Everything covered but her eyes, what a cruel, male-dominated culture.
When you see a woman wearing a hijab, what is your first impression of her? Do you have an ethnocentric view that forces you to believe that because of her religion, she has no free will? Is her head scarf an indicator that she is involved in terrorist activities? Or do you assume that she is suffering from the inequalities of a male dominated religion?
Since 9/11, there have been many misconceptions about Muslims and Islam. The media has failed at accurately portraying the Islamic religion and way of life. Islam is presented as a barbaric, vile, and oppressive religion. Furthermore, due to crude generalizations, Muslim women who wear hijabs are stigmatized as subdued and in need of liberation. The hijab is viewed as a restriction to a Muslim woman’s freedom to express her views and opinions, freedom to education, and freedom to drive. For a vast majority of Muslim women, this is the furthest thing from the truth. The hijab does not symbolize oppression or suppression. To contrary beliefs, the hijab is not worn only to keep the illicit desires of men in check. The hijab is not simply a scarf or a head covering. Wearing the hijab is a symbol of modesty and dedication. It is an outer manifestation of an inner commitment.
I am privileged to have very close friends who are Muslim and are willingly to educate me about the religion. Although I have gained some knowledge regarding this subject matter, I do not have personal experience. Instead of writing a post solely based on my opinions, I wanted to provide my friends with a medium to dispel the different misconceptions and generalizations regarding the hijab. I asked them a few questions and here is what they had to say…
Rise Africa: What is the meaning behind the hijab?
Zeitun Tifow: I’ll speak personally. There are two aspects to my hijab, the physical aspect and the character aspect. The physical aspect is the hijab itself. My hijab is my identification in a sense. When people see my hijab they identify me as a Muslim woman. Aside from the physical aspect, my hijab is more than just a scarf I put on every day. My hijab is who I am as an individual, which is where the character aspect comes in. For me, my hijab represents modesty. As women, our appearance is what gets the attention and not our intelligence or who we are as human beings. The focus is all about our assets and what we carry physically. People may try to deny this, but it is true. I wear my hijab to protect myself from that. I want people to look beyond my physical appearance and focus on who I am as an individual. I want people to see Zeitun and not her assets.
Ahmad Abdullah: To my understanding, the hijab is a symbol, manifestation, and display of humility, self-respect, and service to the most high.
Rise Africa: What is the biggest misconception about women who wear the Hijab?
Zeitun: I would say the oppression aspect. It seems as though we are judged by the way we dress. That way of thinking is heavily influenced by the media. What’s often heard in the media is that women who wear the hijab have no freedom in their choices. Muslim women are viewed as being in an oppressive religion. When we see Islam, we think of countries such as Saudi Arabia where women are forced to be covered head-to-toe. This becomes the standard understanding of all Muslim women. We must separate culture from religion. What you see in Saudi Arabia cannot be used to generalize a population of over 1.5 billion Muslims around the world. The fact that these laws are limited to Saudi Arabia speaks volume that it is more culture than religion. My biggest disappointment is that the media promotes these different stereotypes and misconceptions and people feed into it.
read entire interview