In their April 8 op-ed, “When hijab isn’t a choice,” Masih Alinejad and Roya Hakakian eloquently captured the essence of individual liberty and its importance to human flourishing. They wrote, “There are two vastly different kinds of hijabs: the democratic hijab, the head covering that a woman chooses to wear, and the tyrannical hijab, the one that a woman is forced to wear.” The same garment can be a sign of devotion and empowerment or a sign of oppression and subordination. The difference has nothing to do with the garment and everything to do with the choosing.
Individual liberty means I can choose what to wear, what faith I practice, what books I read, what political beliefs I embrace. It means that you can do the same, and that we can choose differently and still live peaceably side by side. This is the groundwork of pluralism.
Some will say if we privilege the individual, we destroy community. That is exactly backward. It’s only when we respect the autonomy and dignity of the individual that we create community.
Emily Chamlee-Wright, Arlington
The writer is president of the Institute for Humane Studies at George Mason University.