I have the utmost respect for New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern. Living in the UK, where we have literally nothing and no one by way of national leadership, her swift, intelligent and compassionate response to the mass murders in Christchurch has reminded us of what we’re missing. And then she goes and spoils it all by doing something stupid like wearing a hijab.
I started to write something like this earlier today but I somehow managed to persuade myself that unity was everything in the face of evil terrorism and so it is. However, I have to be honest to myself and, more importantly, to the millions of women all over the world for whom the hijab is a symbol of oppression.
I can see why Ms Ardern wore the hijab, certainly in terms of symbolism. She is expressing loyalty and unity with muslims. Okay, fair enough. However, these muslims live in New Zealand, a country which is more secular than most, a country where just over 1% of the population calls itself muslim and 42% of the population have no religion at all. In so called muslim countries, most of which do not appear to be particularly democratic, women are obliged, forced and even threatened in order to wear the hijab.
None of this is to decry muslims, or any other religious groups. Whilst I do not respect any religion – you have to learn respect in my book and no religion has earned it in my eyes – I respect the right of people to worship the god of their choice, provided it has no impact whatsoever on my life in particular and the rest of the country in general. And in New Zealand, nearly 99% of the population is not part of a religion that demands hijabs.
It is a nonsense to see a non muslim wearing so called muslim clothes and if we are really going to celebrate diversity, we should be able to wear what we want and not conform to wearing religious items of any religion at all. And that includes well-meaning but misguided politicians, too.