Accuracy in Media

As March is International Women’s Month, we need to focus upon a little-understood aspect of the global fight for female equality. Nowhere has this issue become more confusing than in House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s wardrobe closet.

Feb. 28, as President Donald Trump addressed Congress, Pelosi and other female opposition party members decided to show their displeasure with the new president by wearing white – the color worn by participants in the early 20th century women’s suffrage movement.

As explained by the chairwoman of the party’s Women’s Working Group, Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., “We wear white to unite against any attempts by the Trump administration to roll back the incredible progress women have made in the last century, and we will continue to support the advancement of all women … (in living) lives free from fear and violence.”

Pelosi and many other women in white sat fairly motionless throughout Trump’s speech – refusing to stand even to render thanks to the widow of U.S. Navy SEAL Senior Chief William Ryan Owens, who was killed during a raid against al-Qaida in Yemen. While Pelosi commented earlier that day the color she wore was a “statement of values,” apparently those values did not include extending gratitude to the wife of a fallen hero for her loss. (Nor would they later include denouncing a fellow Democrat for telling a sexist joke about Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway.)

But looking further into Pelosi’s wardrobe closet, one would find a garment accumulating dust since she last wore it almost a decade earlier.

Despite President George Bush’s advice in 2007 not to travel to Syria to hold private talks with its dictator, President Bashar Assad, as disruptive of U.S. foreign policy efforts to isolate him, Pelosi, nonetheless, did so.

A garment undoubtedly still hanging in her closet from that trip is the hijab she chose to wear while visiting a mosque. In donning it, Pelosi naively signaled to Muslim women that she had absolutely no issue with its female-oppression symbolism.

Had she bothered to research the topic, Pelosi would have discovered that the hijab is not a clothing item ordained by the Quran for Muslim women to wear; it is a clothing item imposed upon Muslim women to wear by Muslim men to symbolize the former’s subjugation to the latter.

Pelosi should have met with author and Muslim reformer Asra Nomani before embarking upon her trip. Nomani would have explained to Pelosi the Quran contains several references to the hijab – none of which contextually means “headscarf.” Each connotes a “separation,” specifically a spiritual separation, and has nothing to do with women’s dress code.

Nomani explains that while the Quran is silent on headscarves, fundamentalist books written after the Quran are not. She points out, “What has happened is an institution of political Islam that is called Islamism has made the hijab a symbol of its movement.”

Many Western women failing to grasp the true history and meaning of the hijab choose to wear it in a naïve attempt to show solidarity with Muslim women. Sadly, by doing so, their gesture only serves to further denigrate Muslim women’s position under Islam – as Swedish female government officials recently demonstrated.

Ironically, these officials, who politically benefited from equality in their own country, submitted to the lack of it in Iran by wearing the hijab during a visit there last month.

Nomani has long led a Martin Luther-esque effort to educate those willing to listen what the hijab really signifies. She chastises efforts by “conservative Muslims to dominate modern Muslim societies,” spreading “an ideology of political Islam called ‘Islamism,’ enlisting well-intentioned interfaith do-gooders and the media into promoting the idea that ‘hijab’ is a virtual ‘sixth pillar’ of Islam.”

Nomani is a true advocate for women’s equality, risking her life to do so. She adds, “We reject this interpretation that the ‘hijab’ is merely a symbol of modesty and dignity adopted by faithful female followers of Islam.”

Western women must recognize wearing the hijab equals abdication of gender equality and acceptance of female oppression. It is an act that only inspires male Islamic fundamentalists to further impose their will over Muslim women.

The hijab is to fundamentalists what the color red is to bulls. Both inspire aggression to charge forward – the bull attacking the matador; the fundamentalist attacking womens’ rights. The latter is evidenced by a culture in which women are deemed to be property – not human beings.

For an advocate claiming she is committed “to support the advancement of all women,” the two images of Pelosi – one wearing white to disrespect her president for allegedly disrespecting women, and one wearing a hijab, disrespecting Muslim women – are difficult to reconcile. The disdain with which she believes Trump views women is mirrored by the disdain she exhibited earlier against Muslim women.

Ultimately, Pelosi’s foreign policy venture to Syria was no more successful than her promotion of gender equality. While she announced the U.S. could work with Assad, the road to Damascus was “a road to peace” and that Syria was ready for peace talks, Assad demonstrates he still is a not-quite-ready-for-peace-time player, overseeing the deaths now of an estimated half million of his countrymen.

Recognizing how donning the headscarf denigrates women, Marine Le Pen, possibly France’s next president, refused to wear one last month while visiting Lebanon’s top Muslim cleric. Even Nazi Paikidze, 23, America’s young female chess champion phenom, surrendered the opportunity to play in Iran for a $100,000 purse in a tournament by refusing to wear a hijab. She proudly declared, “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.”

Whether from a female Muslim reformist, a French politician or a young chess phenom, Pelosi has a lot to learn about the appropriate wardrobe attire to be worn by true champions of women’s rights. Failing to do so, she and others sadly promote the hijab as Islam’s sixth pillar, pounding a nail into the coffin of rights equality for Muslim women.

A version of this piece also appeared on    

Guest columns do not necessarily reflect the views of Accuracy in Media or its staff.

Ready to fight back against media bias?
Join us by donating to AIM today.


Comments are turned off for this article.