You poor, oppressed hijabi!

Published: September 17, 2012

Classmates whispered that I was probably crazy, backward, or just bald. I was nicknamed 'Taliban'. PHOTO: REUTERS

I started wearing a headscarf in grade two. I was six years old, and while many may find this difficult to believe, the decision was entirely my own.

Yes, I was raised in a family that was in tune with its religious identity, and my mother covered her hairNo, I was not forced/blackmailed into wearing a scarf. My father didn’t do anything either, for those who are thinking he probably pressurised my mom behind the scenes, since the stereotype says all Muslim men oppress their women.

I was raised in the US. Until grade three, I went to a public school, where an overwhelming majority of the students were non-Muslim.

Now when I was six, I wasn’t very aware of the whole ‘Muslimphobia’ that has come to infect the world today. I knew I might look funny, and kids might tease me just like they taunted the short, Sikh boy in my class. He wore a turban, which was usually bright blue, and he was the butt of many jokes. I also knew that I loved God, my God, my Allah, and with a sense of confidence that every child is blessed with, I pulled on that scarf and I haven’t looked back ever since.

Let’s make one thing clear: I am not the best of Muslims. It would be a long stretch to even call me a very good Muslim, however you choose to quantify that particular goodness.

I struggle with understanding and interpreting my faith, and I struggle with the world around me, as many men and women around the world do, regardless of whether they are Bahai, Christian, Zoroastrian, Hindu or Jewish. I do, however, have a very strong underlying faith in Islam, and in God. I remember, as I walked into Mrs Mattson’s second grade homeroom, I thought to myself,

They must be looking at me because my hijab is so cool!

Believe it or not, it was easier for me to wear a scarf in America than it was for me to wear it in Pakistan; yes, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Even post-9/11, when I walked into a Walmart with my mom, the American at the door said “Salam alaikum”. He had a big smile on his face, and though you may say he was just doing his job, I don’t believe it.

When 9/11 happened, I was in Pakistan, and our flight home was delayed several weeks due to the attacks. When I finally came back, I remember that even though I didn’t understand what exactly had happened, and why it had happened, I remember that my cousins in Pakistan had said to me that my friends wouldn’t treat me the same any more. But when I got back, I was still me, and they were still my friends.

Now I can’t speak for all the American population, but I’d just like to say that I did not, in those few years directly after 9/11 face any serious backlash on a personal level. This could be because I lived a very sheltered life, and I’m thankful I never experienced any severe negativity.

It was when I started my O’ level (8th grade), that I faced social backlash. I had just moved to Pakistan, and was having trouble adjusting to my new school, my long lost relatives, and the motherland. Friends and extended family were very open with their opinions about my scarf. They found it unnecessary, restricting and useless. I was pressurised to stop covering my head. My grandmother even went as far as to insist that I stop being childish and ridiculous, when I planned to wear a scarf to my cousins engagement.

Classmates whispered that I was probably crazy, backward, or just bald. I was nicknamed ‘Taliban’. The criticism was difficult to bear, and harder to understand. Why was there so much hate directed at me because of a piece of cloth?

Islam transcends national boundaries and culturally-based definitions. In Pakistan, Islam has often been held hostage by the prevailing idea of nationalism, and the human aspect has been ignored. Instead of the principles of equality, honesty, peace, and forgiveness, Islam is seen as a destructive force. Just by wearing a scarf, I was the enemy.

The experience taught me that I needed to believe in myself. It made me stronger. I can achieve my goals without giving up who I am, who I want to be. Furthermore, if I am confident in my identity, others will be as well.

I hope all hijabis find confidence, and I hope the world sees us as more than the stereotype. Most of us are not oppressed. Many of us love our scarf. I certainly do.

If we’re all talking about freedom, then why don’t we understand that there is freedom of choice? This is my choice; I choose to wear a scarf.

Do you think the hijab is viewed as a symbol of oppression worldwide?

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Zainab Khawaja

Zainab Khawaja

Is currently studying BS Public Administration at NUST Business School and enjoys history, literature and politics. She is an avid reader and has been blogging for two years. She blogs at zainabkhawaja.wordpress.com/ and tweets @zainabkhawaja92 (twitter.com/zainabkhawaja92)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Faisal

    Maasha Allah !! God Bless You !!Recommend

  • zahra.mohammed

    Beautiful post Zainab!

    Recommend

  • http://lonepkliberal.wordpress.com Loneliberal PK

    Let’s have a moment of silence for all women who wear hijab, despite the society’s attempts to shame all hijab-clad women as “immodest”.

    Maybe one day, women will be able to wear hijab as freely as they’re allowed to wear skinny jeans or shorts in Pakistan. Fight the power, sister!Recommend

  • Iman

    JazakAllah Khair Sister, Allah has bestowed you with power of writing, do not be discourage to express his commands and surely he rewards the rightful.

    No matter what people tell you or sees, it is only Allah that will judge you and your intentions.

    To Allah we belong to him (Allah) is our return. Recommend

  • dferger

    I still find hijabis playing the victim in Pakistan totally weird. What is going on? Is it Opposite Day and no one told me?

