Five truths about the hijab that need to be told

 

A women is more than what she wears. Darrin Henry/Shutterstock

Rio 2016 is proving not just to be a platform for sporting prowess, it is also helping to shake up some traditionally-held cultural misconceptions too.

In the West, many regard traditional Muslim dress like the hijab as a sign of oppression, with women forced to wear the garments by men. But it is not as simple as that: many women choose to wear the hijab as a sign of faith, feminism, or simply because they want to.

Recently, 19-year-old Egyptian volleyball player Doaa Elghobashy’s decision to wear a hijab while competing against Germany caused a stir. Her and partner Nada Meawad’s team uniform of long sleeved tops and ankle length trousers were already a “stark contrast” to the German competitiors’ bikinis, yet it was Elghobashy’s hijab that media attention focused on.

Doaa Elgobashy at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Reuters

Elgobashy and Meawad were the first team to represent Egypt in volleyball at the Olympics and, in the words of Elgobashy, the hijab which she has worn for ten years “doesn’t keep me away from the things I love to do”.

The determination and sporting prowess that Elgobashy displayed is a polar opposite to the assumption that all hijab-wearing Muslim women are passive and oppressed. The support and celebration that Elgobashy’s hiajb has also received is in direct contrast to the banning of burkinis in several French towns – though to look at both outfits, they cover the same amount of the body.

Many Muslim women today are wearing hijabs and other traditional dress to challenge the assumption that these are symbols of control. In fact, there are several revealing truths about Muslim dress that society must hear.

1. Women are not forced to wear hijabs

Some women choose to wear the hijab because it is a national tradition of their country of origin, or because it is the norm in their local area, city or country. Others wear it to demonstrate their commitment to dressing modestly and for religious reasons. Like any item of clothing, some women wear the hijab for specific occasions, such as for family or community events, or during particular times of day but take it off at other times, such as wearing the hijab to and from school or work but taking it off while studying or working.

A very small minority may claim to be forced to wear the hijab. However, many studies show that in fact Muslim women choose to wear the hijab as a way of showing self-control, power and agency.

2. You’re not sexually oppressed

Many hijab wearers have said that they wear the veil not as a symbol of control by a man, but rather to promote their own feminist ideals. For many Muslim women, wearing a hijab offers a way for them to take control of their bodies and to claim a stance that challenges the ways in which women are marginalised by men.

Research has shown that for young Muslim women, wearing a hijab says little about the likelihood of them having a boyfriend or participating in a sexual relationship. Indeed, some young women have said they would wear the hijab to give them more space to engage in such activities.

Pakistani activist, Nobel Prize laureate and hijab-wearer Malala Yousafzai. Niall Carson / PA Archive/Press Association Images

3. You’re not more likely to be linked to terrorism

Since 9/11, negative media coverage of Muslim communities, alongside government counter-terrorism policies in many Western countries, has further demonised Muslims. British research has shown that government policies have resulted in Muslims receiving unjustified attention in airport security, for example. They have also been shown to have created extra tensions and divisions between Muslim communities and the police.

For some hijab wearers, the hatred towards Muslim communities pushed them to stop wearing the veil after terrorist incidents, like the 7/7 London bombings, in order to minimise the chance of them experiencing racism. However, at the same time others started to wear the hijab to show their commitment to their religious faith. The hijab therefore cannot be a fixed symbol, but is far more flexible and changeable – and certainly cannot be deemed a marker of terrorism.

4. It’s not a ‘West versus rest’ division

There are many different styles, colours and shapes of hijab including different ways of wearing it. There is also a rising transnational Muslim fashion trade focusing particularly on younger women. In many respects, the hijab is similar to any other item of clothing with businesses marketing different styles and brands in order to maximise sales.

Patriotism, politics and hijab combine at a US democratic rally. EPA

This global fashion trade transcends national and regional boundaries. It is about maximising the market rather than reinforcing divisions between the West and the Muslim “rest”. Rather than asking why a women is wearing a hijab to reinforce difference, we should ask what high street store or online retailer she purchased her clothing from and what attracted her to this brand. For some wearers, this is far more pertinent and telling of their personality.

5. The hijab is not something to be feared

A recently published report of anti-Muslim abuse in England found that more than 60% of victims are women, and 75% of these women were visibly Muslim so were likely to be wearing some form of head-covering. Women were also more likely than men to suffer anti-Muslim attacks on public transport or when shopping. The vast majority of the perpetrators in these incidents were white men, motivated by stereotypes. So rather than being feared, it’s more likely that women wearing hijab might fear others.

