HuffPost Her Stories: Egyptian Feminist Doesn't Want Your 'Hijab Solidarity'

Plus: The cost of a miscarriage in the U.S.
Mona Eltahawy attends the Women's Media Center 2015 Women's Media Awards in New York City.
Mona Eltahawy attends the Women's Media Center 2015 Women's Media Awards in New York City.

Dear reader,

Feminist writer Mona Eltahawy has made international waves for her criticism of everything from religious veiling of women to misogyny in Arab societies.

The Egyptian-American expanded on her views of Islam and women in the 2015 book Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution. In honor of the book’s Spanish debut, Eltahawy sat down with HuffPost Spain’s Marina Velasco to discuss the evolution of her thoughts on veiling and violence and how the topics remain relevant today.

“The interview ... put in the spotlight the reality of Muslim women who decide not to wear the veil. In Spain there is a great lack of awareness about it,” Marina said, noting that many Muslim women in Spain do wear a veil.

“Thanks to Mona Eltahawy, people can delve into the different reasons why Muslim women take this decision [not to]: piety, freedom, imposition, racism,” Marina said. “It seems that in Spain we’re starting to raise this ‘veil’ of unawareness, but there’s still the belief that wearing a veil is a way to show solidarity with a community, as it happened after the New Zealand attacks.”

Eltahawy criticized this gesture, noting that a religious headscarf is “not a toy” and that the attempt to show solidarity excluded all the Muslim women, like her, who reject the veil. She suggested non-Muslim New Zealanders fight signs of xenophobia and white supremacy within their own families if they really want to support the Muslim community in the wake of the deadly mosque attack — and leave any discussion over the veil to Muslims.

“I know it bothers a lot of people, because they say that, since it is a women’s issue, it affects them too,” Eltahawy said. But she urged non-Muslim feminist allies to stay away from debates around veiling and to focus on fighting the patriarchy within their own communities.

In Spain, for example, she suggested they focus on fighting violence against women and sexual assault. (Marina points out that sexual assault reports in Spain jumped 23 percent between 2017 and 2018, due in part to greater awareness about the issue.)

Eltahawy is also critical of Western governments that attempt to ban various garments used for religious veiling. While she once expressed support for bans on the niqab, she has a new position: “Unless you’re a Muslim woman, shut the fuck up and listen to Muslim women.”

Until next time,


Mona Eltahawy’s latest book debuts in September. You can pre-order The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls here.

The High Court of Judicature in Hyderabad.
The High Court of Judicature in Hyderabad.

A new book chronicles nine legal cases that advanced the principals of equality, fraternity and liberty enshrined in India’s constitution. HuffPost India highlighted one of them in an except about a teenager’s battle against her husband’s legal right to marital sex. Sareetha separated from her husband in the 1970s, shortly after they married. Five years later, he took her to court demanding “restitution of conjugal rights” after she refused to move in with him again. She lost the case but won an appeal after convincing a higher court that the initial ruling was discriminatory against women and an unacceptable intrusion into dignity and privacy. Gautam Bhatia, the author of The Transformative Constitution: A Radical Biography In Nine Acts, points out in the published excerpt that the ruling has implications that should be considered today. India remains one of about three dozen countries that has not criminalized marital rape.

Patients coping with devastating medical issues in the U.S. often face the additional burden of unpredictable medical expenses. Though I’m familiar with the opacity of my country’s medical system, I was still upset to read about how much some women who lose their pregnancies have to pay for related medical care. HuffPost U.S. spoke to a number of them, including a 39-year-old who spent $9,000(!) out of pocket for a dilation and curettage (D&C) procedure after she miscarried at 12 weeks — even though she had insurance and the procedure was medically necessary. The story explains why “no one really knows” how much a lost pregnancy can cost. Prices vary depending on what procedures doctors prescribe, where those procedures take place, whether the patient is sedated or awake and what the insurance company is willing to cover. As the story points out, lingering bills make it difficult for women trying to move on from the emotional pain of a miscarriage.

In case you missed it…