Indian Airlines flight 814 flew into tormented history on Christmas Eve, 24 December 1999.
It was one of the world’s most fateful and high-profile hijackings, which lasted seven days, with the plane being flown to Kandahar in Afghanistan, and ending with the release of three most dreaded terrorists.
There is a less-talked-about side to the infamous incident. It was the first time a term got popular in Indian households: the Stockholm syndrome.
It is a psychological condition in which a captive starts developing positive feelings for the captors and abusers. It got its name in 1973 after two men held four people hostage for six days after a bank robbery in Stockholm, Sweden. After being released, they declined to testify against their captors and even began raising money for their legal defence.
Similarly, the passengers of flight 814 got chummy with the hijackers, cracked jokes, sang and exchanged gifts. An Australian on the flight, Peter Ward, later said that passengers were trying to endear themselves with the hijackers. They were chatting, joking and performing “an entertainment hour” at night.
The same affliction has caught self-proclaimed liberals and feminists on the subject of hijab. To the non-Muslim defenders of hijab and burqa, it seems it does not matter anymore that the dresses are meant as symbols of sexual objectification and possession, and of the most crass form of patriarchy. They have been devised by men, ludicrously to prevent themselves from being tempted. These have been forced on the bodies of women for generations.
There may be women who voluntarily wear the hijab, niqab or burqa for misplaced piety and modesty, but that isn’t purely a choice. The cruelty has got internalised and normalised over generations of bullying, intimidation, threat of social and familial boycott and even honour killings.
Forget the women, even Muslim men get threatened and boycotted for criticising anything about Islam.
The Islamic community of my locality the president of the local jamat they called my father when he went for Namaz and said that they would send jamati notice to ban our house from locality because of his son doing whatever he does on social media. I don't stay at home but now
— Jahidhussain (@JahidHussain2) February 14, 2022
Deliberately oblivious to this, usual suspects like Swara Bhasker and Sonam Kapoor overcompensate for their sagging acting careers by attempting political relevance. It has now become a predictable, cynical scramble for attention, only the indefensible changes. This time it is hijab. The irony is that today’s urban, affluent women who have the security of laws, opportunity and modernity are defending what even some Islamic scholars say is not ordered by religion. They speak from a smug position of liberal privilege, pretending to speak for women living in extreme patriarchal prisons, and in the process further disempowering them and marginalising any voice of reform or dissent in the community. In all this, an ideologically committed Leftist Muslim woman’s tweet stood out. Activist Shabnam Hashmi posted that hijab was neither her identity, nor her pride or dignity. She was viciously trolled by fellow Muslims, but no brave ‘liberal’ came to her defence.
My women rights friends,
I have seen your statements, read your articles.
I am not fighting to safeguard the hijab. Period.
Refuse to become a pawn between the Hindu Right and the Muslim Right.
Hijab is neither my identity, nor my pride , and not my dignity.
— Shabnam Hashmi (@ShabnamHashmi) February 8, 2022
A variant of the Stockholm syndrome is making liberals bed the worst bigots who are out to decimate liberal values for good. Islamists have successfully sold them the lie that they are a helpless persecuted minority everywhere in the civilised world. It is a psychological state difficult to snap out of, especially when you feel your membership of a ‘cool’, ‘progressive’ club depends on it.
In reality, the days of your liberal club are severely numbered, thanks to your actions and alliances.