November 30, 2010

☫ Muslim in France (Part 4)

Interviews  Muslims in the Mecca of secularism | Part 4
In the right place at the wrong time?

Intro Part1 Part2 Part3 Part4Part5

Why Hijab?

Strolling inadvertently along London's winter, a mere day away from embarking to the Middle East, I run into a Muslim procession coming from the Marble Arch.

While admiring the solemnity of the march, a group of Muslim women approaches me to explain why they decide to wear hijab. Suddenly it hits me: not only are these women not forced to dress modestly, but they are extremely proud of it and passionately defend it as a right.

In an attempt to recreate this impression, I ask Imaneh for her reason behind the wearing of hijab,

I wear it for chastity, knowing that chastity is an important base in Islam! Moreover, it is an obligation in Islam. The Quran (24:31) tells us:

And say to the faithful women to lower their gazes, and to guard their private parts, and not to display their beauty except what is apparent of it, and to extend their head coverings (khimars) to cover their bosoms (jaybs).

And in (33:59),
O Prophet! Say to your wives and your daughters and the women of the faithful to draw their outer garments (jilbabs) close around themselves; that is better that they will be recognized and not annoyed. And God is ever Forgiving, Gentle.

Binded to Reason

Obligation is a word that naturally causes some rejection, but what lies beneath it? The word itself comes from obligare, that is, binded to or engaged into something. Not necessarily a passive concept, but one which requires an active involvement. What is one binded to in Islam? A random dogma blindly obeyed? Leila helps elucidate while explaining her own choice for hijab,

Today I wear it firstly because it is an Islamic prescription and as a Muslim woman it is important for me to respect as much as I can the prescriptions which God ordered to us.

But for me, hijab is much more than a prescription. It is a real protection. Not a physical protection only, but mostly and especially a protection of faith, a feeling of safety in me and a religious reminder.
Because of the French law I could not wear my scarf at school for long years. So I know exactly what it feels to remove it and to live without it, and what is the difference with it. It is strange how a 'simple' scarf can entirely change your way of life and the feeling of devotion to God.
When I was without it I was much further from God, my religion, and my values. It preserves me from my pride. All that leads us unconsciously to the evident desire to be heard as a human, as a soul, and not as an attractive woman who made you more interested by what you see. And suddenly, all the justice of God appears like an evidence.

A Price to Pay for Modesty?

However, an extra piece of garment can't be on itself a simplification. Might it then amount to a burden? According to Leila,

It is exactly because it is not a burden that I have the strength to assume it. It is more of a responsibility, and a very hard one sometimes. I would be a liar If I told you it is always easy and pleasant. But it is a responsibility because once you take the decision to wear it you are also taking the decision to represent every hijabi woman in front of the people you meet, through your actions and behavior. Mistakes are not allowed!

While Imaneh even turns views around,

It's not a burden at all, on the opposite, to remove it would be a burden. I decided to wear it and I am proud of it! Without it I feel naked subhanallah. I was forced to remove it during my studies to make some training courses, and it made me cry. And I can assure you that I am not the only one in such situation.

A Personal Whim

The editor has often wondered if a certain comparison holds true in the view of Muslim women, so he has taken the chance to address the question to Imaneh who positively replies,

I totally agree to say that a hijabi woman forced to remove her scarf is like a non-Muslim woman forced to get naked.

With Leila warning,

To say it would also mean that all the faith of the Muslim woman lives in her scarf, and then if she removes it, she is loosing everything, which is in my point of view not true. Otherwise if we talk concretely, the comparison can be representative of the feeling of the Muslim woman if she would be forced to remove her scarf, in which case it holds true.

Intro Part1 Part2 Part3 Part4Part5


Hamid said...

"I totally agree to say that a hijabi woman forced to remove her scarf is like a non-Muslim woman forced to get naked" I feel that is a little bit harsh. Since I'm a guy I don't wear hijab so it is hard to imagine for me what is not wearing hijab like. But it is even harder to imagine that it would be equivalent to getting naked for western women.
Again I don't wear hijab so some questions confuses me like why does a piece of cloth show piety? can't one be pious without hijab? isn't piety what inside your heart?
Also I wonder what is the reason for Hijab. I haven't researched it extensively but this is what I God from some googling that I did. When Islam just started out the non-muslims used to harass the muslim women. So as to not be identified Quran ordered muslim women to wear jilbab.
If this is the reason behind hijab (jilbab), a question arises: since in the west muslim women are easily identified with their hijab, should women still should wear hijab?

Germán said...

Hamid, you clearly exercised poor critical thinking on your Google search results.

If that is so, then why Maryam the mother of Jesus was already wearing hijab half a millennium earlier? And why don't nuns also stop wearing hijab if it is all about a mere cultural issue of the Arabs to avoid sexual harassment by non-Muslim men? Your own question doesn't even make sense because Muslim women are not sexually harassed nowadays because of wearing hijab and being identified as Muslim women.

Why would it be harsh to say that forcing a Muslim woman to remove hijab is not like forcing a Western woman to get naked? Why dishonor is only valid for Westerners? If a single Muslim woman feels like that, and there are laws being imposed recently to humiliate Muslim women, it turns you into someone who trivializes the penuries of fellow human beings.

Finally, hijab is prescribed for both women and men in the Quran, precisely because it is not confined to a piece of cloth. In this context, 'hijab' broadly refers to making some part of our own selves hidden, be it part of our body or part of our personality, which revealing would otherwise make us base our social interactions on appearances and the superficial. Any means we use for it - such as a piece of cloth or modest garments - are parts of the overall behavior of the spirit and the intellect that is wisely prescribed by Islam for our own sake.

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