Radical Islam’s obsession with covering women’s hair is a new phenomenon. In 1981, Abol-Hassan Banisadr, the first president of the Islamic Republic, announced that scientific research had shown that women’s hair emits rays that drive men insane with lust. To protect the public, the new regime passed legislation in 1982 making the new form of hijab mandatory for all females above six years of age, regardless of religious faith. Violating the hijab code is punishable by one hundred lashes of the cane and six months imprisonment. By the mid-1980s, a form of hijab never seen in Islam before the 1970s had become standard headgear for millions of Muslim women all over the world, including Europe and North America. Many younger women, especially Western converts, were duped into believing that the neo-hijab is an essential part of the Islamic faith.
Muslim women anywhere in the world could easily see the fraudulent nature of the neo-Islamist hijab by going through their family albums: they will not find a single picture of a female ancestor who wore the cursed headgear now imposed upon them as an absolute “must” of Islam. This fake Islamic hijab is thus nothing but a political prop, a weapon of visual terrorism; it is a symbol of a totalitarian ideology inspired more by Nazism and Communism than by Islam, and is designed to promote gender apartheid. And yet this prop of visual terror was presented by Khomeinist ideologues as a fundamental value—as “a pillar of Islamic existence,” and as “our most effective weapon against the enemies of Islam,” according to Rafsanjani. One well-known female Khomeinist wrote, “The superpowers know that hijab is the foundation of Islamic government and that to conquer the Persian Gulf and plunder its oil resources, they must first eliminate hijab.”
To counter the Islamist claim that the hijab blocks the dangerous, lust-provoking rays emanating from a woman’s hair, some women have proposed other forms of hijab. One Iranian designer came out with a wig made of horsehair, thus ensuring that a woman’s own hair remains hidden while she still “looks like a normal human being.” Some Iranian actresses suggested they be allowed to appear in plays and films wearing wigs made of animal hair. The French cosmetics firm L’Oreal tried to market a transparent hijab that would show a woman’s hair but keep its “dangerous rays” locked in. The Khomeinists would have none of it; they wanted women to be seen in public in a state of submission.
From The Persian Night: Iran Under the Khomeinist Revolution by Amir Taheri.