    But if Hijabis really are treated this way, you guys may want to form an alliance with women who wear pants, sleeveless, fitted clothes etc. because they get called characterless and what not. The personal freedoms of both groups are under attack.Recommend

  • Awans

    There is nothing wrong in wearing a Hijab and no one should force anyobe to wear one or not to wear but No one should make Hijab An Insignia of Morality like my cousin wear Hijab as well but according to her apart from her all women are Immoral who dont wear one. Also I have studied Islam in depth and I have searched everywhere but not been Able to Find a Burqa and Hijab as an Obligation and in Quran and Hadees Burqa and Hijab does not exist. So Hijab is not an Islamic Obligation. Also I have seen in the West that Many women wear hijab along with Skin Tight Jeans and Shirts and that does not work for me that your head is covered while your whole body is like giving another look altogether. Recommend

  • Amer

    This is a really amazing post! When I first saw the title, I thought, oh another Hijabi blog but this was fresh and very very true!
    I totally agree with the points you made in the end. I grew up in the US as well and know exactly what you mean! Recommend

  • Khurram Malik

    I live in Europe and i am a Pakistani and i can tell you what is going in west with Pakistani Community. First of All sorry to say but Pakistanis are in a huge Inferiority complex. Many Pakistanis try everything to connect themselves with Arabs, Turks and Persians as they are ashamed of their Pakistani identity and Indian Heritage. 90 percent of Pakistani People have Indian roots and I am a Punjabi and i know I was indian before 1947 and my ancestors never came from anywhere and i have no problem in it. The problem comes with Pseudo Arabs living in Pakistan. Now comes the point of Hijab. As we all know that Arab Women wear Hijab so When Pakistani Women wear Hijab so it is like An Arabic Identity thing and I think it is more Fashionable and Identity crsisis problem that leds people to wear Hijab rather than any Religious Significance..Recommend

  • Zahra Haroon

    True this is. My cousin started wearing scarf and its true that sometimes our own family members does not approve of the idea of wearing head scarf. But it is important to stay firm on your decision and let everybody stay happy with their own misconceptions. Recommend

  • Rana

    Allah All Mighty Showers His Blessings upon you, Sister. Recommend

  • Hala

    This is the second blog this month on this topic, i really want to know who is stopping you from wearing hijaab. yes you choose to wear it. good for you. no one is talking about you. we’re talking about the ones who would rather not, but are threatened and forced to, cause those people exist. everyone is not like you. there is nothing wrong with you wearing a scarf. very few people are against the scarf itself. we are against the forced obligation of it, which exists even though it may not be a problem for you personallyRecommend

  • Muhammad Tahir Younus

    The blogger, it seems, belong to a family that feel themselves ultra-modern. Being a middle-class Pakistani, I did not observe of hear even a single incident of ridicule hurled at a Hijabi. The blogger seems paranoid.Recommend

  • san

    How could you speak for others that they are willingly wearing Hijab. Little research could be better if someone write a blog for masses. Try to capture the whole picture instead of just “I”.Recommend

  • ab

    yes it indeed the real problem you highlighted in your post. many wear it without problem in the west but has problem in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Brain Drain

    @Loneliberal PK:
    Hahaha, this would make for a very good The Onion article.Recommend

  • I stopped taking this seriously after the first few lines. It is simply not possible for a six year old to voluntarily wear the hijabRecommend

  • Zalim Singh

    No, I was not forced/blackmailed into wearing a scarf.

    yeah, yeah…. we believe you. We are absolute jerks. We cannot stand the sight of a women’s hair.Recommend

  • nomi

    This is the problem, imposing our ideas on others. The writer has cleverly delivered an understatement that all those who wear Hijabs are better while others are not.

    Who is stopping you from wearing anything? But trying to convince others that anyone who does not follow you is a sinner is wrong.

    And all those poor men who raise slogans to declare victory whenever they read such articles are actually very silly. They would never speak of the injustice done to women in the name of islam on many other matters, but jump in to say MashAllah when they read someone glorifying hijab. Recommend

  • Close_enough

    It was a good read, Zainab. Really you got a determined and committed mentality.Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    Oh, God, this victim mentality!

    Lady, liberal societies do not object you to wear any Religious wear, but Islamic societies set up rules. You must fight them.

    If people tease you for wearing the Hijab in Pakistan, be happy.. Think of the girls who want to shed the Hijab and wear jeans and shorts and skirts. Get real. Perspective is the casualty when victimhood comes into picture.Recommend

  • Nagpuri

    Dear Madam,

    You are doing great disservice to your muslims sisters, who are oppressed, and doesn’t have the choice to not wear Hijab or burka. Have you every thought of liberating them by your own actions?

    And I’m sure you must have experience, wearing hijab doesn’t prevent Men from ogling at you or teasing you. If you are honest, you can tell of your experience of how you were treated or how safe you were compared to Pakistan, with or without hijab.

    Hijab is nothing but asserting identity in the wake of questions about your identity and/or faith for which you have no answers. I’m more pious and pure than others, it is ultimate form of vanity.Recommend

  • salman Butt

    Good Job! very true! Recommend

  • MonsieurCritique

    “I was six years old, and while many may find this difficult to believe, the decision was entirely my own.”
    You were six year old. Six year olds often make stupid decisions to please their parents.

    “Why was there so much hate directed at me because of a piece of cloth?”
    The piece of cloth is a symbol of oppression.

    It seems to me you are wearing it as a form of rebellion against people who don’t want you to wear it. Hopefully you will grow out of this. Peace be upon you.Recommend

  • varuag

    I started wearing a headscarf in grade two. I was six years old, and while many may find this difficult to believe, the decision was entirely my own.

    I read that Bobby Jindal had a change of heart and converted to Christianity at the age of 10, of course voluntarily. Well kids can take such decisions but to attribute it to their intellect is a little stretch for me. The above two gifted kids could have joined Mensa club while most of their fellow students were content trying to hold a pencil ……………

    On a serious note, people who voluntarily or other-wise choose to be different will be the subject of ridicule. That’s purely human nature. Majority of the people lie in the middle of the Bell Curve and escape the wrath of the ridicule-mongers. The extremities will be targeted, be it the hijabi / conservative or the exhibitionist. That definitely does not justify the ridicule, but I am merely explaining the causal factors. Was not the intelligent kid called a nerd and so on and so forth ? I don’t see that kid writing about the pain that high school was. Even if she writes most would probably brush her aside as a cry-baby. I guess, we need to take things a little bit in context. To link the societal pressures as well as ridicule to Islamophobia is not causal but a co-relation of several factors one of which currently may be Islamophobia. Do you think the Sikh kid in your school would have written a blog about his misfortunes in school after the Wisconsin firing incident ?

