Norhan Qasem, Contributor
Oppression is usually the first assumption a person (who is not of the Muslim faith) would make regarding why women wear the hijab. I am a Muslim hijabi. A Muslim hijabi is a Muslim woman who wears the hijab, which is also known as the Muslim headdress or Muslim headscarf. The hijab is a symbol of modesty to a Muslim woman. It represents honor, value, and dignity of a woman. It has never been a symbol of oppression, but rather a symbol of beauty, and liberation for many women around the globe, including myself.
I began wearing the hijab when I was nine because I went to an Islamic school in the Islamic country of Jordan. Ever since I was a little girl, I have always wanted to wear the hijab because I wanted to prove to everyone that I was a grown-up. None of my parents forced me to wear the hijab; rather, they told me that it was my choice whether I wanted to wear it or not. In fact, I did not think wearing the hijab was ever an issue until I came to the States. I began to notice that people judged me, and they lacked knowledge around the idea of the hijab. They also wondered why I did not show any skin. They asked about whether or not I was bald, and at times made fun of me behind my back. The way that I found out about most of what was going on was when some of the other people would come up and tell me, “so-and-so did such-and-such.” They questioned my culture and faith and asked why I covered myself in such a way. I would then respond and ask, “when a pirate finds his gold, what does he do with it if he does not use it right then and there?”
Unfortunately, many women are enslaved to trends. They assume they are “liberated” when they lose their clothing in a public setting as well as in their society. As a Muslim woman, I believe women who try to change themselves for the praise of other people is what is true oppression. For instance, women who think they are ugly because they do not have an ideal physique start to make changes to their lifestyles, so they can fit the ideal. They start searching for diet plans, gyms, ways to lose weight fast, etc. It’s not that these are bad, but the reason why they take on these practices is not good, which is jealousy. This sense of jealousy could be avoided if women covered what truly beautifies them, which could also help us be more united and accepting of those around us. Certainly, there are women who do not care what others say or believe, and they choose to flaunt their beauty; however, is that really what they want to do? Of course, I should not have the right to question what society has bestowed upon us, but I do not believe that those who choose to flaunt their beauty are liberated. It saddens me as a Muslim hijabi to view this as a reality.
I appreciate it when people ask me questions about the hijab and its qualities. It shows me that some people want to meet a person who wears it, instead of relying on the misrepresentation in the media. The hijab, to me, is a symbol of modesty, dignity, treasure, beauty and identity. If I was to ever get out of the house without it, it would be like I left “me” behind and a different person is walking out the door.