The more legal and material hindrances women have broken through, the more strictly and heavily and cruelly images of female beauty have come to weigh upon us…During the past decade, women breached the power structure; meanwhile, eating disorders rose exponentially and cosmetic surgery became the fastest-growing specialty…pornography became the main media category, ahead of legitimate films and records combined, and thirty-three thousand American women told researchers that they would rather lose ten to fifteen pounds than achieve any other goal…More women have more money and power and scope and legal recognition than we have ever had before; but in terms of how we feel about ourselves physically, we may actually be worse off than our unliberated grandmothers.
(Naomi Wolf 1991 The Beauty Myth )
Ideological battles are often waged with women’s bodies as their emblems, and Western Islamophobia is no exception. When France banned headscarves in schools, it used the hijab as a proxy for Western values in general, including the appropriate status of women. When Americans were being prepared for the invasion of Afghanistan, the Taliban were demonised for denying cosmetics and hair colour to women; when the Taliban were overthrown, Western writers often noted that women had taken off their scarves.
I experienced it myself. I put on a shalwar kameez and a headscarf in Morocco for a trip to the bazaar. Yes, some of the warmth I encountered was probably from the novelty of seeing a Westerner so clothed; but, as I moved about the market – the curve of my breasts covered, the shape of my legs obscured, my long hair not flying about me – I felt a novel sense of calm and serenity. I felt, yes, in certain ways, free.
(Naomi Wolf 2008 Full Article Click Here)
There’s been quite a buzz about Hijab in these parts, such that it seems that the Hijab is coming under a viscious attack in a civil war, prompting Safiyyah and I to tentatively launch a Defend the Hijab campaign- Safiyyah has posted an excellent piece on the subject and I quote a snippet of her opening here-
Apparently, there is a trend amidst young Muslim girls to wear “hijab” but commit the most heinous of acts, while still trying to keep up the “innocent Muslim girl” act. This in turn, has prompted some people, to over-generalize about hijab, some even going to the extent of saying it is just a cover for carrying out sinful deeds, unsuspected. This warrants an agressive defence, of that which I hold dear to me, so I have decided to put fingertips to keyboard, and formulate my beliefs, opinions and experiences about being a Muhajiba (one who practices hijab).
(For the full post, click here)
I’ve been in hijab since I was thirteen years old. No, it was not forced upon me. I was covering my hair sporadically since twelve, but at thirteen, I remember waiting to see the pulmonologist, wearing an abaya over my jeans and tshirt, I felt such calm, so at peace with myself. I told my Dad that I wanted to wear an abaya ‘all the time’. I’ve had my moments of rebellion, my fleeting attempts at higher degree of street-cred but I shan’t expound on them here, because I feel some shame in them and I believe that peddling the sins, my own and others, for the entertainment of a few amounts to a seedy glorification of it. May Allah forgive us all. Remember the Hadith,
Narrated by Abu Sa’id al-Khudri: I heard the Messenger of Allah(blessings and peace be upon him) as saying: ‘He who amongst you sees something abominable should modify it with the help of his hand; and if he has not strength enough to do that, then he should do it with his tongue; and if he has not strength enough to do even that, then he should (at least abhor it) from his heart; and that is the least of faith. (Muslim)
Safiyyah aptly says,
To those people who seek to malign the hijab, through their actions, remember that society might think good of you, but what of Allah? And to those who damn those who practice hijab due to the actions of a few, remember that the believers are supposed to cover the sins of their brothers and sisters, and try to change them, not expose them.
Saaleha, in her post, You know what I am before you know who I am, says, ‘Ramadaan tends to froth up the visual Islam; the conventional markers of the Faith such as the hijab and the beard’. She’s succinctly described the place of the Muhajiba in this society. It’s easy to pick on the Muhajiba because she’s easily picked out.
A final message to the detractors,
This is not an elitist club. I don’t think I’m better than you. I am not perfect. Kindly do not subject my intentions to conjecture. We really are in this together. May we all find the common ground to join our hearts and minds in rendering better versions of who we are.