Summary: The Non-Muslim Western Woman makes a judgment call out of ignorance towards an intelligent, well-informed and eager to express her opinion, Muslim/Hijabi woman.
Why Hijab?Back story: The Muslim hijabi woman, born and raised in Ontario, Canada. A firm believer in women’s rights in Islam and a strong advocate for hijab. This woman has lectured on the virtues of hijab and has been confronted many, many times about her veil and has prepared herself more each time she is confronted.
The western woman immigrated to Canada at the age of four. Grew up unhappy feeling pressured as a teenager to look a specific way but could not fit in. Eventually finding her womanhood and a new body she exploits herself regularly to vie for the attention of men everywhere she goes. She knows little about Islam and Muslims but she likes to think she knows it all. An outspoken woman willing to speak on matters she knows nothing about.
The scene: Non-Muslim woman meets Muslim woman on the streets of Toronto.
Facts: This type of confrontation, of ‘Western Woman/man’ meets ‘Hijabi Woman, takes place by thousands around the world every day’. There are some westerners who feel comfortable with confronting a hijabi woman. However, some confrontations are combative and others are simple minded individuals who don’t even understand their own ignorance and so they offer all the wrong advice with little time to listen or seek out the facts about hijab on their own. Women who wear hijab are scrutinized by the public and seem to be fair game for rude remarks and even harassment. It is my hope that this story, this scenerio enlightens.
The story begins…as the non-Muslim woman tells her tale…
The oppressed woman, rambling ignorant thoughts:
I was walking down the street on my way to grab some smokes at the convenient store when I happen to see a Muslim woman, she was wearing hijab (headscarf) .She was quiet and she had her head slightly down as she entered the convenient store to purchase a bottled water. I thought to myself what a shame look at her she’s so oppressed. Here it is on a hot summer day and I’m enjoying life in a cut-off t-shirt and short-shorts not to mention getting the attention of every guy I walk by and here she’s covered head to toe. She probably never takes it off, I wonder if she showers with it on? I thought to myself she must be so hot but yet she’s likely got to dress like that or someone like her father or husband might beat her. She’s probably just come over from Iraq or Afghanistan or something. As I walked by her to my surprise she smiled at me and so I felt as though I could say something to her. I didn’t know if she even spoke English but I was going to try. Here was my chance to give her some real western wisdom tell her she doesn’t have to put up with this crap. She’s obviously oppressed and she needs to know that she shouldn’t cover up like that we are in a new millennium. She has to know about women’s rights, we have freedoms, equality and all that good stuff. I was feeling pumped.
The confrontation in the parking lot, unveiling the truth behind the veil:
I reached out and tapped her on the shoulder as she walked by me to exit the store. She turned to me and said, to my surprise with a very English Canadian accent ‘Yes, can I help you?”. I replied with a very confident voice, “Sorry to bother you miss but I wanted to ask you something” We continue walking slowly towards the parking lot adjacent to the convenient store. I continued..”why do you feel you have to cover yourself up like that, don’t you realize you’re being oppressed?” ,”It’s because of my faith that I choose to wear hijab” she answered, choosing to bypass my comment on oppression I thought, not considering that she’s really just being polite and attempting to avoid confrontation, then I continued to say, “Well, you should know that it’s not necessary you don’t have to cover up. You should be proud of what God gave you and show it off”. “I am proud of what God has given me and so much so that I choose to share what God has given me with my husband only”. It was a good comeback, I’ll give her that, I wasn’t sure how to reply. I wasn’t expecting her to say that..hmm I thought it over and argued, “Oh, I see well that’s nice but don’t you think others should also be able to see you, how will anyone respect you, how can they judge who you really are? Miss, don’t you hate that other’s can’t see your true beauty.”
Feeling uncomfortable, swallowing pride:
OK, it wasn’t much of a response but it was the best I could come up with. Thing is I was getting a bit nervous, she was so calm and polite and I was being so aggressive and even arrogant. We were standing in the parking lot and I could see people in the car next to me starring. I was on a mission I wanted to try to convince her she was wrong and I was right, she was oppressed and I wasn’t. This is when she told me something that really made me think, and opened my mind about Islam and Muslims forever. She went on to say, “It is my belief based on what we learn from the Qur’an, which is the word of God, and the belief of many Muslim women who wear hijab that we do so expressing our freedom to be respected as human beings rather then being judged by our physical beauty. My true beauty is what I have to offer inside not out. I’m very familiar with western women, because I’m a born Canadian, (When I heard that I was totally blown away, she’s Canadian??) in the western culture women wear barely any clothes or wear them so tight you can see every crevasse of their bodies and they relish the fact that they are having every man look their way as the men visualize themselves with her.” I answer with a nod and a reassuring ‘Yeah’ in my mind I’m like.. daaa of course, who wouldn’t love that?.
She had a very calm voice. Her eyes wide and clear. I noticed her face was glowing, she was really quite beautiful even though she had no make-up. I tried hard to find a hair that may have slipped out past her headscarf, as I studied her face, I was curious I wanted to know what colour her hair was, but I couldn’t find one hair out of place. She seemed so sure of herself. I could see where she was going, as women we should be respected as human beings and not objects. I know she’s right in that men look at our bodies and get turned on and maybe that causes problems in a society, but who cares about the hair? I interjected “Yeah, but who cares if your hair is showing, why wear the scarf? it’s not like anyone’s hair makes that much difference or turns on a guy.”.She comes back with.. “Do you realize that every year western women spend billions on hair products and in salons, I have to ask you, if hair was not that important would all these products be selling? If you don’t think your hair adds much to your beauty why do you not just shave it off?” I could not reply, she was right.When she said in her soft spoken but steady voice ‘why don’t you shave it off’ I realized at that point how important my hair really was to my overall appearance.
