Muhammad, who has become a Muslim-American icon, has launched her own fashion line, Louella, for Muslim women.
“I, as a Muslim woman, should have the right to wear what I want without any question as to why I want to wear it. It's my identity, it's who I am.”
Ibtihaj had to defend her right to wear the hijab recently, when she was humiliated at a Tech festival, in Austin Texas.
Ibtihaj had tweeted that she was asked to remove her hijab while registering for SXSW in Austin for her I.D. badge.
While some women might choose not to don the Hijab, most Muslim women agree that it is a woman’s choice whether or not she wears it. Many Muslim and Arab women who have chosen not to wear the hijab are often staunch advocates of a woman’s right to choose; (in this case to Veil)
In a previous blog entitled “Hijab or not to Hijab”, I briefly discussed the reasons behind wearing the hijab. I spotlighted a female reporter who finally plucked up the
courage to abandon the Hijab, and live her life as what she described as a "Free, emancipated Muslim woman.”
She was ridiculed by some, and rejected and shamed by some of her family members.
10 years later, as a BBC reporter in Pakistan, she again decided that she may have to wear the Hijab in certain circumstances, in order to be respectful, and/or, to assure her
Today I wanted to create another arena in which I stimulate thought and
discussion about the Hijab.
As a non-Muslim woman I have the same usual questions as many other non-Muslim women, about;
Why they wear it?.
Isn't it restrictive?
Isn't it hot?
Do they wear it at home?
Isn’t it a symbol of repression?
And the Burka… why would anyone want to wear that?
Based on my limited research, I have come to the
conclusion that there are four kinds of Muslim women in this world.
1 Those who are Orthodox Muslim, and wear the Hijab and the Burka, (The whole robe-covering) when in public.
2. Those that wear the Hijab veil only, with western clothing.
3. Those who wear the Hijab when and where necessary, as a sign of respect, or to keep themselves from being humiliated by other Muslims, or even
endangered by other Muslims.
4. Those that reject it completely.
While researching the Hijab I also learned that, primarily the hijab is not a headscarf.
It has been renamed by many cultures as a headscarf but it is NOT.
“Hijab” literally means “curtain” in Arabic. It also means “hiding,” ”obstructing” and “isolating” someone or something.
It is never used in the Quoran to mean headscarf.
Wearing the Hijab implies that behind the veil the woman is pure and pious, and devoted to her religion, to Mohammad, and her chosen husband.
It is worn with a reverence to the Muslim faith, and for many, defines who they are.
In his poem “Hijab”, (Mar 5, 2012), Mark Lecuona talks of the Hijab, from the perspective of a woman who has chosen to wear it.
He wrote it for a muslim friend in Indonesia.
She covers for God
Are you worthy
Of her will to be true?
To the word
As it is written
Not of man
Into the cradle
Of our existence
Heard by those
Who lower their resistance
To what is holy
Not on earth
But in heaven
Where a woman’s worth
By the blessing
Of her womb
Life-giving and supporting
Each new creation
By the unseen
Until the apple is offered
By the bare flesh
To our sons and daughters
Yes she suffers
Behind the cloak
Wearing its yoke
Until the strength
Of one man’s soul
To make her whole
As it was intended
For man and woman
But not before
He has proven
That a hijab
Is not weakness
But God’s robe
Which he dare part
To find paradise
In the strength
He saw in her eyes
(Copied with permission from the author, from Poetry.com)
In many cases, the wearing of the hijab is also used to challenge Western feminist discourses which present hijab-wearing women as oppressed or silenced.
I can’t help but draw an analogy between the Hijab and the Habit that Nuns wear; and, indeed, the veil that accompanies the traditional Western Bridal costume.
Nuns wear the Habit as a symbol of their virginity in the eyes of God, and to hide their sexuality from the world.
Brides wear a veil as a symbol of their purity, and only lift it to their husband’s kiss, after they are joined in holy matrimony.
In some countries, young girls wear veils during their communion service as a symbol of purity in the eyes of God.
