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Repression or liberation? I got this 'covered'

Why I choose to wear a headscarf

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Do you shower with your scarf on? No, I do not shower in my headscarf, nor do I wear it all the time.

Yes, it does get hot in the summer and no I am not bald.

I am not a terrorist; I swear I was sitting behind you all throughout school.

That tennis-ball-sized bump at the back of my head is my stubborn hair tied into a bun and I am only at H&M shopping for a dress that touches the floor.

No, my family did not beat me into it and yes, I am allowed to go out.

Unfortunately, these are the questions that I am forced to endure for wearing a headscarf.

Hijab literally means “veil” and it is a concept that encompasses and symbolizes a variety of modest attire worn by Muslim women (will be referred to as Muslimas from here on) so that only their face, hands and feet are visible. The overall effect results not only in dressing modestly, but embodying a picture of positive mannerism.

Most Judeo-Christian religions also hold the belief of dressing in a modest fashion, clearly seen in nuns and influential figures such as Mary, the mother of Jesus. Although in the world of fashion successive generations of clothing like the Regency-Dress Era and Roaring Twenties have dramatically changed, the general clothing style worn by Muslimas has only undergone slight alterations.

Dressing modestly is an act of piety for both genders, so Muslimas wear the hijab purely as an act of obedience to God in accordance with the Quran.

This is asserted in chapter 24 verse 31 of the Quran, in which God says to “the believing women [to] lower their gaze (out of respect and modest interaction with the opposite sex) and guard their modesty: that they should not display their beauty and ornaments, 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,” aka, to their family and friends.

Beauty for the Muslima is conveyed through her lifestyle, viewpoints, hygiene and modesty. Her femininity, fashion sense and outward appearance are not neglected as it is said in the Quran (7:26) that God has “bestowed clothing upon [women] to cover [themselves] as an adornment and attire of righteousness.”

This belief is not followed blindly by women who are ignorant to degradation and oppression – we, too, demand equal rights and independency, but never through the judgments and restrictions of society’s definition of beauty.

How much insight can exist in a culture where women are continually being sized up on the basis of their body, hair and clothing? With so much superficiality existing in the world and a high emphasis placed on external appearances, the importance of individuality almost counts for nothing today. Tell me where is the liberation behind the idea of being “checked out” by random men?

My body is only a physical entity on this earth and it is not for anyone to leer at or exploit. My identity is defined by my mind, heart and soul. I am above all a human being, equal to any man and not lesser than because of my sexuality.

Underlying the hijab lays beautiful empowerment, equality and recognition of our individual actions and speech. There is no oppression, but rather a sense of liberation. This freedom's roots are in breaking from the shackles of a society that objectifies women.

Muslimas are not pressured to fit a certain body image or ideal of beauty. A Muslim woman’s body and beauty is not there to be appreciated by all, but the one person that matters and that is the man she chooses as her husband. This allure of sharing ones beauty, body and sexuality to one man and not to all, is like being emancipated from trying to please the entire world.

There is no compulsion in Islam and it was not until after verses referring to the hijab were revealed that Muslimas felt it was necessary to wear the hijab as an act of obedience to God. Thus, it should be noted that this religion was revealed in stages without alteration, so that people would not feel as if it was forced upon them. Islam does not seek to limit the expression of any one person, but rather guide that expression through a suitable outlet. Indeed for most, wearing the hijab comes from a very personal and deeply rooted faith in God.

This, of course, does not mean that women who do not wear the headscarf or believe in it are immoral. There are many Muslim women who do not wear the hijab, some who wear the niqab (which covers the face, except for the eyes) and many who hold onto a completely different belief unrelated to religion, but that is their personal decision. I cannot speak on their behalf or any other woman’s behalf except my own and I refuse to judge anyone as that is not part of my Islamic belief. Whether or not a woman chooses to wear anything she wants is her choice, as it is mine.

I am a Muslim woman who, like many women around the world, chooses to wear the hijab because I believe in what it stands for. When I put on the hijab, I feel empowered because I am rejecting the constructs of beauty society demands women fit into.

The hijab is not a symbol of degradation and it does not restrict a woman’s license to express who she is, what she believes in and what her opinions are. It is not an act of hatred toward non-Muslims, nor is it a sign of confinement of women. It is an act based on faith, love for one’s body, modesty and righteousness.

There are no shackles holding my inner soul. I am a woman living up to my full potential. I am a woman that refuses to be placed in a box of your definition of how a woman is supposed to dress and look. Above all, I am a woman just like you. I never stop to stare at you for the way you look, so please help me understand why you do? Why should I be alienated because of the way I dress? Why is it the norm for women to wear shorts, miniskirts and tank tops, but I’m the odd one out for choosing something different? Why is this piece of cloth so weird, bothersome and even a curiosity to you? I don’t sit there wondering why you woke up and decided to come in wearing shorts that look more like a bikini bottom and a hoodie as a top. How is that less bizarre than me wearing really gorgeous scarves on my head or long-sleeve shirts?

In fact why are people still wondering about this? Why is it that I am the woman who must be pitied, questioned, examined and stared at? Isn’t it time we started celebrating our diversity and educated ourselves about not stereotyping? Give me the courtesy of believing that I choose my own way and that my place in my religion and life is that of a queen.

email: avensali@buffalo.edu


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