A two year old girl, Bhia Hadid, has been killed. The police have arrested and charged her aunt for the murder. Which of these things is more noteworthy?
The Southtown Star and various other newspapers across Chicago and the U.S carried articles about the case which posits that the latter is more important: the accused, Nour Hadid, happens to be a Muslim, and she also happens to wear the hijab. During her arrest and subsequent mugshot, Hadid was forced to remove her hijab: the mugshot shows an obviously distressed woman attempting to cover herself with her arms and crying. We will not publish the mugshot here, but you can see the image in almost every news story regarding this case, including the link above.
The Star’s article focuses on Hadid’s mugshot and the outrage it has created in her family because of the face that she is without her hijab. I guess Bhia’s death is not as important as the fact that the suspect was photographed without her head covering, wearing only a skimpy top. Not only are those obsessed with brandishing Muslims as some strange race of people having a field day with this story, but those who are tired of Muslims and their rhetoric are also getting in on the fun: “So, I guess the latest thing is for law enforcement to bend over backwards for the Muslims and grant them preferential treatment.” writes one such journalist in the Hinterland Gazette.
Why any media agency would give precious time and space for a story like this, rather than focusing on the death of a child, is reflective of the general attitude towards Muslims, painted as an alien cult, with no value for life, obsessed with covering their women. Sadly, Hadid’s husband does much to further these notions. In all of his statements, Hadid’s husband forgets to mention his dead niece, or why his wife is in prison in the first place. Using the hijab to sideline the real issue of child abuse and murder is very convenient, and once again hijab seems to be the be-all end-all issue when it comes to anything that has to do with Muslim women, regardless of their achievements, or crimes.
The Star’s article features a juxtaposition of pictures: one shows a clearly distraught Hadid, wearing a white tank top, whilst the second shows a woman wearing a niqab. The pictures seem to suggest that Hadid would have normally dressed in niqab, as opposed to how she was photographed. The picture is captioned, “By custom, some practicing women wear a hijab”, as if the veiled women represents the only possible interpretation of wearing the hijab. This could be very very far from the truth, especially given that at the end of the article, it clearly states that Hadid was in the possession of a headscarf–not a niqab–which was confiscated due to suicide threats. No details are given as to why Hadid appeared in a tank top, whether she asked for her headscarf, or whether she was even in a coherent state of mind in the first place. All the quotes come from her husband, once again feeding stereotypes of the “honour” of Muslim men revolving around the covering of their women and furthering the idea and practice that Muslim women can’t or shouldn’t speak for themselves.
The story smacks of sensationalism. A quick Google search reveals that most media agencies have decided to cover the mugshot, rather than the murder. Muslim women and their dressing habits once again dominate the news agenda. My take on the Star’s article is that the veiled woman is used to draw on notions of exotic and erotic Muslim women, and the picture of Hadid is used to satiate the appetites of those who want to know how Muslim women look without it. Rather similar to before and after makeover shots.
The message pouring out of the media is that Muslims have a very skewed sense of priorities, and live in a world where women’s headscarves are more important than murdered children. This could not be further from the truth. If any of the media who carried this story has bothered to research Islam’s stance on murder, they would have noted that justice takes priority over individual rights. But one man’s outcry at his wife’s mugshot once again leads me to ask, is the hijab the only stance on Muslim women we are going to see, over and over? Yes, the suspect deserved the right to be photographed whilst properly attired, and I commend her husband for taking up her cause, and defending her rights. However, the main issue here is not the religion of the alleged murderer, but her crime. Whatever religion one follows, murder is a heinous sin, and more so given that the victim was a child. If Hadid is found guilty, she will have more pressing concerns than her right to modest attire.
Arabisto carried the story as well, with a catchy headline, “East and West clash even in the backdrop of murdered child.” Just what do East and West have to with it? Are all hijab-wearing women from the East? That said, the writer, Ray Hanania, covered the story from a more balanced angle, with some excellent analysis.
Is it really racism? Should the debate be focused on whether or not the accused woman was in fact the victim of discrimination, which the Orland Park Police denied claiming they followed the same procedure for Nour Hadid as they do for all suspects?
You cannot permit anyone accused of a crime to hide behind their religious observance. The real tragedy is that the crime, whether Nour Hadid is innocent or guilty, imposes on us a vigilance that must place the need to determine the truth as our cumulative priority.
The old nun-hijabi spin does not escape this story. “Would a nun be treated the same way?” asked one Muslim activist, according to the Star. Muslims need to stop looking for ways to explain their behavior through comparisons with other religions. A nun represents the Church in an official capacity, whilst a women in hijab is not the official symbol of Islam, as some would like to suggest, and is even less so if she is accused of murder.
In no way do I wish to belittle a woman’s right to covering in such circumstances, as a hijab-wearing woman myself I do think Hadid was compromised, but I believe that until her innocence or guilt is proved, her right to hijab should be a non-issue. The media might think that her semi-naked mugshot is a breaking news item, but I think that the fact she is accused of killing her baby niece is much much more pressing. The real insult to the religion of Islam, is the killing of a two year old, not the photograph of a suspected murderer sans hijab.