Chess Champion’s Boycott of Iran’s Misogyny Exposes Fraud of ‘Multiculturalism’

It is dangerous to embrace the hijab as an expression of tolerance or piety.

BY Shireen Qudosi · @ShireenQudosi | October 7, 2016

This year, Iran has been even less tolerant of what it considers “un-Islamic” behavior. In January, Rome’s world renowned Capitoline Museums chose to cover up centuries-old statues of Marcus Aurelius and the Roman goddess Venus in an effort to show respect to Iranian culture during a visit from President Hassan Rouhani. In April , another controversy involving Iran arose when female members of foreign airline crews were asked to cover their hair upon leaving the plane and entering Iran. The world of foreign governments and big businesses have been struggling – and often failing – to challenge the increasing boldness Iran demonstrates in forcing its ‘culture’ on an outside world. Where the world has failed, one 22-year-old woman has picked up the torch.

The challenge was issued by 2016 U.S. Chess Champion Nazi Paikidze-Barnes, who recently announced she would skip a global competition to be hosted by Iran. In a statement, the 22-year-old said, “I will not wear a hijab and support women’s oppression. Even if it means missing one of the most important competitions of my career.”

Barnes has received a flood of support for championing women’s rights – including, as she says, from women in Iran. Meanwhile, Iranian Woman Grandmaster complained the move “would hurt women in Iran,” adding further that “a boycott would be wrong and could undermine hard-fought efforts to promote female sport in Iran.”

American chair of FIDE’s Commission for Women’s Chess, Susan Polgar also worked against Barnes’ defiant move by commenting on the “beautiful choices” of hijabs offered to contestants – not seeing that a shackle painted in lovely colors is still a shackle.

Though Iran was once ‘Paris of the Middle East’ with women in short skirts and free-flowing hair, that Iran died with the Iranian Revolution of 1979. With it, Iranian culture shifted to embracing ideological extremism that wrapped the Iranian people in layers of political and religious shackles.

The closest Iran has gotten to reclaiming itself was with the Iranian Green Movement of 2009 that advocated secularism and human rights. Though the movement largely failed, its spirit lives on in the hearts of many Iranians. And we’ve seen that spirit resurface in 2016. In May of 2016, Iranian women started cutting their hair and dressing like boys so they could walk freely without harassment from Iran’s morality police. And just as recently as August of this year, Iranian men began wearing hijabs in a revolutionary act of support for women’s rights.

While Iran demands cultural sensitivity be shown for its monolithic and severe interpretation of Quranic dress codes, it fails to be culturally sensitive to both the outside world and the brewing subculture of resistance against the theocracy. Voices of resistance against the hijab aren’t just standing up to Iran; they’re pushing back against the system of Islam that looks to indoctrinate every rigid interpretation of faith as being part of original Islam.

And this is where the story loops back to the hijab. It is a dangerously mistaken idea that embracing the hijab is being tolerant to either multiculturalism or faith. Darker elements of a culture do not need to be – and should not be – embraced or legitimized by an outside culture. We don’t advocate the culture of female genital mutilation or child marriages because we understand these are cultural acts grossly against the interest of universal human rights. Yet, the world at large continues to accept hijab because it assumes it is also part of the Islamic faith.

The truth is, the hijab has absolutely nothing to do with Islam. The Quran gives almost painstakingly minute details over codes of war and civilian life, but it does not talk about dress codes with that same rigid attention to detail. The Quran is not explicit about women needing to cover their head, so any speculation that a hijab is required is an innovation of a faith. In an Islamic state, any innovation of faith would be seen as blasphemy – including an innovation that calls for something not explicitly outlined in the Quran.




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