The hijabi woman continues… “Women are clamoring to buy diet-pills and spending billions on make-up and hair products each year in an attempt to look better then the girls on the magazine covers who are digitally enhanced and are far too underweight. They show their bodies for no other reason then to promote their sexuality in an attempt to turn on as many men as possible and become the envy of every woman. They are ruled by the fashion industry buying one pair of expensive jeans and shoes and tops after another. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to enhance your beauty, it’s Islamicaly practiced, but in our homes not for public viewing. You might be surprised to know that I dress quite differently in my home, for my husband, with my hair done up nicely, a little make-up and clothes that show the shape of my figure. I want my husband to love all my attributes. (I smile at her , give an inquisitive look and choose not to interrupt.) What’s so sad is that many western girls sit at home crying themselves asleep at night because they can’t fit into the ‘glamour girl’ persona and they fear they will never be pretty enough. You’ll find 13-year-old girls selling themselves sexually through their provocative messenger profiles over the Internet all in the pursuit of popularity. It is my belief that to live an Islamic life and to choose to wear hijab helps to diminish these problems in society greatly. If more women were treated for who they are rather then what they are do you not think the world might be a better place?”
At this point, I’m standing there realizing my mouth had dropped open slightly, I closed it shut. Getting over the shock that she’s totally normal at home, a born Canadian, well spoken and obviously well educated and I’m feeling ashamed at the fact that I immigrated to Canada from England at the age of four and I thought I was the Canadian here . I realize I look like an ignorant fool for having assumed so much about her simply because she chose to cover her head and wear unrevealing clothes. I felt a sense of real embarrassment come over me, feeling my cheeks getting flush as I began to really think about her point of view. Thoughts were racing through me, Was I wrong? I thought she was oppressed?, who really has the freedom here? I thought back on those chubby teenage years when I was horribly teased about my weight and the boys wouldn’t look at me or talk to me. I remembered I was never appreciated for who I was. Only the pretty girls got the attention but I never really thought about what kind of attention. Now that I’m older and have a killer body I show it off and I love the attention it gets me. But why do I love it? Do I love that all these strange men go home having sexual thoughts about me? Is it really good that when a married man walks by me with his wife he takes three looks before he’s hit on the back of the head? I callously walk on with a grin on my face. What happens when he goes home, is his wife upset, does she love him less, does he love her less, have I caused a problem in their marriage? Am I proud of the fact that the girls are all wishing they were me? Do I give it a second thought that after meeting me they go home and start skipping meals and escalade down a dangerous crash diet lifestyle that can harm their health? Am I proud of the fact that when I talk to men they aren’t looking at me or even listening to me they’re starring at my chest, is this something I want? I know why I got that administrative job. The day of my interview I purposely wore a low-cut blouse and a tight mini skirt knowing it could help my chances of getting in. After getting the job I realized I wasn’t even qualified and it’s been a stressor ever since. Thing is my boss doesn’t seem to care that I don’t get the work done. I feel bad that the other girls in the office have to do the work I never finish. I know they talk badly about me but I’ve been trying to ignore it. My boss hasn’t even considered firing me instead he just keeps inviting me into his office to share lunch break with him while he watches my every bite of food. I feel as though my appearance may be having some kind of hurtful domino effect. I feel very naked all of a sudden.
This very informative Muslim woman finishes with “In Islam women are not oppressed we are viewed as special and precious, like pearls we are a gift to our husbands as they are to us and we are judged and respected for our good deeds, our manners, our piety and most importantly for our thoughts. We have freedom because we are not ruled by the fashion industry, the make-up industry, the magazine covers. In Gods eyes we are all treated equally and men look at our values before they look at our appearance. In Islam women have freedom in the western culture women are under the impression that they have freedom.”
She then unlocked her car, which surprised me because I thought Muslim women weren’t aloud to drive cars, she buckles herself in but before driving off she handed me a card. The card said: “Why Hijab?” and it gave a web address underneath www.revertmuslims.com/hijab . I went home jumped on my pc and searched the url. I learnt a lot that day and I realized how easy how quick we are to judge others and how ignorant I had been. I’m not a convert but I’m a non-Muslim that supports many of the Islamic values.
A new beginning:
To the dismay of my permanently frustrated, because he can’t get his hands on me, boss; I quit my job and I started to dress a little more conservatively. I’m studying and looking forward to being hired on for my academic attributes rather then my physical ones. (end)
The story you just read is completely fictional but it is based on many, many similar stories. It is in response to the questions asked to , (Muslim women who wear hijab) on a regular basis, by non-Muslims. To wear hijab is an expression of belief, a way of life given to us by God and it is an expression of freedom. Muslim women have the right to be treated as human beings, to be viewed for their intellect and piety and not only for their physical attributes.
It’s important that one does not confuse Islam with culture and the cultures and traditions of some Islamic countries who sometimes hold a very different view of women. Hijab is not a tradition it is a religious veiling that is necessary. There are women who wear the hijab, who wear it out of force and are treated poorly and are oppressed by the men in their country but Islam condemns this type of treatment towards women. Islam is a way of life for all humanity, a way for mankind to relate to one another and hijab plays a big role in maintaining this way of life.
In the end it is the woman’s choice to wear hijab but it is obligatory in the faith of Islam. However, one must feel comfortable in their choices and know all the facts. It is well understood that when adorning the hijab, in the western world, you make a statement and sometimes you’re then forced to stand-up for your beliefs and even concern yourself with physical confrontations. Not everyone’s up for that.
To be a Muslim woman and to choose to wear hijab is to be strong and free.