Hijab shouldn't be just treated as a part of the culture without thinking and we should not automatically glorify it as diversity. The very fact that it is forced in Iran, for example, tells us that it's not simply a matter of choice and culture.
Forbidding things or telling people what to wear is not the solution and it's not what progressives do. And IMO, EU court ruling allowing bans on all religious symbols didn't do that.
This ban is in a way also a protection, either all religious symbols are banned or none, so hijab cannot be singled-out. In a way, it’s also all-or nothing ban. Either you ban all religious symbols or none.
I digress. The point is that in fact, turning a blind eye on suffering and comforting yourself that it's simply a cultural thing is also not what progressives should do.
One thing that has a big tendency to both annoy and to actually damage the World is the “It’s their culture” proclamation. There are real problems with it. Basically, this proclamation is often heard when trying to defend bigoted, racist, sexist or misogynist behaviour. Effectively we’re saying that people are entitled to their own culture, and the often horrific behaviour is simply the part of the culture, so we should all simply live with it.
By Nitin Madhav (USAID), exact source, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Most often it is used when somebody tries to criticise actions of Islam extremists and/or treatment of women in Islam, but it’s not limited to this use. It’s also used to justify circumcision, or teaching that God created the Earth is six days in schools. However, it’s lately mostly used about Islam, so this post will continue in this tone.
First of all, when you use this argument, you’re applying the different standard to the people you’re saying this about. A standard which is less strict about women’s rights, for example, than we in the West are accustomed to. This in of itself is bad, as basically people who say things like “this is normal in their culture” are guilty of racism of low expectations. It comes down to “these brown people, we just expect this from them, we cannot hold them to the same standard as us”. Well, isn’t this a repulsive thing to think and say?