    Wearing whatever one wants to purely one’s decision (after one is older I guess). Its criticism, valid or not, purely comes with the territory. Don’t please elevate it to victim-hood or intellectualize the same, its just a dress. Your fight to wear it is just as important as probably someone’s fight to be a dorky socially-challenged kid. Yet she can’t take recourse to religion to elevate the debate on theological, societal or sociological grounds. I think religion poisons a rational debate and leaves us between a rock and a hard place.

    The French take secularism very seriously and rightly so. But when it comes to questions like crosses or headscarves they are in a quandary of the worst kind. Technically most erudite and non-partisan people would want schools to be probably out of bounds for such issues but once you do accept them inside then the debate stretches into absurd areas like size of crosses and so on. I had to undergo prayers of a particular religion in school. Looking back I found it pretty offensive to all people who were not of that religion. What is the solution ? Don’t have religion based prayers and there will be protests. Ultimately authorities will step back and allow the prayers. If such a debate is ignited (in my parts of the world) and authorities yield too much ground, I guess people will only pray in schools as all religions will have to be accommodated. I see the whole appeasement to the religious lot as capitulation of the worst kind………well the atheist kid will have a lot of spare time and I don’t know what the agnostic kid will do ?Recommend

  • aheelam

    Very well-written.
    Being ur self is what is important.turn deaf ears to all those who stop you from being yourself.
    Allah bless you :)Recommend

  • Sahar

    Hijaab is an obligation for Muslim women and lowering the gaze is an obligation for Muslim men as-well !
    And Lowering the gaze is pre-written then Hijaab in Quran ! Though both are equally applicable in the Muslim society but why to raise the discussions on sole Hijaab factor always?Recommend

  • curious

    I started wearing a headscarf in grade two. I was six years old, and while many may find this difficult to believe, the decision was entirely my own.

    I, fully believe you.

    In fact I wonder why 6 year olds are not allowed to vote and have access to the nuclear trigger.Recommend

  • Amer

    @Nagpuri: You are ignorant to make it sound like Hijab oppresses women. I don’t think you should even try to jump into the conversation when you concepts are so retarded!! Recommend

  • Magenta

    It’s hard to get religious opposition or criticism from non-Muslims but even harder to be on the recieving end of it from Muslims. Very well written!Recommend

  • Faaltu mein khwam kha

    why don’t they eat cakes?Recommend

  • Fatima

    @Anoop:
    “Lady, liberal societies do not object you to wear any Religious wear, but Islamic societies set up rules. You must fight them.”
    Ever heard of France?

    Furthermore, why should it be this authors’ job to fight the rules of Islamic society, when so many others (-like you, perhaps?) are clearly more suited for the job? She is merely stating her right to her freedom of expression, and her right to feel resentment at people such as you.

    Most people are capable of world views that allow them to wear the Hijab themselves, and still support the right of others to wear jeans.Recommend

  • Raj

    @Zainab – Very interesting take on hijab/niqab. Its good to hear that you take your own decisions and nobody imposes customs on you. However I will like to know your view on men not wearing hijab/niqab or covering there face in societies across the globe. There are definitely exceptions but I am more referring to groups/communities where the custom is mostly observed by women(voluntarily/non voluntarily) and not men.Recommend

  • TI

    I hate that people think that hijabis are ‘playing victim’, I wonder if the response would be the same if it was a scantily clad woman talking about society treating her unjustly.

    I never wore the hijab in Pakistan, partially because I never thought to but also because the culture opposes it so strongly. My mother who began wearing a hijab whilst working in a popular private school in Islamabad was quite clearly told she would take the backseat and risked losing her job if she didn’t take it off. I think women like that have every right to play victim.

    Also, if she says she hasn’t been pressurised to wear it let’s take her word for it shall we, rather than speculate a hidden agenda. I don’t see her saying she thinks she’s better than anyone or that other people aren’t forced to wear a hijab.

    There are plenty of articles about oppressed hijabis and my heart goes out to them but Zainab is talking about how she isn’t being forced and how she’s tired of people assuming she is, which I for one can absolutely relate to.Recommend

  • Aaliya Murphy

    Hijaab. Non Hijaab. Its just a choice and EVERY human being is entitled to one. Dear pseudo-liberals out there, take a moment and realise the argument is hollow. Regards. Recommend

  • Nagpuri

    @Amer
    Either you don’t understand English or don’t want to understand. Either way there is no immediate cure.

    Wearing Hijab by itself doesn’t’ oppresses women but forcing them, either physically, emotionally or culturally is oppression.

    Like I said, women are million times more safe in west, without hijab, and are less lusted after than in Pakistan.

    And hijab in 21st century is ultimate form of vanity.

    I can’t make it any simpler and my urdu is not too good, which i doubt will help you either.Recommend

  • Kay

    Only plain face women wear scarf or hijab. This depicts lack of self confidence.also scarf or hijab is part of Arab couture for both men and women but Pakistani men want to implement this only on women.Recommend

  • kjvhghj

    There’s something very wrong when a six-year-old girl wants to wear hijaab…it’s like a childhood was stolen. It’s sad. Six year olds should just be children and run around naked if they feel like, because that’s the only time in our lives that we can really be ourselves and be free.Recommend

  • Qaisrani

    I think discussion about hijab in Pak is useless.Everyone is free to do whatever they want.I am sick of this discussion now.Every 2nd article in ENglish print media is about”Hijab”.Hijab krna hi karo,nahen krna na karo,ET ki jan choroo ab.Recommend

  • Gullible Nomore

    Dear Author,
    I had to stop reading this blog at I started wearing a headscarf in grade two. I was six years old, and while many may find this difficult to believe, the decision was entirely my own

    That is absurd! I’m sorry to say this, but a six year old is not old enough to make a ‘conscious’ decision to wear something on their heads for the rest of their lives. You may not have been forced or coerced or whatever, but had you said you chose to wear a hijab at the age of 18 or something, your claim of ‘choosing’ to wear a hijab, could’ve been taken more seriously. As I said earlier, I didn’t bother reading the article after that sentence. Thank you very much!Recommend

