Why I took off my headscarf… only to put it back on again!

Source: bbc.com | twitter.com/BBCNewsAsia | By Shaimaa Khalil

“How could the BBC allow a woman in a headscarf to go out reporting?” 

BBC journalist haimaa Khalil without headscarf

BBC journalist haimaa Khalil without headscarf

My family’s old photo albums from the 1950s and 60s speak volumes about Egypt’s social and political change – not just because of the men, lots of my relatives in army uniform, but because of the women.

There they are in short-sleeved dresses, impeccably cinched at the waist. The dresses of some of the younger ones actually stopped well above the knee. And the hair!

The beautiful and complicated hairdos that my aunties and their friends pulled off just to go shopping or to their universities looked like something out of a vintage glamour magazine.

But times change. In the 1980s and 90s the strict Wahhabi version of Islam was arriving in Egypt – brought back by the millions of Egyptians who’d gone to work in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.

Political Islamic movements were gaining ground too, most notably the Muslim Brotherhood. Soon all the adult women in my family were wearing the headscarf or the hijab.

The debate on whether or not it’s an Islamic obligation for women is a long, complicated and, at times, hostile one.

I'm a BBC journalist, not a headscarf-wearing BBC journalist.

I’m a BBC journalist, not a headscarf-wearing BBC journalist.

An often-quoted verse in the Koran urges Muslim women to cover their heads and part of their chests. But Islamic scholars interpret that in different ways. They also can’t agree on a hadith, or teaching of the prophet Muhammad, in which he points to the face and hands of a woman indicating that everything else should be covered up.

I didn’t start wearing the headscarf until I was in my 20s – and I wasn’t forced to do it – despite several years of pressure from my mother.

“What are you waiting for?” she’d ask. “What if something happens to you? Will you meet God looking like this?” she would say, pointing at my trousers or T-shirt.

Sometimes I would nod, smile and walk away. On other occasions I’d fight and argue.

But deep down it was becoming ingrained in me that wearing the headscarf was the right thing to do. So, towards, the end of 2002 I decided it was finally time to “do the right thing”.

So in the next ten years, during which I moved to London and … continue reading at bbc.com

A woman’s headscarf is a garment which is heavy in symbolism in Muslim countries and, having finally decided to shed mine, I will have to don it again after being appointed as Pakistan correspondent.

Categories: Countries, Europe, Islam, UK

4 replies

  1. can some one explain to me what ahmediya is all about why do people tell me not to read ahmediya works as they are on the wrong track but i see you speak from the quran so what is the problem.

  2. Purdah or veiling is an optional tenant of Islam. It is not a basic teaching. It is derived from only one verse in the Quran the meaning of which are subject to debate even today, 1400 years later. So it falls in the category of “Mutashabehat”. (open to interpretation)
    Pardah is heavily dependent on the context. The purpose is to be dressed modestly. In different cultures of the world and different times in history it means different things.
    So everyone should relax. It is a personal choice. Some women may want to do it and some may not. In either case they remain Muslim. And only God knows the real Taqwah which resides in the heart.
    For those men who are focused on the purdah issue I say, go get a beard (a long one) and a life.

  3. eibrahim matwad, Please visit the official Ahmadiyya website to know more about us Ahmadi Muslims @ http://www.Alislam.Org

    The reasons are:
    1. They do not want the truth to be exposed.
    2. They do not want that their wrong beliefs are debunked, destroyed.
    3. They are enemies of knowledge.
    4. The prophet s.a.w.s. had said, “Seek knowledge even if you have to go to China.” I am sure there was no faith matter or Islam in China at that time. Attainment of knowledge is the basic right of every Muslim man and woman.
    5. Another Hadith states: “Seek knowledge from cradle to the grave.” But enemies of Ahmadi Muslims are enemies of knowledge.
    6. Any case is not decided unless both parties to conflict are heard properly. The opponents of Ahmadi Muslims do not want that Muslims should even see the other side.
    7. They think you are raw and ignorant. You will be misled.
    Please keep on reading material in TMT and you will get some information, Insha Allah. No worries.

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