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Hijab and Freedom of Expression

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The Controversy

The hijab in America is frequently controversial. Wearers say hijab is a sign that they believe in Allah and in forbidding what is evil and encouraging what is good. The government, media, and even feminist organizations often say hijab oppresses women, but Muslims see instead a symbol of liberation. Most Americans ask how a law that restricts a woman’s dress can liberate. Muslims answer that the tradition of hijab frees women from the oppression of their perception as primarily objects of sexuality.

Unfortunately, legal disputes over hijab in America distort the expression of liberation and can turn hijab into something distasteful. Fortunately, there are also encouraging legal developments in the USA. In the global situation of hijab, it is clear that America is one of the better places in which to be a Muslim woman.

American Liberality

Here in America, hijab becomes a symbol of religious freedom. It is a way for Muslim women to express their beliefs, and generally the courts support them. Other parts of the world see hijab as resistance to society. Countries like France and Turkey that attempt to ban hijab would secularize society. Without guarantees of religious freedom, it may not be possible to observe hijab if banned. In the Middle East, the debate over the hijab demonstrates the intersection of religion and politics. Where a government bans hijab in order to Westernize society, the question is whether it should damage religion and culture to expand relations with the West.

Thus, wearing hijab in America expresses religious freedom while wearing it elsewhere expresses religious rebellion; however, personal identities can be multiple and complex. With better outreach, American Muslims could convince mainstream America that hijab, just one part of Muslim identity, represents religious freedom in America in contrast to other, less enlightened regions of the world.

An Encouraging Trend


While burqas remain highly contentious, the hijab is winning some acceptance step by step. Significantly, it has become part of the official uniform of various institutions in the UK in a trend that may foreshadow similar, future developments in the USA.


The Metropolitan Police (London) permits on-duty Muslim policewomen the option of wearing hijabs in the colors of the force. Plainclothes female officers wear hijabs of their choice. The force has approved four different styles.


An IKEA store in north London commissioned TheHijabShop.com to design a hijab in navy blue with yellow trim and an IKEA logo for female Muslim staff. The two-piece unit consists of a cap covering the head and a cloth fitting over it and covering the neck, shoulders, and chest.




IKEA and the London Police have shown a way forward in the hijab controversy. Not all employers are so considerate. Employment agreements may impose unreasonable obligations that violate employee legal rights in the workplace. Skilled, experienced employment attorneys make sure workers clearly understand all obligations their employers would impose on them. To speak to an attorney, contact us online or call 312.332.6733.