“Does your dad ever hit you?”
“So… you must not date because of the whole….scarf thing.”
“Did your brother make you wear that?”
“Are you going to have an arranged marriage?”
“You must be REALLY conservative.”
“Honey, you can take that off. This is the west, you won’t be forced here.”
“Are you a terrorist?”
Every female who wears a headscarf has heard at least one of these microaggressions.
The belief that women are oppressed by Muslim men and are forced to wear headscarves is horrifying to me. I look down upon these stereotypes because they demonize a custom that I value and admire. The idea that “Islam teaches women to hide themselves and it’s enforced by abusive husbands, brothers and fathers” is simply false.
What people don’t know is that Islam actually holds women to a higher standard than men. I was raised practicing a religion that taught me to respect my mother and emulate powerful female Muslim leaders.
Going to my weekly tutoring at the mosque, I was once questioned “Where is heaven?” As a young, 8-year-old girl, I found this absolutely silly. Who would ask a question like that if there was no valid response? I distinctly remember my entire class being silent, until our teacher gave us our answer “Heaven is at your mother’s feet.” We were being taught to value the women in our lives. We were being taught to respect females. We were being taught that there is beauty in female power.
Muslim females who wear veils should not be called terrorists as they walk down the street. Muslim females who wear headscarves should not be looked at with pity or made to feel as if they are a part of an abusive relationship. A 12-year-old girl in New York should not have to go to school and be bullied, physically attacked with punches and have her headscarf ripped off by a group of boys. I should not have to be fearful of my mother going out to the store with her scarf on, scared that someone might say or do something to her.
It makes me so happy to see brands like Nike release athletic wear for Muslim women with hijabs. I admire the fashion icons that create clothing lines dedicated to hijabi fashion. However, I do look down upon the use of the hijab as a prop. I should not have to see non-Muslim models on magazine covers, wearing a hijab to make the photoshoot more “unique.” The hijab is not a toy to play with; it is a part of an identity. If you want to highlight my custom or show support for Muslims, there are other ways to show solidarity than wearing something that you do not identify with.
Every school year, as we approach the hot weather of June, I am asked why I wear layers of clothing. Although it may look odd, I do it for a reason. I am a feminist. I believe in equal rights for men and women. I do not believe I am being oppressed because I choose to wake up everyday and wear clothing that makes me feel empowered. People try to twist the meaning of feminism and use it as an excuse to bash values like wearing a headscarf. Being a female Muslim and a feminist are not mutually exclusive.
Why has the world come to a place where we used to admire the beauty of diversity and now we thrive on condemning it?
As the discrimination in our environment is reaching new magnitudes, we need to stand up and ask how we can fix it. A hijabi who has had her face smashed with a glass bottle should be able to have justice for the wrongdoings against her.
This is why I emphasize the importance of questions. Ask real and genuine questions about how a person evolved to wearing a hijab or what the history of it is. These topics are so much better than blunt and purposely ignorant questions, such as, “Do you wear your hijab in the shower?” Being uneducated about the headscarf is completely understandable. Gain something from your curiosity. Go out of your way to learn about it. Form your own opinion.
I ask that the students at the high school who truly care about maintaining and appreciating customs like the hijab to do their research. Go talk to that hijabi you see in the hallway every time you walk downstairs to get lunch. Go ask your neighbor across the street who you have never had an actual conversation with. There are students at the high school who are Muslims, yet they hide those parts of themselves and say they identify as white, Christian Europeans.
I look up to my mother and sister who wear headscarves and have been living in this country, facing the fear that comes with wearing a hijab. I look up to my sister-in-law who bravely wears a veil, despite the fact that she may be faced with both verbal and physical assaults from society. When I am ready, I hope to also wear a full-time hijab.
In Islam, a woman is considered to be the most beautiful being on this Earth and we have the freedom to hide this from the world. We have the freedom to choose what you can or cannot see. It is 100 percent our choice. It is not oppression. It is power.
Check out Iman Khan’s article on modest dressing.