12 year olds, I’m saying that when we approach things we should do so in a respectful way, which you didn’t in your first comment. Obviously when men and women see the opposite sex’s “parts” they are ingrained in their minds. It’s not right for you to say that I or the author are misquoting the ayah because we aren’t. You’re twisting it to fit exactly what you think, while we are saying the hijab has multiple meanings. Does this make sense? We are not saying that a woman should dress in an immodest fashion, but what we are saying, is that even if one does, it still isn’t appropriate for a man to cat call to her. You don’t know the entire meaning behind the hijab. It’s not male centric. Be open minded and further your understanding of what the hijab is and why women wear it. There is almost always more than one reason for any aspect of Islam. Once again, I don’t think you have understood the point of the article. It was to educate people that wearing the hijab should not be the only thing society needs to “implement” in order for men to stop cat calling, because only sleazy men cat call. Therefore, the hijab isn’t a solution to this problem. Also, in the US the hijab is associated with bad things, so often times instead of cat calls, we have other things yelled at us. Thanks for being more respectful in your second comment with the exception of telling me to grow up… ehehe.


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