While the hijab is commonly associated with women, Muslim men also sometimes wear a head covering as a means of showing modesty. Additionally, Jewish women in some traditions wear a headscarf as a cultural practice or commitment to modesty or piety. Sikhs wear a Turban to honor their religion.
One of the most frequently quoted verses from the Qur’an says:
“The believing men are enjoined to lower their gaze and conceal their genitals and the believing women are enjoined to lower their gaze and conceal their genitals, draw their headdress to cover their cleavage, and not to display their beauty, except that which has to be revealed, except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands’ fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women, or their slaves, or eunuchs or children under age; and they should not strike their feet to draw attention to their hidden beauty. O believers, turn to God, that you may know bliss. “
One of the verses that encourages women to wear the garments less they be sexually harassed is in the Qur’an verses 33:58–59)
“Those who harass believing men and believing women undeservedly, bear (on themselves) a calumny and a grievous sin. O Prophet! Enjoin your wives, your daughters, and the wives of true believers that they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when abroad): That is most convenient, that they may be distinguished and not be harassed. “
I choose to hide,
Behind my veil.
In my safe home,
My existence frail.
My identity and my honor,
My own choice to preserve.
Hiding within my soul,
Modesty that I reserve.
Eyeing this dusty world,
Lost treasures of faith
seven virtues for world,
Veil for me is Eighth.
Proud of my identity,
Happy of my choice.
This is what I am,
Hijab is my voice.
Jun 4, 2013, Hello Poetry.
I do not advocate that anyone has the right to walk up to a Muslim woman and start a debate about whether or not she should or shouldn’t wear a Hijab or a Burqa.
I am however, a great believer in the general rule of thumb, “When in Rome, do as Rome does. “ (The earliest version of this proverb seems to have been written by Pope Clement XIV, published in 1777… “Cum Romano, Romanus eris.”
I would not dream of wearing a bikini into any church, for example. Neither would I walk through a market place in Saudi in a pair of shorts.
When visiting or living in another country, one should follow some of those traditions and customs in order to show respect to the general populace and also not to insult anyone; even worse incite violence. The wearing of a Christian cross can be dangerous in areas of China, where Christianity is not welcome. In some areas of the Middle East, Christians have been martyred for declaring their religion. There was a terrible case recently in Pakistan last year, where two Christians were burned alive.
"They picked them up by their arms and legs and held them over the brick furnace until their clothes caught fire. And then they threw them [alive] inside the furnace." — Javeed Maseeh.
(Just to put this in context, it is alleged that the couple had publicly burned verses from the Quran)
The husband of a colleague of mine was recently secreted away in a church-planting mission in China; for fear that he might be discovered by the authorities… (This raises the issue about what right we have to proselytize one religion over another, but that’s another subject for further discussion.)
Going back to the Hijab, women wear the hijab primarily a sign that they are Muslim to the world; secondarily as a symbol of piety and purity. They wear it to respect their traditions and out of respect for themselves, their families and husbands, and to role-model for their children.
Women who wear the full Burqa often defend themselves saying that underneath they can fully express themselves, and be the person they want to be without externalizing their views. They feel safe in the knowledge that they are honoring Mohammed and the teachings of the Quran.
Historically, the Hijab evolved from an ancient time when only prostitutes exposed their head and other parts of their bodies in public.
Back then, they donned the Burqa to hide from prying eyes and frustrated males in an environment that was harsh with rigid society rules. Women’s lives were worthless compared to a young boy child.
Back in the 80’s my sister travelled with her husband and young son through the Sahara desert on an expedition to deliver Land Rover parts to Timbuktu.
During their remote journey, they encountered a very curious caravan of Nomads, who corralled them, and then welcomed them as guests. All the women were completely covered in their burqas and their faces veiled.
Because of their blond haired, blue eyed baby, my sister was particularly honored to actually sit with the men of the table to eat. Her blond hair and her uncovered face was a fascination for the men at the table, and she had to keep very quiet about certain provocative subjects that arose during the mealtime conversation. She later told me that the pecking order for eating in this particular tribe was Men first, then boys, then dogs, then Women.
There are other schools of thought regarding the wearing of the traditional dress of Islam.
