Stories about hijab

Lost in translation: 12 signs you’re new to Pakistani culture

Recently moving from Canada, where I’ve lived practically my entire life, to Pakistan, I’ve had to do a lot of learning.  Here are few of the things I have learnt since coming to Pakistan: 1) My mother-in-law asked me to clean char maghaz. Source: Reactiongifs I was relieved to learn that I was supposed to clean seeds and not four animal brains. 2) There is no uncle by the name of ‘lal baig’. Source: Reactiongifs 3) Don’t’ wear bronzer in Pakistan; rather than getting compliments on a healthy glow, aunties will recommend Fair and Lovely. Source: ...

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Hijab4Men: Let’s turn the tables and show men how it feels

You’re showing too much hair. You’re wearing a lot of makeup and your tight jeans? Well, you’re ruining the reputation of the hijab. These are just a few examples of the criticism many hijabis face.  Recently there were even adverts all over the Middle East comparing Muslim women to wrapped sweets – a lollipop with a wrapper symbolises perfection, that is, the angelic Muslim maintaining her pardah, while an ‘unwrapped lolly’ attracts flies to the haram enticement of an exposed ‘sweet’. The men behind such adverts will deny that comparing Muslim women to sweets is objectifying us. They will contest that they are merely using the analogy ...

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Can a woman only choose one – hijab or a successful career?

Not too long ago, the hijab was considered a choice; a woman’s right if she wanted it to be. Today, not only is it a source of contention and a consistently hot topic of debate, it is considered a form of subjugation. In all honesty, I cannot comprehend how or why the hijab seems like such a hindrance, especially when only some women wear it in our country. Whether these hijab arguments stem from abhorrence, fear or just narrow-mindedness, I do not know. What I do know is that we argue about it behind a very subjective definition of ‘liberalism’. These ‘liberals’ ...

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In Italy, I was asked why I was not wearing a Burqa

It was our last day in Rome. My friend and I decided to spend it at our two favourite places in the city – Piazza Navona and the Trevi Fontana. It was almost noon on a pleasant day with the brilliant autumn sunshine warming the cobble-stoned square and illuminating the magnificent Roman sculptures in the centre of the piazza (city square in Italian). It was as if both of us wanted to take a part of Rome away with us in our hearts as we sat quietly on the stone bench simply absorbing the relaxed Italian life around us. I had my camera ...

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Skimpy clothing in Saudi Arabia? If you’re in a compound, sure!

I remember watching a movie a couple of years ago, called Kingdom, the plot of which centred around an armed assault on a Saudi Aramco housing compound. For those who are not aware of the oil and gas industry, Saudi Aramco is a Saudi Arabian state-owned oil company, which has exclusive rights of oil extraction in the country. At the moment, Saudi Aramco is the biggest oil exporter in the world. The movie Kingdom was released in 2007 and that was my first exposure to the life-style followed in the housing compounds of this company. Last week I got a chance to actually visit a ...

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Attacked for wearing a Hijab: What is religious freedom to the West?

On August 16, 2013, a pregnant Swedish Muslim woman was attacked, because she donned the hijab. It was near midnight when this young woman approached her car. She was not only harassed with racial slurs and taunts, but was assaulted in multiple forms including her scarf being ripped off from her head. This violence left her suffering from a concussion. The attack took place in suburban Farsta, which is in the south of Stockholm. Swedish police are treating the incident as a hate crime, though no arrests have been made yet. The attacker, a male, made what the Swedish media ...

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Sexually harassed in Pakistan, with or without a hijab

I have spent two years in Boston, a city that comes close to Karachi in terms of being, what is called, a metropolis. It may not be as large or chaotic as Karachi, but the comparison qualifies for the purpose of this piece. While in Boston, I often found myself walking home from college at ungodly hours because I had to put in a lot of time studying at the library. In the time I spent there, I received around six or seven emails from the Boston University Police reporting crimes at or near the campus, much of them involving ...

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You poor, oppressed hijabi!

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 hair. No, 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, ...

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Hello, any moderates out there?

After reading the Reuters report on dance parties in Pakistan and watching the daily shenanigans of the religious extremists on television, I’m starting to feel lonelier and lonelier in this extremely dichotomous and polarised society. I do not know how it happened but it certainly happened sometime in the last few years when practically all Pakistanis chose their sides. Today, a person is either the ‘I’m-better-and-smarter-than-all-of-you’ type of liberal or he or she is a ‘we’ll-blow-your-head-off-if-you-ask-for-any-rights’ type of religious fundamentalist. So now, the debate is always on miniskirts versus the hijab and on dance parties or dars. In their liberal or ...

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The veil as an accentuation of beauty

The image you see above is based on one of my very first experiences in Saudi Arabia. With the naked beaches of Barcelona a not too distant memory, I headed down to the Arabian Gulf for a dip. There, I became mystified by something black and obscure out at sea. It looked like a huge jellyfish. Then, as it approached closer, I realised that it was in fact a woman. It was such an intense experience that I just had to capture it for myself. However, it was not until a few years later in Dubai, when I had acquired ...

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