Answering some questions on World Hijab Day

Published: February 1, 2013
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Hijab has encouraged me to reflect deeply about myself as a women, my identity in the greater Islamic sisterhood and as a mother. PHOTO: REUTERS

Every February 1st, on World Hijab Day, there is a new barrage of outlooks and arguments on the subject.

Having been a hijabi for a long time now, I am very satisfied with my decision. However, I do enjoy reading articles on this controversial topic. A lot of these articles are motivating and inspiring, but a majority,  reflect on the confused state of mind of the writer.

Over the years, answering the question,

‘Why do you wear hijab?’

And also reading different outlooks on the subject has brought me to some clear-cut rebuttals that surround the hijab. Read on to find out!

Hijab is a matter of choice

This banner is usually raised by the 21st century feminists who fail to acknowledge the important association of hijab with religion rather than with women’s liberation.

Personally, I feel that my decision to wear hijab was reinforced by the earlier, important choice of being a Muslim. Hence, I have never viewed hijab as a ‘choice,’ but rather as an integral part of the religion that I have already chosen to follow.

You may feel differently but I have never felt comfortable discussing hijab as a choice, similar to a subject in college or a lawn dress at a shop.

Furthermore, I strongly feel that hijab does not only contribute to the respect and protection of women, but helps preserve the sanctity of marriage by reducing temptation for either party to stray.

Covering the hair, wearing loose clothing or large chadors will not keep the lechers away

Whether it will or will not keep the lechers away is not the issue under discussion here. If loose clothing and covering of the head is cited as the most suitable and acceptable dress code for a Muslim woman, then that should be a reason enough to do hijab.

Baseless arguments such as, ‘since it will not keep the lechers away, it isn’t any use,’ only attempt to justify an act that people inwardly know is not correct.

For example, similar acts of justification have sprouted all over the Muslim world for dealing with interest based transactions.

Modesty or sharam/haya is in the eyes

This is perhaps the most ludicrous and aggravating of all statements, also known as justification, I have come across for not wearing a hijab.

If you do not wear hijab, please have the guts to say that you don’t because you don’t like it or because you are not comfortable with it.

However, please do not insult the intelligence of those who do by saying idiotic things such as ‘modesty is in the eyes.’

What does that even mean?

The correct idiom is ‘Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.’ Not modesty.

Modesty is the last thing in the eyes of a beholder who beholds a young girl in skinny jeans, a tight T-shirt, layered hair and smoky eyes walking the isles of a Clifton supermarket

This unreasonable argument cannot be disputed even for the sake of an argument!

Hijabis are forced by their husbands/families to cover their heads

This may be the case with a lot of people but definitely not all of them.

Certainly not myself; In fact, I was the one to convince my better half into this decision.

Additionally, I felt more protected and respected in my new attire as opposed to being an open invitation for lewd comments, stares and, I am sure, behind-the-back discussions on my dress, hair, figure and so on.

Just suppose, if half the women cover their heads voluntarily and the other half are forced by their families, I am sure it will be the end of the nothing-left-to-the-imagination, enticing, half naked, open female ‘invitations’ hanging on bill boards around our cities and splashed on our television screens.

Hijabis are mindless, poorly educated, suppressed women without an opinion or the ability to function or compete in the 21st century

This is one of the most common attitudes I have faced being a hijabi.

It usually takes an effort to address the other party at hand – the non-hijabis.

Yes we too have a mind, a life and the ability to function, similar to them.

The stereotyping of hijabis has been gradually nurtured by the Western media and a collective global society that is keen to exploit women as sexual objects and commercial products. Our society being devoted followers of the West, follow in close tow.

Let’s be honest that it is only this ‘ankhon kee thandak‘ (soothing to the eyes) provided by fashionably dressed women that makes ratings soar.

If not, we would certainly see more head covered, loose dress attired, less make-uped women in ads, dramas, as newscasters and talk show hosts.

Harsh words, I apologise- hardly any to fully express the reality of the situation. My arguments are many but my space is limited.

Needless to say, hijab has encouraged me to reflect deeply about myself as a women, my identity in the greater Islamic sisterhood, my strength as an individual in a world transfixed by appearances and above all, as a mother raising her children in a tough time.

Again, apologies for any hard words but hey, we have as much of a right to speak our mind as the non-hijabis.

Right?

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aalia.suleman

Aalia Suleman

A freelance writer and poet who is keenly interested in the status of women in 21st century Pakistan. Her writing also zones in on Pakistan's new social and political status on a redefined global chessboard. She has a masters degree in English Literature and blogs and invites debates at 'Socio-politically Pakistani'. She tweets @aaliasuleman (twitter.com/aaliasuleman)

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