  • Jamshed

    Oh I understand you allright. Muslims who mostly live in the West are of two kinds. Those who have 3-4 educated generations before them and those who are straight out of Gujranwala. Kid got an education, got an enginering degree. Moves abroad and takes his villager wife with him. She sees “liberated” women. Both dont know much about Pakistani culture leave alone ettiquettes. Hijab is what they see the arab women doing so to get an identity, to identify with a socail group (any socual group at this point), the hijab/ beard becomes handy. The other group is the one which knows about their own culture and integrates without losing their cultural roots. The “i started wearing a hijab in grade two while i was in the US” is the one which had NO cultural roots or an identity so they picked up the “arabic” identity. Now these “identity-less” people want to enforce their “arabic” identity on others. I would advise the young madam to visit Saudia and flaunt her new identity and see if she becomes one of them or still remains a “miskeen” meaning wretch.Recommend

  • aheelam

    @kjvhghj
    “six years old should just be children and run around naked if they feel like”
    ohkaaay.if u think a 6 years old child can FEEL LIKE running around naked,why can’t sh FEEL LIKE taking Hejab.?

    At th end of th day it’s what u FEEL like doing.Stop being judgemental here!Recommend

  • faisal

    i just wana say one thing which convey my whole msg. ” we never cover any course book or ordinary book with GHALAAF only the HOLY BOOK QURAN is covered by muslims in GHALAAF because its paak and for respect.Recommend

  • http://lonepkliberal.wordpress.com Loneliberal PK

    I mean, to think of all those poor women in rural Pakistan, and 90% of the urbanites, who are forced by their families to wear short-skirts when they go out. Forbidden to wear hijabs, by the threat of abuse and harassment.

    Thank you so much for speaking up for the disenfranchised masses!Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/430/faraz-talat/ Faraz Talat

    Judging from the recent string of conservative blogs, you’d think there a liberal Loch Ness monster roaming around Pakistan, ripping hijabs off women, and forcing them to not maintain pardah. Methinks this monster resides only in the imagination of our self-victimizing right-wingers.

    What the author complains about does not even represent half a percent of the Pakistani society. And even there, the ‘opposition’ to hijab is usually a once-in-a-while suggestion that the woman should consider her own convenience. Perhaps a statement like, “You know, it’s not necessary for you to wear that!”.

    You want to know what stigma truly is? Try leaving home without a dupatta.Recommend

  • Xara

    Well it’s very much possible for a 6 years old to wear hijab…I started at 7 willingly and not forcefully Recommend

  • Parvez

    You were comfortable with the hijab (head scarf) in America, like in a lot of Western countries because most of them follow the principles laid down in Islam, they just don’t call themselves Muslims. Over here we shout out aloud that we are Muslims be in practice we are not. Recommend

  • Muhammad Omair

    Very well written. I am very happy to know that people like you still follow the principles of Islam and have deep respect for them. InshAllah you will be rewarded for you’re effort. :)Recommend

  • Muhammad Omair Tanveer

    @Jamshed:
    I disagree with you. Firstly, you have no evidence for your claim that Hijab is strictly for Arabs. Or can only be practiced by Arabs because it originated from their culture. Better yet, there is no evidence that the term ‘Hijab’ was produced by Arabs. The point you are missing here is, Hijab is for Muslims (and for Christians, but lets just stick to the topic in hand). Period. Whether you are an Asian, White, or Black, if you are a muslim you have every right to observe Hijab. The term Hijab means to cover yourself. It can be practiced by wearing a scarf, a simple veil or a complete abaya. So your senseless concept of identity-less “people” living in America is absurd. The moment you accept Islam, you have an Identity. Islam is a way of life and hence it gives you a purpose and an identity. So this lovely lady is observing Hijab because she is a Muslim and she already has an identity. Will be better if you could read The Holy Quran and Islamic Books to understand underpinning concepts prior making such comments.Recommend

  • Muhammad Omair Tanveer

    @Nagpuri:

    Women are million times more safe in the West? I just posted Rape Stats in the West in a previous blog that discussed Hijab. The western countries top Rape attempts in the world. In USA, every 2 minute a woman gets Raped. In France, no woman is safe after Dark. Please, for Heaven’s sake, do some research before making such ignorant and idiotic statements. Women are not at all safe in Western Countries. If you still think otherwise, I am ready to bombard you with Rape stats provided by UN. But why should I do all the hard work? Do your research.Recommend

  • Muhammad Omair Tanveer

    @MonsieurCritique:

    Your comment made me laugh. But it wasn’t an immediate laugh. It was a laugh that creeps on you, and then you laugh again. So you made me laugh twice. Thank You. On a much more serious note, if you are not a muslim or religious by any standard, don’t make idiotic statements regarding Principles of Islam. It just shows your level of Ignorance. Study Islam, study the reason behind Hijab, study why women opt for it before blabbering what the Media feeds you like hotcakes. So please, study Islam before pointing figures at its Principles. Cheers.Recommend

  • Saima

    Awesome post Jazakallah. Very refreshing to hear some sanity. Sometimes I feel the most closed minded, anti-Islam, pro-Westernizing people are those that have never seen the West. Recommend

  • Imran Con

    Good for you.
    Not good for them.
    Get it?Recommend

  • Sok Kwu Wan

    I have no issue with women choosing to cover up out of conviction and love of God. My main issue with covering up is when it is done solely to reduce attention from men. This is because once the tipping point has been reached in terms of numbers of women wearing it, men seem to find the hint of an ankle arousing. Once that point has been reached, it becomes very hard for women who do not want to cover up to go about their daily business without being bothered. Recommend

  • Aishwarya Mukherjee, Ph.D.

