Amidst All the Niqab Chatter, Can We Leave Khatija Rahman Alone?
Leave Khatija Rahman alone. 
Leave Khatija Rahman alone. (Photo: The Quint/Arnica Kala)

Amidst All the Niqab Chatter, Can We Leave Khatija Rahman Alone?

Khatija Rahman is not a prop. Neither is she a blueprint for public consumption. We don't get to circulate our value judgments using her as an example.

Leave her alone.

Khatija chose to wear a niqab at a recent event where her father AR Rahman was present too. Both were flooded with unsolicited opinions right after. They yeasayers claimed that it was “her choice” while the naysers argued that her choice is one entrenched in patriarchal surveillance. Khatija responded to the furore by making it clear that it was her choice. She had chosen to wear the niqab of her own volition. No one had forced her to.

Also Read : It’s Her Choice: AR Rahman on His Daughter Wearing the Veil

Now, let’s look at this without hot-blooded reflexes pulling us down.

First, let’s please not assume that she is exercising her choice without being fully aware of the underlying implications of conformity or the socio-political message the niqab carries. 

Let’s not tell her that she is at liberty to do what she wants but she must educate herself first. Because if we are, we are being toffee-nosed patronisers.She shouldn’t have to put up with our condescension.

Secondly, if we were to assume - against our better judgement- that she is not aware of the social ramifications of the veil, it STILL does not give us the right to tell her to let go of it.

The debate over the veil can continue, BUT she needs to be left alone, especially since she's said what she wanted to.

Because if we don't do the same, I am afraid we are reducing a woman to a non-person- a non-entity on behalf of which we deliberate.

Now, when a woman chooses to don a veil, and she is privileged enough to be given the choice to do so, she is, one can argue,  doing a disservice to women out there who are trying to conscientiously do away with the veil- a tool of oppression that has systematically and 'religiously' stifled a woman's sexuality and agency. And for many, it is not a choice  But the question is this: Should every woman be expected to set an example? What happens when they don't? We single them out, castigate them, and impose our opinions on them?

Khatija Rahman- or for that matter, any woman out there-  is not in debt.

We have to understand that if we assume that she owes the feminist movement her allegiance, the failure to deliver will lead to denunciation and shame, which is (again) a form of oppression.
So we must leave it to each woman to decide for herself if she wants to take a stand or not take a stand. Khatija has made it clear that she is comfortable with the niqab and now her name must be kept out of this conversation.

Whether the “choice” is based on faulty social conditioning or not, the decision has been made by her. We  must not overstep.

Our criticism is becoming absolute and authoritarian... to an extent where we think we can not only name and shame, but also ask people what to do and what not to do, beyond constructive suggestions.

And therein lies the problem.

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