Jill at Feministe has a good post on the problems with Western excitement over the Muslim hijab:
Feministe - Uncovering Iran: At the same time, though, we have to recognize that we are operating within a highly patriarchal social context, and I think we need to do what we have to in order to make sure that women from all backgrounds and walks of life can be heard. In my personal opinion, this does not mean making the hijab, or any sort of clothing, mandatory — but it also doesn’t mean banning the headscarf or other religious symbols in certain contexts, like France did a while back. It simply means recognizing women as people, not as coat-hangers or symbols. And it demands looking at things like the hijab as fully as possible, and seeing the many paradoxes that crop up when modesty is mandatory.
Now, I certainly think there are often problems with the motives of some people who don it. But in Western media, there's a whole other lurid dimensions to the consternation over it, one which infantilizes Muslim women and papers over the complexity of the debate for propaganda purposes. I wrote about this very effect before my most recent long blog-hiatus.
Actually, the very nature of the attitude and coverage of the hijab as a symbol of the frightening and mysterious nature of Islam, itself almost seeming analogous in presentation to the fear of the feminine, has the very effect of inducing the kind of identity politics one finds played out in the behaviour of many young Muslim women living in the West. When one is told that one's very existence is a contradiction, one can either repudiate the contradiction or embrace it more fully, defiantly. There are multiple paths to the hijab, but the latter is an motive that many who choose the hijab very likely hold.