16 Feb 2018

Is it ok to talk about the hijab?

The Egyptian Museum in Turin has recently launched a campaign aimed at attracting Arab-speaking citizens. They chose to illustrate it with a photograph of a woman wearing a hijab. But does Arab always equal Muslim?

Cinzia Sciuto
Cinzia Sciuto MicroMega, Italy
Source: MicroMega
Is it ok to talk about the hijab? - NewsMavens

Why this story matters:

Since there are more and more Muslims in Europe, Islam has naturally become more present in the public debate. However, the discussion is too often polarized between those who indulge in fear-mongering by alluding to "differences" and "otherness", and those who refuse to question any foreign tradition or belief in the name of an uncritical multiculturalism.

As a woman and a Democrat, I would like to see the debate shift from "us vs. them", but I would also like to be able to question any tradition or belief. "Respect for all cultures" can easily become preventive censorship. Criticism of Islam is all too often referred to as Islamophobia.

The example I mention in the article below -- featuring a veiled woman on a poster for Arabic-speakers -- shows that many of us have become used to pigeonholing Arabs as Muslims. If the campaign had been meant for the Irish, to feature someone wearing a large cross pendant would have come across as a tired -- perhaps even offensive -- cliché. Why, then, do we allow ourselves such over-simplifications when it comes to the Arab world?

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Details from the story:

  • The Egyptian Museum in Turin has launched a campaign meant to bring more Arabic-speaking citizens to the museum;
  • The leader of the far-right party Brothers of Italy, Giorgia Meloni, has staged a protest in front of the museum, accusing the campaign of discrimination against Italians and Christians.
  • The director of the Museum, Christian Greco, met Meloni and explained that the campaign is no different than other promotions (for students, for the elderly, for couples on Valentine's Day, etc.), specifying that the campaign was meant to reach Arab-speaking citizens,  not necessarily Muslims
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