    There are many inconsistencies and incredible “facts” presented by the author. It is unlikely, first of all, for a six-year old girl to decide at that young age to wear a hijab. I am, originally, from India living in Europe, and have noticed the rise in the number of Muslim women wearing the hijab in the last few years. Of course, there have been women in Muslim countries, particularly Pakistan and some Arab countries, who have been wearing the full veil.The trend in the West is a recent one. One is bound to ask why in recent years? Are the women doing this under pressure from their male relatives? Are they doing it out of sheer conviction of their beliefs? Or is it just a way of asserting one’s personality in an alien environment where emancipated Muslim women tend to be looked down upon and, as a result, want to demonstrate their “independence” against the local culture? But there is a lot of criticism from Muslim women themselves who find such examples of external attire constricting and subjecting them to a society where male chauvinism and domination are the order of the day. If the intention behind wearing the hijab is to just prove one’s independence or be taken notice of by others – or even to show their modesty and protect their body from the roving eyes of men, as some say — then such women do a disservice to their other fellow women. Recommend

  • Sana

    @Sok Kwu Wan:
    WOW what an explanation! Totally agreed totally agreed 100% agreed.Recommend

  • http://salmanzq.blogspot.com salman

    @Muhammad Omair Tanveer: It is delusion to think that Muslim’ countries don’t have rape cases as bad as anywhere else in the world. The stigma and fear attached around it for women forces them to not report it most of the times. When you are able to digest that simple fact then you will find your perception of reality to be much clearer.

    Recommend

  • http://India Feroz

    There is nothing wrong in people wearing whatever they want to without making issues of it. This must be the hundredth article on Hijab. Why not a blog on “I wear Jockey and feel liberated too”.Recommend

  • http://peddarowdy.wordpress.com/ Anoop

    @Fatima:

    Yes, France doesn’t allow Religious symbols, but that also includes Christian symbols. They do not discriminate.

    I can name you ten Democracies, liberal countries with plural societies which do allow Religious freedom. Can you name 10 Islamic countries which do the same?Recommend

  • umer

    True at some level ! Hijab might be critized in people who have misguided sense that they are one of the “liberals” !
    Truth is there is no true liberal in Pakistan !! but a customized version of liberals, who actually are conservatives in every sense of the word !
    Liberal is the person who is open to new beliefs and ideas whereas conservative stick to their belief system. The so called liberals also stick to their belief system they are not open to suggestions favoring Islam. Both see logic in their arguements only. For me they too are conservatives. Recommend

  • M

    oh you poor oppressed hijabi!! why does the hijab have to define your life? Why do you think everyone is obsessed with it? Get over it and live your life normally (with or without the hijab that is your choice of course). I have friends who wear the hijab and those who don’t. I don’t judge them by what they wear and if you have friends who do, then they are not really your friends.

    In short, get over it and get on with your life. and stop being so sensitive please. Recommend

  • Vigilant

    Author wrote a full blog to prove that it was her decision to wear hijab and still some commentators are not respecting once freedom of choice. That’s why no one should listen to masses & do whatever he or she like. People will not stop objecting or ridiculing whatever you may do…..Recommend

  • Sanjay Bhattacharya

    It is very unfortunate for an obviously level headed person such as yourself, but whether you like it or not, the hijab has come to be associated with the fundamentalist fringe of Islam in non-Islamic society. Due to these associations, as a non-Muslim I cannot help feeling circumspect and constrained when confronted by a hijabi, and I know that a majority of non-Muslims feel the same way. There is no point at this stage in comparing this to other visible religious symbols – the Sikhs’ turban for example – which simply do not have the same associations (except in deepest mid-Western US but only because they mistake Sikhs for Muslims). The Sikhs have gone out of their way, for example, to cultivate an image of being gregarious, liberal and open-minded wherever they are present in any numbers. As long as a huge majority of the world’s visible law and order problems come from the lunatic fringe of Islam, I cannot see how this perception will come to a halt. I feel that it would be best, as a community, to stop wearing the hijab temporarily (no idea how this will be done) and then when the lunatic fringe have been dealt with (this is bound to happen sometime or the other) reintroduce the hijab as a personal dress choice under what will be perceived to be a more benign Islam. To fight for your rights in this already vitiated atmosphere will, unfortunately, only reinforce the stereotype. Recommend

  • Nobody

    @Muhammad Omair Tanveer:
    Yes, women are a million times safer in the west, when you compare it to eastern societies. Doesn’t matter how many rape stats you pull out. For starters, how many eastern women do you think even report the crime??
    I was born and raised in the west and I’ve never once felt threatened in my life here. Almost every trip to Pakistan (fairly frequent) at least one or two mild incidents occur and I can only imagine how many more it would be had I lived there my whole life.
    I can go out on my own without being bothered. I can walk the streets of my neighborhood at any hour and not be bothered. I can wear what I please, be where I want with my friends and do what I want and not be bothered. No one will call me characterless, no one will leer at me, no one will harass me.
    I’m not denying the wrongs; those exist in every society. But to compare east and west is simply ridiculous; stop comparing apples to oranges. This is part of the problem and one of the reasons society can’t progress as quickly as it should: denial. Recommend

  • Ammad Qureshi

    Masha Allah May Allah bless you
    Ammad Qureshi
    Rawalpindi
    *Recommend

  • Saud Usmani

    @Nagpuri:

    “Like I said, women are million times more safe in west, without hijab, and are less lusted after than in Pakistan.”

    Nice joke man, may be ur urdu is not good but your humor is worst….! ever heard of a word statistics? find a little time and compare statical records regarding crime against women in west with the same in Pakistan. Just for your knowledge read this.

