Academic journal article Journal of Behavioural Sciences

Psychosocial Factors Related to Practicing Hijab among Muslim Women in Pakistan

Academic journal article Journal of Behavioural Sciences

Psychosocial Factors Related to Practicing Hijab among Muslim Women in Pakistan

Article excerpt

Head covering is often considered the most salient symbol of a Muslim woman. Especially hijab (headscarf/face veil along with abaya, a long gown) has been part of women attire in many Muslim countries. But its practice made way into the whole Muslim world during the Islamic movements towards the last quarter of the 20th century (El Guindi, 1999) and particularly after September 11, 2001 (9/11 hereafter) (Murshid, 2005). In the post 9/11 world, hijab was practiced more strongly in the Muslim minority countries. Murshid (2005) asserts that this veiling has occurred as a sign of identity and solidarity of Muslims in general and Muslim women in particular. Western political powers and some feminist scholarship have resisted this new trend. Argument around the suitability of hijab is going on in both the west and the secularized Muslim countries. Amidst these conflicts, the present study is planned to explore the phenomenon of hijab in Pakistan, which is a Muslim majority country and where the dress of the citizens is not a major issue of dispute and women cover themselves in multiple ways.

The west and the liberals have constructed veil/hijab as a sign of oppression and seclusion of women. On the other hand, religious scholars in special and the Muslim societies in general have defended it as a source of religious identity and modesty (Murshid, 2005). With regard to the wearers themselves, it has been noted that women have resisted whatever has been put on them forcefully, whether it is to veil or unveil them (Khaddarposh, 2004; Murphy, 2006). Along with identity, they have tried to carve autonomy. In the past, hijab might have been a token of their subjugation, but presently it has functioned to foster agency and inculcate esteem (Woldesemait, 2012).

Clark (2007) emphasizes that hijab is after all a piece of cloth and is merely a symbol. It oppresses or empowers depending on the society, customs, and the psyche of the wearer herself. Clark further suggests that hijab is not worn for a certain political expression, but has multiple reasons. For example, Cole and Ahmadi (2010) found that hijab is adopted for religious commitment and to conform to parental expectations. Going a step ahead of religion, Woldesemait (2012) in Jordan observed that wearing hijab is after all women's own choice. Droogsma (2007) and Kopp (2005) found that hijab defines Islamic identities, functions as a behavioral control, and wards off sexual objectification, brings more respect, preserves intimate relations with close relations, and provides freedom.

Associated with religious extremism, hijab became a target of discrimination in west after 9/11. Hijab-wearing women have faced difficulty obtaining employment, have been denied educational rights, have been removed from flights for security reasons, and have received aggressive looks and shouts from the people at the public places (Droogsma, 2007). Despite these derogatory conditions, these women have shown resilience. What they earn from wearing hijab outweighs what they lose from it. For instance, veiling affords respect (El Guindi, 1999), is linked with self-esteem and lowering depression (Rastmanesh, Gluck, & Shadman, 2009), and earns autonomy and agency (Woldesemait, 2012).

From this background of literature on hijab, we feel that there are some gaps in the scholarship on hijab. Most of the studies cited above have been carried out in Muslim minority countries (for instance, America) or in those Muslim countries where the state decides upon the dress code of its citizens (for example, Iran and Turkey). Moreover, most studies have been done from social political perspectives. These include, for instance, religious historical aspects (Carvalho 2013; El Guindi, 1999), political issues (Bhimji, 2008), cultural elements (Anderson, 2005); immigrant women (Droogsma, 2007; Kopp, 2005) and legal angle (Clark, 2007). In the present study, we attempt to look for psychological aspects as well. …

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