Muslim darling Noor Tagouri made headlines last month when she featured in Playboy’s “Renegades of 2016” series about game changers who redefine how we think about the world. While the feature seemed bold and provocative, pairing of a bullet-ridden American flag with the edgy snarl of a hijab-clad young girl, in truth was a cliché attempt to pair two unlikely things in an effort to create something artistic. Tagouri, who holds every right to make a name for herself and dress as she chooses, was anything but game-changing. In fact, she further ensured that the same rules institutionalized Islamist organizations and despotic Islamic nations have played by to the detriment of an original Islam, will continue to be upheld by liberal Islam.
Tagouri rose to fame by positioning herself as wanting to be America’s first hijab-wearing news anchor – not a talented news anchor in her own right, but an anchor who is identified with (and ‘exceptional’ because of) the hijab. While Tagouri’s brand is impressive and her work earnest, the association of hijab with religious identity (rather than hijab as personal expression), is exactly the rule book regressive Islamic societies play by from Iran to Saudi Arabia, to Londonistan, to the United States as enclaves of separate and special communities of immigrant and first generation Muslim Americans position themselves as superior. For Muslims who link the hijab with identity or religious symbolism, it is an act of Islamic Supremacism and a culprit in divisive thinking that is at the bedrock of dis-United States.
While Tagouri’s feature was a brilliant strategy for Playboy, it did nothing for Muslim women or secular Islam because it further legitimized strict interpretation of modesty as inherent to the faith.
Hijab Supremacy Relies on the Myth of Hijab as “Islamic”
Islam can be dogmatic and extreme in its dictate on daily life. And yet despite the lengths it goes to in outlining civilian life and warfare, it never explicitly calls for a woman covering her hair. A book that is repetitive and detailed to extremes does not detail the extreme nature of modesty as Islamist groups with radical views and codes for regulating women have pressed for. And that pressure is now levied by leftist Muslims in their attempt to be ‘bold and daring’, albeit still regressive and radical in their view of Islam.
Being a game changer means actually changing or breaking the rules, not further reinforcing them through more secular and creative channels. Not only have monolithic interpretations of Islam, which also make the case for hijab as a religious duty, totally failed feminism – but so have leftist and self-congratulatory attitudes that think playing by the rules means breaking them.
And yet almost ironically, leftist Muslims devastate feminism by supporting hijabi Playboy
Slate’s Aymann Ismail wrote a piece titled “Muslims Should Praise Hijabi Journalist Noor Tagouri, Not Criticize Her,” in which he writes:
“Journalist Anna del Gaizo interviewed aspiring news anchor Noor Tagouri about the American-hijabi (headscarf or veil-wearing) experience, her aspirations, and the current political climate. It was a great opportunity for a Muslim woman to get some visibility…For Muslim women who choose the hijab, the outward presentation of their faith makes them vulnerable to both sides of an increasingly polarizing and politicized conversation about the rights of women. That is why when someone like Noor Tagouri speaks out and treads new ground as an individual, she deserves the full support of the entire Muslim community.”
The problem here – much like Hillary’s fictional world of Islam during the second debate – is that Leftist Muslims don’t see deeply into the full spectrum of Islam in the 21st century. Their scope tends to be limited to the present moment with little deeper understanding of the condition of all Muslims, or for that matter, the state of Islam as a whole.
By linking hijab with religious identity, Leftists and even pretend- feminists succumb to the idea that modesty is manifest in the physical form. If modesty is something physical then it is sexually consumable, which qualifies it for regulation or shielding from the public view. By emphasizing modesty in the physical form, hijab in fact furthers the vulgar idea of women as objects of sexual desire where their value is chiefly in their physical presence. From that view, nothing could be more grotesquely anti-feminist as the Islamist interpretation of feminism bound to the physical body, splashed across the pages of a magazine notorious for cheap objectification of the female body.
In what can be seen as a marriage from Hell between Leftist Muslims and liberal culture, the two have partnered in convenience favoring a mutual goal making the unacceptable, acceptable. For Playboy, that goal is to sell more magazines even if that means defacing the American flag and presenting the juxtaposition of subservient dogma packaged in predictably rebellious attire of a leather jacket, a stained lip, and a grimace. For leftist Muslims, the goal is show that a hijabi woman can gain societal acceptance. For Muslim women who truly wear the hijab in the orthodox tradition of Abrahamic faiths, paired with loose clothing and minimal to no make-up, Tagouri’s feature furthers fetishizes Muslim women. She also ensures that Muslim women will find it that much hard to move past rigid systems, whether that’s the theocracy of an Islamic State or patriarchy of the community.
In Iconic Moment, Muslim Traditionalists and Muslim Reformers Align Against Hijabi Playboy
Perhaps the most iconic outcome here wasn’t that a hijabi was featured clothed in Playboy. The scene-shifting outcome here is the reaction to it. In the days after the Playboy feature, online communities were rich with chatter is what was a pivotal moment for Muslims. In recent times, there have been three key groups of Muslims – Leftists, Traditionalists, and Reformers – each pitted against each other. Tagouri’s feature saw Reformers and Traditionalists align for the first time, where typically one is very secular and the other is very by-the-book in their interpretation of Islam, relying chiefly on the prophetic traditions.
In The Muslim Vibe, Traditionalist Hussain Makke offered a calm critique of Tagouri in a piece titled “Why as Muslims we can’t support Noor Tagouri’s decision to feature in Playboy,” adding:
“Noor’s actions are not a one-off instance. This is a result of Muslims attempting to integrate into the wider modern society at the expense of their Islamic principles. It is the attempt to gain a position in the world through the use of religion. To many Muslims, their religion no longer plays a real role in their life. It has become synonymous with being a minority race which is not dependant on an ideology.”
While Makke and I might not agree on many other points, we can agree here: Islam is treated as a race by both Leftist Muslims and liberals. On one hand, self-identifying as a minority community with the stigma of a leper colony in need of special handouts, allows for all aspects of interpretations and practices to be accepted without question. It relies on the charity of a larger Western society that has become desperate to show how tolerant and charitable it is. On the other hand, self-identifying as a minority that is ‘exceptional’ because they’ve linked a piece of cloth to a religious identity, enables the growing assault against free speech and critical conversation as being Islamophobic, bigoted, or racist – – not realizing, as Makke points out, that there is an ideology attached.