Features

The "I Love Hijab" Instagram Campaign

September 11, 2015
Shima Shahrabi
5 min read
"There are more and more people carrying the signs and badges in public. It’s the first step towards promoting virtue voluntarily, kindly and in a non-aggressive way."
"There are more and more people carrying the signs and badges in public. It’s the first step towards promoting virtue voluntarily, kindly and in a non-aggressive way."
Most of the photos on the page are of girls and men proclaiming their support for the campaign
Most of the photos on the page are of girls and men proclaiming their support for the campaign
"This will only work when many people believe in the 'I Love the Hijab' phrase and proclaim it in public. And we give them the tools to say it."
"This will only work when many people believe in the 'I Love the Hijab' phrase and proclaim it in public. And we give them the tools to say it."
"This is about creating a culture whilst also promoting virtue in a non-aggressive way. It’s meant to encourage children and to teach them."
"This is about creating a culture whilst also promoting virtue in a non-aggressive way. It’s meant to encourage children and to teach them."
There are no clear photographs of the faces of women wearing hijab or chador on the Instagram page
There are no clear photographs of the faces of women wearing hijab or chador on the Instagram page

The "I Love Hijab" Instagram page features photos of little girls with gaping teeth wearing colorful, flowery chadors smiling up at the camera. What you're unlikely to see on the site though is a clear photo of a woman’s face, even a woman wearing full hijab. Mainly what you will see is photos of children and men holding up signs that say, “I Love the Hijab."

Launched a little over a year ago, the page already has over 36,000 followers. People send in photos of their daughters wearing the hijab or the chador and post comments praying for the page’s administrators. The site also features photos of Ayatollah Khamenei commenting on the value of the hijab.

The page’s administrators state that volunteers are responsible for running the site and that it has no government involvement, although It is widely thought that it was launched to counter and compete with the popular anti-hijab Facebook page My Stealthy Freedom, run by Masih Alinejad. One of the Instagram page’s administrators, Hasan Habibzadeh, says “I Love Hijab” was launched before My Stealthy Freedom was, despite information on the Instagram page suggesting otherwise – the site’s first ever posts are dated a few days after the launch of the My Stealthy Freedom website.

Given the website’s rapid rise in popularity, IranWire spoke to Mr Habibzadeh about the page, how it operates and the idea behind it.

How did the idea to launch the page first come about?

It was students interested in religious matters that first had the idea, most of whom were studying in arts-related fields. We wanted to launch a campaign that “promoted virtue and prevented vice" — however, one based on kindness, as it’s a foundation of religious duty. And the first topic that we discussed was the hijab.

Some people are questioning why the site doesn’t look at other types of vices, such as poverty or drug addiction. What do you say to this?

This is because promoting virtue and preventing vice is very much neglected in our society and the hijab, which is mandatory in sharia law, has been especially overlooked.

But you’re being criticized for not paying attention to other vices, such as lying and idle gossiping. What do you say in response? 

We discussed it as a group but, having reviewed various options, we decided to choose one specific issue by voting on what we deemed to be the biggest priority. However, to be clear, that doesn’t mean we’ll stop at the hijab. The question of the hijab is very clear-cut; you either wear the hijab or you don’t, which means we can immediately see the effects it has on our work and society.

You’ve worked on the topic for over a year now. Are you happy with what you’ve achieved?

First, let me explain how we work. We wanted to state our position clearly to the public. To do this, we had to design something that could be easily passed around to people, which meant something practical and decorative like a badge. So people are now attaching the “I Love Hijab” badge to their clothes or their backpacks. We also designed signs with the same sentiment.

There are more and more people carrying the signs and badges in public. It’s the first step towards promoting virtue voluntarily, kindly and in a non-aggressive way.

What have the effects been? I would say nothing up to now because we’ve only just started. It’s been effective to a certain point but nothing has happened on the street. We don’t expect anything to happen soon but I’d say the response has been proportionate to the work we’ve done.

I’ve noticed you emphasize “kindness” a lot. Is there a specific reason for that?

It’s very difficult to work around the issue of the hijab. Iranian society has had a very bad experience with it and so anybody who wants to do something about it has to deal with that and try to change society’s memory of it for the better. Ever since the start of the revolution, hijab has mostly been handled badly, which has led to negative experiences. At the very least, we have to make it clear that our approach will be different. This will only work when numerous people believe in the “I Love The Hijab” phrase and proclaim it in public. And we give them the tools to say it.

Did you launch the page to compete with the “My Stealthy Freedom” Facebook page?

No, the original idea for the page and website came about before the My Stealthy Freedom, although we haven’t got a problem with people thinking that.

The “My Stealthy Freedom” page has more than 800,000 followers. Why do you think that is?

The people who don’t believe in the hijab join the page. It gives them a platform to do this. We’ve done the same for people who do believe in the hijab.

On your page, there are children who have yet to reach puberty. Do you think that’s acceptable?

This is about creating a culture whilst also promoting virtue in a non-aggressive way. It’s meant to encourage children and to teach them.

Don’t you think you’re coercing them to an extent?

No, the hijab is a religious duty and it needs to be taught to children in kindly language. There’s a difference between coercion and encouragement.

How do you fund the work?

Most of the people working on the page are either art graduates or media people so we do most of the work ourselves. We make the badges and create the video clips. We don’t need the standard government funding. We all have a job to do. If we need a photo taken, a photographer friend can take it for us. As we decided early on, there are two things that we need to pay attention to. Firstly, the work has to be voluntary and come from the people. The second is that interested state bodies can’t get involved and force people to wear the badges. That wouldn’t produce good results.

Related articles: 

“Police Must Enforce Good Hijab”

10 ways Hijab and Islamic Hair Can Protect the Revolution

Blame the Woman: Sexual Harassment in Iran

Horse-riding and "Bad Hijab"

Acid Attacks in Western Azarbaijan 

 

 

 

 

 

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