Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Looking Beyond the Hijab

There's been a small flurry recently of hijab articles, and I just love reading positive ones, so here's another that appeared in the Columbia Spectator:

By Aseel Najib
01 March 2009

When I was first asked to write a piece on the hijab, I was unsure of where to start. Perhaps I should begin with a definition of what the hijab is. Or a historical lesson on the hijab throughout the centuries. But maybe a personal narrative would be more interesting?

I was halfway through my third draft when I realized that a standard definition of the word “hijab” does not exist, that summarizing the history of the hijab is impossible to do in under two hundred pages, and that my personal narrative would be far from interesting to anyone but myself. So instead, I’ll begin with a different question: why is the hijab viewed as such a significant symbol?

In my eyes, the hijab is simply a 3x4 silk rectangle that covers my hair. It is neither the age-old burqa (the complete body covering women in Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan wear), nor the niqab (a covering that hides the entire face, except for the eyes). It is not the oppressive black cloth often associated with the Taliban in pictures broadcast in the media. The hijab is not meant to represent a woman’s seclusion from society or her prohibition from interacting with members of the opposite gender. It isn’t a cultural symbol or a political message—it is an article of clothing millions of Muslim women all over the world choose to wear (or not wear) at will. When I don the hijab before I leave my room each morning, I’m usually too preoccupied with ensuring it matches my outfit to worry about the political or ideological message it sends.

Personally, I’d like to think that when my friends look at me, they see more than just the hijab. In fact, the only time my friends do refer to the hijab is when they bellow across the hall for me to put it on before dinner so that we’re not late... again. Similarly, I do not view the hijab as the defining issue of my personality. There is much more to my beliefs and opinions than a simple headscarf can represent, and my identity is far too large and complex an issue to be encompassed by the fact that I cover my hair.

Read the rest here.


Saloua said...

cheers for the article.
very interesting and honest.
i do have to disagree with a few points. the hijab is meant to reduce make interaction, it is meant to create a barrier bewteen the sex's. and it is meant to be mroe then fashion. i think when i leave the house does my hijab cover what needs to be covered... will allah be pleased with how i am dressed. not if it works with the latest fashion. i buy clothes when i need to, i dont buy it for the sake of fashion. i do love to dress up, but there is a time and place. we are not meant to go out looking liek flashing signs, we are meant to dress plainly and not over the top.
this has taken me a few years to realise. and of course givin up fashion is tuff, as the bad things fo rus are always hard ot give up. but we do it for allah. who are we meant to worship? fashion designers or god?? and girls are confused between the two.

Anonymous said...

I can't say that I agree with Jana about this article being positive I agree with the comments after the article. The Hijab is more then just a cloth

Jana said...

I’m so not getting into this tedious discussion yet again of hijab is more than just a cloth blah blah. But maybe I can bring a few points up. If you actually look at the texts discussing hijab (or technically if we are discussing the headcovering aspect of it, it is a khimar) then all it really is is a piece of cloth to cover certain parts of the body. Of course we have a broader code of modesty to abide by, but that is not dependant on the hijab itself. Islam does not teach this, but it is us as people who have overcomplicated the issue and inflated it to unwarrented proportions. I think we can agree that there are many women who don’t cover their heads that are very modest in action and vice versa. Similarly, does ones modesty remove itself as soon as the hijab comes off? Modesty is not just limited to the public – it’s certainly not ok to start behaving arrogantly with family and friends. I think the point of this article was missed by some – the author is very clearly stating that she is not making a political statement when she wears hijab, but that it’s just a part of her dress code which she most likely decided on a while ago. I don’t think any of us sit their and re-examine why we started wearing the hijab each and every morning do we? Surely there are more beneficial things to spend our energy on?

Secondly in response to crude comments about hijabis caring more about fashion than religion. Please. We’ve all heard this ad nauseum. We don’t need to keep repeating the same arguments over and over again. Last time I checked, the very fact that someone has taken the conscious decision to wear hijab (esp. in a non-Muslim country) proves that they put their religion before fashion. And last time a checked, wearing the hijab was not in fashion, and most women really have to make that extra effort to prove themselves when they do. So please can we move away from nitpicking and criticisms of what others do?

Anonymous said...

i just read the comments people wrote up on the Columbia Spectator..Oops they don't seem very happy esp comment 4. Ouch.

hippie_cyndi said...

great the diversity in point of view which is what Islam is about.


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