Muslim women wear the hijab for many different reasons all of which can change over time. This applies if the wearer is a community activist, an Olympic athlete like Elghobashy, a PhD student, a mother of young children or some or all of these. Any assumption that society attaches to the veil will never be right for each individual wearer, and it is for that very reason that we need to start changing the way we view it.

source:

http://theconversation.com/five-truths-about-the-hijab-that-need-to-be-told-63892

12 replies

  1. VIEW FROM PROGRESSIVE MUSLIM.
    Those women who cover their whole body except face, hands and feed are less blessing from God. They are bigot Women. She cannot a role model in Modern society.

    1. Most women are reluctant to participate the sport- activities. Only few women can pursue her dream in this world. Few Muslim women participte in Olympic.

    3. Most women are reluctant to work at Non Muslim
    Company. Some companies are reluctant to employ woman who wear hijab.

    4. Some Non Muslim consider those who wear hijab are bigot, less freedom.l, less knowledge become the second class in International community.

    5. Some non Muslim reluctant to make friend with Muslim
    Women.

    Therefore Muslim women cannot be a role model in International stage. Very sad. Clerics should be blamed.
    Clerics mislead women and put them in difficulty and less freedom than men.

    I urge Muslim women do not need to feel quily if you do not wear hijab in the Westren Countries. Women and men should has equal freedom with men and the equal opportunity to pursue her dream.

    All love ❤️

    • In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful.

      This is not just an opinion but what is commanded by Almighty Allah, to those whose truly believe in Him and the Last day. The religion that people call Islam of today is not that which is enjoined by Allah; the real Islam is peace when the command of Allah are obeyed as best as possible.
      However, majority of Muslims have deviated from the teachings of Allah in the Holy Qur’an and have adhered to other form of guidance. In looking at the aspect of worship, true believers in Islam are commanded to observe prayer, which is mostly devoting more time glorifying and praising Allah in the minds with no loudness in the mornings and evenings; then the other physical form is observed at night. But majority pray 5 times in a day.
      Another aspect, is devoting to Prophet Muhammad as this is contrary to the real Islam. True believers are commanded to follow the faith of Abraham who is not of those who set up gods with God. Only Allah Almighty is One to be praised.
      These are few of the teaching of the real Islam by Allah Almighty which are found in the Holy Qur’an. Thus, would be unjust when the religion of idolatry is posed as the real Islam.

    • Somi is a ‘lone voice’. All members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at love Hijab. We are proud of our ladies and respect them.

    • Somi this has been answered time and again but seems to me that you are hell bent on getting every woman on this planet away from modesty and hijab. Have you ever thought that women do take part in Olympics because they do want to and hijab has nothing to do with it.

      Instead of imposing your ideas, thoughts and your decisions on women I suggest you ask the women what they want. The ones who want to remove their hijab can do so. But the ones who want to keep their hijab, please, PLEASE leave them alone to make their independent choice.

      Thank you Somi.

      • Yes sometimes one despairs. Is our work on The Muslim Times not much use? We try to educate and bring different views, but most people simply stick to their views and are not really interested in other people’s opinion…

    • I am taken aback by such response from a muslim. Does progressiveness mean to deviate from the path told by the Prophet (saw)?
      Were all women companions of the Prophet (saw) backword?

  2. Compare Progresive Muslim women. They do not need to wear hijab in public place just wear modesty dress like King Jordan family

    Most family of King of Gulf states do not wear Hijab

    All love ❤️

  3. I urge Ahmadiyyah Parents and clerics please do not brainwash our lovely young girls, give them freedom and let them deside her fucture, our duty is to remjnd her— not impise on her.

    All love ❤️
    A wise parents always look at to them selve if there is something wrong but the foolish parents blame others
    Priverb daud

    • When will Somi give up? We have noticed your opinion and happen not to agree with it. Ahmadiyya parents ‘advice’ and do not ‘force’. Let’s face it: In the West one cannot ‘force’ any one to do anything, as immediately ‘the clever girls’ would seek help from teachers etc. Those who do wear the hijab therefore all wear it out of their own free will and decision. So, please give up, Somi. Go to Saudi and Iranian blogs with your ‘wisdom’.

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