    In Canada the costs of violence against the family amount to $1.6 billion per year, including medical care and lost productivity (UNICEF 2000).
    In the USA a woman is battered, usually by her husband/partner, every 15 seconds (UN Study on the World’s Women, 2000).
    In New Zealand 20% of women reported being hit or physically abused by a male partner (UNICEF 2000).
    In the Russian Federation 36,000 women are beaten on a daily basis by their husband or partner, according to Russian non-governmental organizations (OMCT 2003).
    In Spain one woman every five days was killed by her male partner in 2000 (Joni Seager, The Atlas of Women).
    About two women per week are killed by their partners in the United Kingdom (Joni Seager, 2003).
    In South Africa 147 women are raped every day (South African Institute for Race Relations 2003).
    In the USA a woman is raped every 90 seconds (US Department of Justice, 2000).
    In France 25,000 women are raped per year (European Women’s Lobby, 2001).Recommend

  • B

    A rational decision taken at the age of six? Now that is ridiculous.
    Ever heard of Childhood Indoctrination madam? It started before you said your first words and ever developed a consciousness. What a jokeRecommend

  • Red

    @Saud Usmani

    Throwing statistics is easy. What is harder is understanding how they came to be. Violence against women is significantly unreported in Pakistan because of a lack of mistrust of the justice system (rightly so, please read reports of the statements of police officers, judges and prosecutors regarding rapes for insight) and public censure (a culture which hides crimes against women as due to some convoluted logic, they seem to shame the survivors rather than the perpetrators). Despite this, to take but one example, domestic violence is estimated to effect 80% of the female population in the country. I know this of the top of my head but you may Google multiple reports by different organization, including a government wing, to confirm this.

    But let that be. You’re a man. Ask any woman who has lived in Pakistan and in some country like the US how safe she feels in both countries. In Pakistan, I can’t step out of the house and walk in the street without being harassed. In US, I can go anywhere at any time of the day, without anyone so much as passing a comment on me. Let’s discuss clothes. The harassment in Pakistan got so bad that I gave up getting ready and would head out looking as bad as I possibly could with old baggy shalwar kameez, a big dupatta wrapped around, walking quickly, looking straight ahead, making sure I don’t accidently smile. What do I do in the States? I wear shorts or skirts if I want to, I put on make-up if I feel like it, I smile and laugh, I go where I please and stay out however long as I want, I travel to different cities alone and without fear.

    Learn to listen to our voices and give due importance to our experiences. We are women. We know what it’s like for us in Pakistan and abroad. Kindly do not presume to speak for us.

    As for Nagpuri’s statement, she is absolutely correct. How you dress has no bearing on the likelihood of sexual harassment, sexual assault or rape. For YOUR knowledge:

    ‘Another interesting aspect of this trend is the fact that appearance and conservative dress codes don’t seem to make a difference either. Most Egyptian women wear the hijab and are still harassed just as much, if not more, than those who don’t, whilst those who choose to wear the full burka are not spared either.

    This finding does seem to mock the view, held by many devout believers, that a conservative dress sense for women keeps them safe, decreases their chances of becoming targets of unwanted male attention, and has a positive impact on the moral health of society. In fact, some would argue that a conservative dress sense has the opposite effect – it sends out the message that men are unable to control their urges and the onus to curtail the wild passions of menfolk is on women.’

    http://www.thecommentator.com/article/1616/sexualharassmentinegyptreachingepidemicproportions

    ‘”Among Egyptian women, 72 percent of those who described incidents of harassment said they were veiled at the time.

    “It surprised me,” said Komsan, who wears hijab. “It doesn’t matter what you wear.”

    Egypt’s most notorious case of harassment occurred last year when two fully veiled Gulf Arab women were surrounded by dozens of men on a street and molested.’

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/16/AR2008081602063.html

    Also, read up on feminist literature. Women are raped at all ages, from as young as children to as old as grandmothers over 80 years old, in all manners of dress, at all times of the day. Let’s start blaming the criminals, instead of the victims, shall we? Recommend

  • ABkhan

    Jazakallah and thanks for exposing all those pseudo liberals in our society who think its cool to make fun of hijab. They have nothing to do with liberalism, as in your article it is apparent that liberals have no problems whatsoever with covering your head. I wonder when so many organizations stands for the rights of the women who wants to do whatever they want to do, but none of them have ever worked for a woman who wants to live her life with with hijab as her own chosen way Recommend

  • Muhammad Omair

    @Nobody:

    First of all, let me get this straight. The topic in hand is not about Western or Eastern societies, because for societies I could care less. This is about Hijab and Islam. So kindly compare western countries with Muslim Countries such as Egypt, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Pakistan by no means is a Muslim country so even if you are being harassed in Pakistan, I won’t be surprised.
    Secondly, if you are taking only YOURSELF as a sample to prove that women in Western Countries are million time safe then I am sorry it just shows your level of intellect. If you haven’t being harassed in USA doesn’t mean that Women are safe there. So that is the reason why educated people go for Stats and research from Credible sources. And all the stats and research will prove you completely wrong. Western Countries have high rates of rape and Prostitution, way higher than Muslim Countries. Period. There is a reason why Hijab Policy works in Muslim Countries because women. And women in Muslim countries do go out with their friends in the streets (Saudi is an exception though) but under the bounds of the Shariah. So do remember, if today you haven’t been harassed doesn’t mean tomorrow you’ll be safe. Study stats and rape stores in Western countries to understand that the world doesn’t revolve only around you. Recommend

  • Muhammad Omair

    @Red:
    The harassment in Pakistan got so bad that I gave up getting ready and would head out looking as bad as I possibly could with old baggy shalwar kameez, a big dupatta wrapped around, walking quickly, looking straight ahead, making sure I don’t accidently smile. What do I do in the States? I wear shorts or skirts if I want to

    Seriously when did you visit Pakistan last time? Maybe in the 70s? You are good at making up stories but subjective reasoning won’t be appreciated here, unless you have something meaningful to say. And you wear Short Skirts? Please don’t come to Pakistan. Misguided People like you should stay away from Muslim countries as far as Possible (Pakistan is not a muslim country, but trying to be and will definitely be one InshAllah).

    http://www.thecommentator.com/article/1616/sexualharassmentinegyptreachingepidemicproportions
    ‘”Among Egyptian women, 72 percent of those who described incidents of harassment said they were veiled at the time.
    “It surprised me,” said Komsan, who wears hijab. “It doesn’t matter what you wear.”
    Egypt’s most notorious case of harassment occurred last year when two fully veiled Gulf Arab women were surrounded by dozens of men on a street and molested.’
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/16/AR2008081602063.html

    Seriously, you’r gonna believe all that cr**? These websites are anti-Isalm and you should be intelligent enough to realise that. And how did they research? Asked a couple of women who got harassed to pass judgements on the credibility of Hijab? LOL. You cannot prove your absurd point on the validity of Hijab by posting articles from anti-Islamic sources. And if you haven’t but noticed, the Washington Article is from 2008!! Its during Hosni Mubarak regime where things were less religious and more secular. Muhammad Morsi has made changes ti further Implement Hijab policy and that will surely affect you. But by no means your absurd link will play down the facts of rapes in westenr countries compared to Saudi or Iran or Egypt.

