Muslim women at UTSA explain Islamic dress
Courtesy of Will Tallent/The Paisano
Islam is not a culture– it is a religion. Muslims are not a race– they are believers of Islam. Muslim women are not oppressed– they are liberated.
Misconceptions are commonly circulated about traditional Islamic dress and what it means. Muslim students at UTSA speak about the different Islamic clothing they choose to wear and what it means to them.
“Simply plain ignorance,” says Jasmin Ali, UTHSC pre-med junior, “has misled westerners to believe that Muslim women are oppressed.” Ali was born Muslim, but her family converted before her birth. As a Muslim-American woman, she understands the struggles of Muslim women in western society and culture.
One false belief is that Muslim women are required by patriarchal society to be covered, which hinders them from being individuals. The truth is much different from the common misconception that a veil is intended to segregate women from society. In actuality, it is intended to protect them from society. According to Islam belief, Muslim women are deemed to be of great importance and thus, highly protected.
Discovering that they were not born Muslim but converted to Islam may be shocking to a misled westerner. The majority of the women who cover themselves whole heartedly accept the covering and find it liberating. Although the Quran, the holy book of Islam, states that women must cover, most Muslim women actually choose to cover themselves.
“I feel beautiful and like a queen,” said Miranda Mungia, former UTSAstudent and member of the Muslim Student Association (MSA). Although Mungia was born Catholic, she completed her Shahadah(conversion to Islam) two years ago and has never looked back. She has worn a hijab for a little over a year and feels that is has brought her closer to her family and to God.
Some Muslim women choose to cover themselves more than thehijab allows. The niqab allows a woman to cover her entire face except for her eyes.
“I hope to one day wear the niqab, Insha’Allah (God willing),” Mungiastates, while also mentioning she would like to wear the burqa, which is the complete full covering with only a small screen that allows women to see through, “But in America, it is a bit more shocking.”
“I like it, I like it a lot [but] personally would not wear a niqab because it would be hard to do things in this country. If I moved to another country, I would definitely test it out,” said Ali.
Many westerners don’t fully understand that a half or full-face covering is not required for Muslim women. The Quran requires women to cover everything except their face, hands and feet; therefore, when a Muslim woman covers more than what is required, it is typically her own choice and a form of protection.
Muslim women feel that respect is typically given to a woman wearing a covering. “It feels good because you are treated in a respectful manner,” said Ali. She proceeds to tell incidences of how American men tend not to look at her, open the doors for her and try to avoid touching her or invading her personal space. That respect is the overall goal of a Muslim woman who covers herself.
Some cultures and regions in the Middle East do, however, require women to wear a full covering, such as a burqa, which covers the entire face with only a small screen for the woman to see through. These are cultural limitations and are not always interpreted as a religious requirement of Islam. According to Ali, cultural practices are acceptable, as long as “[One] never turns cultural practices into Islam.”
Islamic education teaches a Muslim woman the importance of covering herself and that modesty is important to show a sign of respect for God and Islam.
Ali and Mungia are both devout Muslims who have chosen to proudly wear a covering out of respect for themselves and out of devotion for Allah.
More information about Islam and its women can be found through attending an MSA meeting. Information can be found at their website: http://www.utsa-msa.org or by checking out http://www.islamswomen.com