Shaaz Mahboob is the vice-chair of British Muslims for Secular Democracy, a charity which promotes religious understanding and addresses prejudice against Muslims.
"Discrimination of any form is considered unacceptable in all civilized societies. The burqa or the Hijab does just that. It allows one person to remain anonymous during face-to-face communication, thus depriving the right of the other to reciprocate whilst registering the changes in facial expressions, which is vital in such communication, in conjunction to voice that is used for everyday communication.”
He goes on to say that whether its security in airports, in banks or in job interviews authorities are at a disadvantage when face to face with someone who is fully clad I the Burqa.
He said, “It is perfectly reasonable that the general public feel reasonably secure about the persons sharing the same public sphere.”
Furthermore, he went on to say, “Burqa or Hijab neither has a place in Islam nor should it obtain a place in civilized Western societies where women are equal to men and public safety of all is paramount. Not knowing whether an individual amongst them is a man or a woman due to their attire is deeply unsettling and any such anxieties must be addressed by the relevant changes to law.”
Asra Q. Nomani and Hala Arafa are two young Muslim women who courageously challenging the Hijab.
They say this:
“To us, the “hijab “is a symbol of an interpretation of Islam we reject that believes that women are a sexual distraction to men, who are weak, and thus must not be tempted by the sight of our hair.
We don’t buy it. This ideology promotes a social attitude that absolves men of sexually harassing women and puts the onus on the victim to protect herself by covering up.
The new Muslim Reform Movement, a global network of leaders, advocating for human rights, peace and secular governance, supports the right of Muslim women to wear — or not wear — the headscarf.
As women who grew up in modern Muslim families with theologians, we are trying to reclaim our religion from the prongs of a strict interpretation. Like in our youth, we are witnessing attempts to make this strict ideology the one and only accepted face of Islam.
We have seen what the resurgence of political Islam has done to our regions of origin and to our adoptive country.
As Americans, we believe in freedom of religion. But we need to clarify to those in universities, the media and discussion forums that in exploring the “hijab,” ( and wearing Head-scarfs in solidarity with Muslims, ) they are not exploring Islam, but rather the ideology of political Islam as practiced by the Mullahs, or clerics, of Iran and Saudi Arabia, the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Islamic State.”
They go on to say
“In the name of “interfaith,” well-intentioned Americans are getting duped by the agenda of Muslims who argue that a woman’s honor lies in her “chastity” and unwittingly pushing a platform to put a hijab on every woman.”
“Please do this instead: Do not wear a headscarf in “solidarity” with the ideology that most silences us, equating our bodies with “honor.”
Stand with us instead with moral courage against the ideology of Islamism that demands we cover our hair.”
In researching poems that illustrate the anti-Hijab movement, I found a beautiful little poem, entitled” Screaming Blue Purdah”, written by Sara L Russell and posted on Hello Poetry.
I asked her permission to use her poem which is concise, fine and illustrative:
Screaming Blue Purdah
Sara L Russell 5/12/2015
How can birds sing, if taken from the meadow?
Cloistered away in silent fear
envious of the boundless skies
Even her wings are held earthbound
defenseless is she, and silent as the grave.
✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿ ✿
What sun may rise for she who walks in shadow,
the blackness that makes her disappear
hidden away from prying eyes
Too fearful to make the smallest sound
accepting of pain, and living as a slave.
"I have nothing against the veil. And I think that, wrongly, many in the West look at the veil as a symbol of oppression. Now, as long as a woman chooses to wear the veil, because that's her belief and because of her own - that's a personal relationship with God, so she should be free to dress in whichever way she wants."
Queen Rania of Jordan
"A real totalitarianism is at work in the world and wants to impose its views not only on Arab Muslims, but on the West. The same way that they veil women, Islamic radicals want to veil cartoons in the press."
"Whereas religious prayers sing of peace and harmony, religion has divided human beings through an atrocious history of enmity and bloodshed. Yet, behind the veil of superficiality and hypocrisy, I always believed in the inherent beauty of God that lies at the essence of all true spiritual paths."
And with that, my friends, I hope this discussion will be to your “Avail” J
Have a wonderful week.
Cloistered away in silent fear" Sara L Russell.