Ikhwanweb :: The Muslim Brotherhood Official English Website

Tue109 2018

Last update19:14 PM GMT

Back to Homepage
Font Size : 12 point 14 point 16 point 18 point
:: Issues > Women
~Youth Views~ To wear or not to wear the hijab
~Youth Views~ To wear or not to wear the hijab
We are American Muslim women, who strongly identify with our faith. We are Georgetown University seniors who remain active and involved with the American Muslim community. One of us wears a headscarf, known in Arabic as the hijab. The other does not. Yet the right to wear the headscarf – without censure, condemnation or patronising pity – is a right we both defend.
Sunday, February 3,2008 16:33
by Hafsa Kanjwal and Khadijeh Zarafshar Common Ground News.org

We are American Muslim women, who strongly identify with our faith. We are Georgetown University seniors who remain active and involved with the American Muslim community. One of us wears a headscarf, known in Arabic as the hijab. The other does not. Yet the right to wear the headscarf – without censure, condemnation or patronising pity – is a right we both defend. The notion of the sexually exotic but tragically repressed Muslim woman has resided within the Western consciousness since the West first interacted with the Muslim world. In an article which appeared in Islamica Magazine, Mohja Kahf, a professor at the University of Arkansas links this hackneyed character to the “era of Romantic literature, and the Byronic plot of a white man saving a harem girl, [which] continued to thrive in the heyday of European colonialism, feeding a white Christian supremacist hero complex.”

In modern times, the veil has become an emotionally charged symbol of the struggle between tradition and modernity, between Islam and the West. It has arguably served as a partial political justification for certain policies spearheaded by the United States to “liberate Muslim women” in Afghanistan or Iraq. We, as American Muslim women, simply by living our dual identity, demand a re-evaluation of this externally imposed dichotomy. As Americans, it is not our place to speak on behalf of the women of other nations. What we can do is share our experiences and insights into what hijab means to us, here in the United States.Muslim women are not a monolithic entity. One might think that this sentence is stating the obvious, yet we often encounter peers and professors alike who fail to understand that the broad, abstract concepts they encounter in academia do not take the same invariable form when actualised in the lives of real people. It is only to be expected, then, that the reasons and motivations behind wearing the headscarf, and the form it takes, are not uniform. Many assume that a covered woman is a repressed woman, forced by some male authority figure to dress a certain way. In reality, it is this profoundly prejudiced projection of ignorance onto our beliefs that is constraining, insulting, and, in a twisted, hypocritical gesture of concern, serves only to undermine our autonomy and intelligence.

It is important here to clarify that wearing the hijab is not a pillar of Islam. It is directly related to the notion of modesty, which is an essential virtue that Muslims, men and women, are enjoined upon to embody. We say this not to devalue it, but simply to point out that the breadth of Islamic teachings and practices extend far beyond a piece of cloth. Yet we wish to address the hijab specifically because it is so deeply misunderstood by many and is representative of general misconceptions of Islam.If you ask Muslim women why they do or do not wear the hijab, you will come across no simple answer. Perhaps the most prevalent reason offered for wearing the headscarf is one of sincere conviction – women believe it is obligatory according to the teachings of Islam, and reference the Qur"anic verse in which women are instructed “not to display their charms [in public] beyond what may be apparent thereof; hence, let them draw their head-coverings over their bosoms” (Qur"an, 24:31).

Some women wear a headscarf because they want to visibly express their Muslim identity. Other women may wear the hijab as protection, because according to her conceptualisation, she does not have to reveal her body to strange men. And for others, the hijab serves as a personal, constant reminder to remain true to the values that Islam espouses. Standing out in a society that places such emphasis on physical attractiveness is not easy, and is often uncomfortable. The women who do decide to cover their hair – in direct contradiction of the values and standards of the mainstream society to which we belong – require conviction, strength of will, and a deep, personal understanding of its significance.For those who chose not to wear the hijab, the reasoning also differs. Some Muslim women interpret the aforementioned Qur"anic verse differently; they believe that although the principles of modesty are mentioned and extolled upon in the Qu"ran, donning the headscarf is more of a cultural interpretation or continuation rather than a requirement. Others may feel that although it is important, it does not reflect their personal level of spirituality or religious practice.

There is a somewhat prevalent perception that women who wear the headscarf must abide by a certain standard of behaviour; this view oftentimes deters women from covering their hair. Others believe that the values the headscarf espouses can be manifested in other ways. While wearing the headscarf may have been important in the past, today – especially in the United States – a veiled woman will garner more attention, rather than less attention, which goes contrary to the headscarf allowing women to engage in society without being judged for her personal appearance. At the end of the day, why a woman wears the headscarf is her personal decision. It is important that those looking at the headscarf from outside the tradition keep an open mind – open enough to let the true reasons and motivations of Muslim women in. To do anything less is a profound injustice.


Posted in Women  
Add Comment Send to Friend Print
Related Articles
Reviving a Tradition: Muslim Women as Religious Authorities
Muslim Americans speak out in the ‘Hijabi Monologues’
Egyptian media mogul defends hijab comment
Muslim Women Step Up
Debate on Women Issues
The Rights of Women and Minorities in Islam and Muslim Societies
The Rights of Women and Minorities in Islam and the Muslim World
Women’s Right in Islam
Terrorist Campaign Against Hijab
Women in Islam and Muslim Society
The Status Of Women In Islam
The Role of Muslim Women in an Islamic Society