    How you dress has no bearing on the likelihood of sexual harassment, sexual assault or rape.

    Idiotic Statement. Open Biology and study science. And then you have rape stats to back up your study.

    Also, read up on feminist literature. Women are raped at all ages, from as young as children to as old as grandmothers over 80 years old, in all manners of dress, at all times of the day. Let’s start blaming the criminals, instead of the victims, shall we?

    Nobody is blaming the victim here. But you cannot roam around in short skirts inviting people and blaming the criminals for harassing. It doesn’t work that way. You have to be responsible for your actions as well. Recommend

  • M Baloch

    A girl of 6 years can take decisions on her own and justifies all this when she is doing graduation. Either bunch of lies or a miraculous child who got intellectual skills at that age..!Recommend

  • Jamshed

    @Muhammad Omair Tanveer:
    I disagree. First generation out of Gujranwala has NO cultural moorings. Especially in a place where he does not see very many similar people around him, he adopts the “arab” identity. I see that all around me. Talk to him about culture and you draw a blank stare. Now about the origins of hijab. I suggest you do a google search on the matter and read a little bit on the subject. If you still dont agree (and if you are as old as I am), try remembering the Pakistan that was 15-20 years ago. Not too far back. Chador was what was native to Pakistan. Dupatta would suffice most of the time. However, since the “Arabization” of Pakistan, the hijab is becoming more and more prevalent. Ofcourse, the debate has turned into a “i wear a hijab so I am automatically of good virtue and modest and pure”. I disagree. A muslim should be known by his good deeds. Thats what makes him mulsim. The beard, pulling up of the trousers and wearing a hijab is not one which should distinguish a muslim from a non-mulsim. The “aamal” should distinguish a muslim from a non-muslim. Exemplary kindness, patience, humility and a zest to help ALL beings are virtues that should be the hallmark of a muslim. Not a hijab and beard and the attitude that I pray more than you or I wear a hijab so that makes me more pious than you. I suggest you reread the Quran with translation.Recommend

  • Masood

    the fact that women may wear veil for wide range of different reasons makes us aware that it may well have some negative connotations attached with it. but at the same time the veiled women who themselves are speaking of veiling as a choice rather than imposition of patriarchal society very much justifies the donning of hijab. to me to do or not to do hijab in any cultural setting should be the woman`s own choice and no society/government has the right to impose restrictions on it. imposing restrictions are as oppressive as imposing veiling on someone by force. another point that I would like to make is that will Muslim societies (for example S.Arab or Pakistan) allow a Western woman to walk down a street in short skirt. we all know what will happen, right? so, we in the Muslim world also need to learn that every individual deserves a no matter how much different he or she is from us. the whole point is RESPECT THE DIFFERENCE.Recommend

  • Nagpuri

    ET,
    Really? You blocked simple statement?

    @Muhammad Omair

    Can you please let me know the stats for how many people are prosecuted in Pakistan for bribery? I will tell you ZERO. By that logic Pakistan is most honest? In America, there are tons of prosecution and conviction, even billionaires.

    Visit any western country or ask all women who visited and lived there how was it compared to Sunnistan. That statistics will be more meaningful. In West 99.99% of rape and harassment cases are reported and in Sunnistan 0.01%.

    Pakistanis stats about rape is as accurate as your intelligence.Recommend

  • naive

    I am not surprised that some women prefer wearing a hijab. unlike the burka I feel it makes a woman look more attractive rather sexy.Recommend

  • Alishba Khan

    I love this post. These days I have come across many people in my own country, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan who label Hijaabi’s as extremists. Or most Hijaabi women are considered to be oppressed due to family pressure from their parents or husbands. Many here might believe that this is not happening but it is, in many parts of the country. Especially the feminists active workers who believe they are standing up for the rights of women but refuse to believe that many women in Pakistan choose to be the way they are. There are also girls who belong to extremely conservative families but still wear whatever they want. I don’t really know much about what its like in the west but I do know that there are some people in Pakistan who are entirely against the concept of Hijab.
    I believe that Hijab should not be forced upon a person since it takes a great deal of your heart and mind to convince yourself to do something and sticking to it. I also think that if a girl is being conditioned to do something from a very young age, then when she grows older and is able to think for herself, she might not be able to uncondition herself. But if the author says that this was entirely her own decision (which I believe is possible) then we should take her word. But I really hope that this myth regarding Muhaajiba’s being victimized ends and Hijab is no longer considered a symbol of extremism. Recommend

  • James Bond

    @ Muhammad Omair Tanveer

    Rape Stats in the West may seems higher to you because these crimes get reported in West and cirminal get pushed. In Pakistan these crimes don’t get reported. Tell me one thing why in Surah al-Nur, Allah tell it is ok for women pass their youth, ok to drop their head covers? and why muslim women not required to cover their faces during Haj? Recommend

