Monday, 14 February 2011

My Body, My Choice

Betcha think this is gonna be really controversial, huh?  Take on that certain hotly debated topic that often comes after (or before) that sentence.  And yes, this topic can be very controversial.  There are constant debates about it.  There are legal and ethical debates about it.  There are government focus groups about whether or not it should be banned.  And yet, it is something I do every single day.  Yes. I do it.  And I am not ashamed about it. In fact, I am quite proud of it, and very comfortable with it.

I wear hijab.

Not really what you were expecting, was it?  I wear hijab.  It was a gradual process. It wasn't like I took shahadah (the Islamic declaration of faith - There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet and messenger) and left the masjid wearing it.  Oh wait.  I did.  HOWEVER...I took it off in the car after leaving the mosque because while I knew it was necessary in the mosque and wanted to wear it, I also knew that the only member of my family at that point that knew what was going on was my husband.  In fact, I went from the masjid (mosque) to lunch with my sister-in-law and brother and told them.  They really weren't shocked (even though it wasn't something that had ever been discussed) and were happy as long as I was happy.  But we all knew that that was so totally not going to be my parents' reaction.  So I didn't wear it.

Four months later, I started wearing what I call "half-hijab."  I wore a scarf folded into a smaller triangle and wore it as a kerchief.  Then I moved on to the underscarf by itself.  Then I wore hijab everywhere BUT to work.  And in early April I started wearing hijab all the time - to work, out and about, everywhere.

I will admit, I got some comments here and there.  But for the most part, no one said anything.  I did ask some of the senior security guards at work what to do if I received harassment from anyone.  He told me (and I quote) "If anyone gives you a hard time, you call me. I have big guns."  I had to laugh.  Just a tad bit of overkill (pun intended).  The first day I wore it, people looked at me strangely.  Some people asked me if it was a new part of our uniform.  I said no, I choose now to wear hijab.  They'd look at me funny.  I'd tell them I'm Muslim.  They'd say they didn't know that.  I'd tell them that it really wasn't something I advertised.  Some people, well, they decided to just ask my co-workers, not me.  I'm not entirely sure what my co-workers told them.  I know one kept saying that if they really wanted to know they needed to ask me.  And I know someone asked one co-worker "Is she Mormon?"  Seriously?  Like, seriously?!?  A good friend, who is Mormon, said to me (when I told her) through laughter "I've been Mormon my entire life, and the only time I've ever worn a scarf is when I'm cold."  Honestly, though.  Mormon?!?

I'm not entirely sure why the hijab scares people.  Or really rather, angers people.  Especially women.  I get why the niqaab makes people nervous.  And I especially understand why the burqa off puts people.  We live in western society where social cues are taken by the way someone looks at you, the way someone says their words, not just the words they say.  Islamically, and not just Islamically but within Eastern society, it is rude to look someone in the eye.  It is especially rude to look someone of the opposite sex in the eye.  So I do understand both sides - as a Muslim and as a westerner.  However, the hijab is a totally different matter.

Hijab is not just a piece of cloth over my head.  Hijab is actually an all encompassing word for modesty.  You do not wear hijab, technically, but practice it.  Men are also supposed to practice it.  And it seems that the loudest opponents of hijab are really western women.  I have received no negative feedback from most men.  In fact, from men I am often treated better than I was before.  They are more chivalrous whether they know me or not.  Doors are held open.  I am spoken to with respect.  I am not leered at.  The only things you see are my hands and my face.  Women, on the other hand....

It is almost as if the fact that I dress very modestly and conservatively somehow sends darts to the self esteem of some (not the majority by far) of some women who choose to dress, well, wearing not much.  There are totally words that I could use to describe them.  However, I choose not to.  Those of us wearing hijab hear things like "go back to your country."  (You want me to go back to Scotland???  Somehow, I don't think that's what they mean.)  "You live in Canada now."  (Really?  I've lived her since I was 2 and a half.  Thanks for letting me know.)  "Your husband can't make you wear that."  (My husband wasn't even Muslim until a year ago, and trust me when I say that he knows that he can't make me do anything.)  And worse.

So, for the record.  Except for some where it usually occurs in the immigrant community, in cultures where there is a serious patriarchal complex, the vast, vast majority of us CHOOSE to wear hijab.  We choose to cover.  And why?  Because Allah (subhana wa ta'ala) commanded us to.  The same God that commands Jewish women to cover.  The same God that many Orthodox Christian women believe instructs them to cover to some degree.  That is why we choose to.  Not because some man told us to.  And having it relegated by the government just seems incredibly silly.

1 comment:

  1. Very well written,mash'Allah.I only hope more people can understand what the hijab really means to us.It's not always easy to choose wearing hijab in a Western society,but it does empower me in so many ways.It wasn't easy for me when I first starting wearing it,but when I got past all the discomfort and anxiety that first came with it,I finally realized how happy I was.It enabled me to see myself in a whole new perspective and I was able to focus on the important things in my life ,instead of trying to fit in into the image that western media has sadly imposed on women.Hijab and modesty in general enables us ,women, to be free and be true to ourselves.I think what many western women don't realize is how much control the media has over them and this is truly sad.JAK for sharing this.