My hijab gives me the right to assert my body, femininity and
spirituality as my own and under my authority alone.
It's been over two months since I decided to become a hijabi --
one who wears a head scarf and adheres to modest clothing -- and
before you race to label me the poster girl for oppressed womanhood
everywhere, let me tell you as a woman (with a master's degree in
human rights, and a graduate degree in psychology) why I see this as
the most liberating experience ever.
Prior to becoming a hijabi, I did not expect myself to go down
this road. Although I knew modesty was encouraged in my culture and
by my faith, I never saw the need nor had the opportunity to explore
the reasons behind it.
My experience working as a Faiths Act Fellow for the Tony Blair
Faith Foundation and dealing with interfaith action for social
action brought me more understanding and appreciation of various
faiths. I found that engaging in numerous interfaith endeavors
strengthened my personal understanding about my own faith. The
questions and challenges I encountered increased my inquisitiveness
and drive to explore and learn for myself various fundamental
aspects of Islam. Thus began my journey to hijab-dom.
I am abundantly aware of the rising concerns and controversies
over how a few yards of cloth covering a woman's head is written off
as a global threat to women's education, public security, rights and
even religion. I am also conscious of the media's preferred mode of
portraying all hijabi women as downtrodden and dominated by
misogynist mullahs or male relatives who enforce them into
sweltering pieces of oppressive clothing. But I believe my hijab
liberates me. I know many who portray the hijab as the placard for
either forced silence or fundamentalist regimes; but personally I
found it to be neither.
For someone who passionately studied and works for human rights
and women's empowerment, I realized that working for these causes
while wearing the hijab can only contribute to breaking the
misconception that Muslim women lack the strength, passion and power
to strive for their own rights. This realization was the final push
I needed to declare to the world on my birthday this year that
henceforth I am a hijabi.
In a society that embraces uncovering, how can it be oppressive
if I decided to cover up? I see hijab as the freedom to regard my
body as my own concern and as a way to secure personal liberty in a
world that objectifies women. …