By Imaan Ali, from the Friday Bulletin Issue 603
I really don’t understand how a piece of cloth on a woman’s head can change the perceptions, make governments fight, have heated debates in Parliaments, have media frenzy, polarize societies, spread hatred and Islamophobia and lead to countless debates. Everybody seems to be representing the Muslim women, some are trying to save us from ‘oppression’, while others want us to follow the tradition, and some use us as weapon to spread their hatred. Some even use us to win elections or to polarize the society to gain support or votes. The main point is that everyone seems to be representing us, the Muslim women. The simple logic they use is that they all want us to be ‘saved’. This assumption by the politicians, governments, common people, religious institutions and above all the media is insulting to me, as Muslim women. I don’t need any of them to ‘save’ or help me. I am capable of making my own decisions, my own choices, as long as I have the freedom to choose.
The Bible clearly says: ‘If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head’ The words from bible are far stricter than the words of Quran. Quran says to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms…” There are several other verses in both the Quran and the Bible, which can be interpreted differently, by different people. For the Muslim world, the Quran clearly states the hijab for men, a verse before the hijab for women, that they should lower their gaze and dress appropriately. But I have rarely seen any debate regarding the hijab for men. Why it always needs to be for women? Hijab does not mean only the piece of cloth; it has a large definition in terms of modesty (both internal and external), intentions and ‘haya’ (shyness) for both men and women. Haya is a part of Muslim faith.
Hijab is a part of clothing and every culture has its types of clothing, which is derived from tradition. Just like men in Scotland wear skirts. In most of the Muslim countries it is part of culture and part of their faith. For lot of sisters they would feel naked if you ask them to remove the Hijab, it would be like you are asking any western woman to remove their shirts. For lots of Muslim women the hijabis more than a piece of cloth, it is a privilege to be able to wear the hijab, and it is a daily reminder of faith. It is a way for sisters to be in charge of their own femininity and to make an active decision about what they choose to cover and what they choose to let people see. These sisters do not want to be seen as a sex object or for their physical aspects, but rather for her thoughts and their views. They want to be judged for their mind rather than for their looks and curves.
In my series of interviews with many new reverts to Islam, I could clearly see that they like this aspect of Quran which respects the women’s body and give the women a high position in Muslim cultures/ societies. It does not propagate western media hypocrisy where they use woman and her body to sell from a toothpaste to a tractor and is often judged by her external beauty and curves rather than for what she is from inside.
The European governments waste millions of dollars in debating and trying to curb the right of women in order to please the right wingers or to consolidate the vote banks. They can rather use the same money to educate the masses and make them understand that in today’s globalized world we need to respect different ideas, cultures and point of view. We need to believe that everyone has a RIGHT TO CHOOSE and we do not need any laws which tell us what to do or what not to do. The European Governments which claim to be based on freedom need to implement the same and need to get out of bigotry, prejudices and politics of vote.
photo credit: Kamal Zharif via photopin cc
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