  • Muhammad Omair

    @Jamshed:
    I still haven’t understood your culture argument. You sound like Naseerudin Shah from the movie Khuda ke Liye, abysmal portrayal of Islam. So you think Hijab is exclusive to culture and has no origins or connection with Islam? Wrong. The Holy Quran talks about women to cover their Juyubihinna which has been interpreted in many ways where many scholars have agreed to the importance of Hijab. Also, Hijab has been proven in the light of Sunna as well. Even if we do agree with your opinion that Hijab is culturally exclusive to Arabs, then let me remind you that Prophet Muhammad PBUH is an Arab. So are His companions. So if anyone wants to follow in the footsteps of Muhammad (PBUH) and His Companions (PBUH) he/she will ultimately adopt their culture as well.
    I agree with your point regarding the importance of good deeds over physical resemblance. However, that is only the first step. The reason why many people (not all, hypocrites are everywhere) adopt Hijab and Beard is because of their unconditional love for the Prophet and His Followers. And why not? Aren’t we told that we aren’t Believers unless we don’t love Him more than our Parents? (Its a hadis) So people grow beard and observe Hijab because they are striving to become the person Allah loves the most, with the wish of being loved a little, if not equal. Recommend

  • Muhammad Omair

    @Nagpuri:

    Did you even read my comments? I don’t consider Pakistan as a Muslim country so your argument is meaningless. And Bribery stats? LOL. Don’t come up with things which you don’t have any evidence to back it up. This website is for educated people where we can come up with valid arguments. If you are looking for Troll, then go to some Indian Blog. Thats what Indian people do all the time. Troll. Recommend

  • cynical

    yeh bhi koi topic hay jissay discuss kia jai….Recommend

  • Rabia

    very true.I’ve found far more racism and intolerance in Pakistan than elsewhere. And also the individual and collective habit of blaming someone else for everything. Recommend

  • naseem

    @…it is possible indeed: Recommend

  • isloo boy

    whats with the hijab any way most women wear a chadar very few wear burqa and hijab hijab is very recent to pakistanRecommend

  • isloo boy

    no body forcing any one like one of my cousins wear jeans and shirt at public places and she is not religous while her sister wears burqa with gloves its very funny the government does not force you i cant speak for your family though bad luck i guessRecommend

  • Retro

    My decision to observe pardah came, back in 2006 when I was 29 years old. But the fact that I am a radical Islamist who wants her daughter (when Allah blesses) to observe pardah when she is around 8-10, might condemn me to the deepest pits of hell by all and sundry here.
    Be it hijab or niqab, the right to wear whatever one desires is not the underlining theme here as I see it. Its the fact that our liberal outlook and enlightened status gets threatened by those miskeens, who are lamenting the fact that they are the under dogs.How very unthoughtful of them. Recommend

  • Torque

    Good Post and encouraging for others to embrace the modesty specially for author of http://www.blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/12123/confessions-of-a-non-hijabi/. Recommend

  • Ammar

    AOA,

    Dear sis,
    “La Howla wala kuwata ilaBillah”
    God may give you strength. B/c nobody can do right without His help.
    We need sensible youth like you.Recommend

  • Fatima

    @Khurram Malik: lol are you serious. Muslims have this book called Quran and they follow a great man named Hazrat Muhammad – i would recommend you to google it – You need to cover youself wear a hijab, chadar, cap, hat watever you want to call it !!! i would also recommend to google “World Map” so that it becomes clear to you that “Arabian countries, Iran & Turkey are very far off from one another. Even when they were under Caliphate they were single entity regionsRecommend

  • http://USA Nagpuri

    @Muhammad Omair:
    Very covinent. Looking for mythical perfect Islamic society? Do u have any example?Recommend

  • Muhammad Omair

    @Nagpuri:
    Many in History. Don’t have time to give you a lecture. And one in the making now all over the world. Going to be tough, but will happen InshAllah. Its decreed. Sit back and enjoy.Recommend

  • hail hijab

    i beat you all,i started wearing Hijab at 2,well… almost.Recommend

  • Shan Nasir

    Great pieceRecommend

  • Anum

    So many articles and blogs on “HIJAB”,yet I being a hijabi as well, still face the negative looks or negative thoughts of many on women who wears scarves or abaya. The problem with our people is that, everybody is so judgemental! If they see a woman wearing an abaya, they believe she is symbol of oppression, lacks confidence, or is not eligible for a job! There should be a BIG CHANGE in the thinking of many liberalised people by believing that HIJAB is also a freedom of choice, they should not be discriminated in any way or looked with sarcasm. Recommend

  • HavenFyre

    @Kay:
    you mean this is a plain faced woman http://wholikethat.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/turkish-hijab-fashion-e1336668026340.jpg or this woman http://data.whicdn.com/images/17606857/tumblrlnvwrmnsSD1qkmce5o1500_large.jpg seriously. you don’t know what your talking about.

    Now if you meant niqabis hiding their face behind a veil there is a difference between niqab and Hijab

    Niqab http://metrodawah.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/niqab-white-hijab.jpg?w=466 <–mostly worn in Saudi Arabia
    Hijab http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_BdubNlqYtE/SeflZWdBqCI/AAAAAAAADI/FE-gDSVDYP0/s400/n14420016482380324760.jpg Seen alot in Egypt and i think and several other countries including Indonesia and Malaysia

    Do your homework.

    Peace
    From your neighborhood Hijabi!Recommend

  • Yourbro

    @Awans:
    Hijab is not mentioned in the quran??
    Please have a look again dont make these claims without a second thought. i am paraphrasing it: “tell the believing women to draw a covering on their head and chest areas..” . More research plz :p
    Thanks!Recommend

  • liberal pakistani

    i am truely impressed by this post.god bless you girl..Recommend

  • http://www.atrettkio.com/ Julio Chudzinski

    Hi there, just became alert to your blog through Google, and found that it is truly informative. I am gonna watch out for brussels. I will appreciate if you continue this in future. A lot of people will be benefited from your writing. Cheers!Recommend

  • nemomil

    @Muhammad Omair:
    Why don’t you go out and vandalise some cars to prove how devout you are ?Recommend

  • Meher

    I can totally relate. Thank you so much for writing this, Zainab.Recommend

  • Fatima

    It’s actually funny when people think taking Hijab is a personal choice because no, you don’t have any choice other than following it because Allah says so. You can not say I don’t want to offer prayer because I have personal choice. Sure you can have ‘choice’ in this world but you will have to bear consequences in the world hereafter.Recommend