Islam encourages that women beautify and adorn themselves to satisfy their own esteem, and also advises that women be modest in displaying that beauty. Islam came at a time when women were treated as a piece of furniture, only valued for what their appearance could offer and very little else. The covering of hair, like in all Abrahamic religions, was asked of mankind as a device against this dehumanization.
We ‘hijabis’ take great pride in our appearance — for ourselves. Wearing the hijab teaches us that we don’t have to satisfy other people’s perceptions of physical beauty. We wear the hijab to liberate ourselves from society’s demands and free ourselves from being reduced solely to our looks. We compel people to see us for our intelligence, our impeccable senses of humor and our magnetic personalities, rather than how we chose to style our hair that day.
Surprise, surprise. Israel is bombing Gaza again. Palestinians are dying, survivors are crippled, children that make it out alive have to suffer the loss of parents and loved ones. The infrastructure of Gaza, the most densely populated territory in the world, is completely collapsed. Its economy cannot sustain its population, and the illegal blockade Israel imposes is effectively starving the people and leaving them to wither in ruins.
"Many times, we see protests and demands get stalled by empty promises long enough for the people to forget what they were asking for in the first place. This is a message that we still want change and we will not allow ourselves to forget that."
I dislike it when people say things to me like, “You’re so lucky you wear a hijab, you don’t have to worry about bad hair days,” or “Wearing a hijab must save you a lot of time,” or “You have it so easy!” I mean, I’ve never walked in your shoes, but based off my experiences P.H. (pre-hijab!) I’m fairly certain that covering my hair with what is widely-regarded as a religious symbol gets far more scrutiny than walking around with frizzy hair. Not only that, but the assumption that wearing a scarf means it must be a mess under there shows a very fundamental social misunderstanding of what the hijab stands for.
If there’s anything that I have learned this past year, it is that no minority is as threatened as the minority opinion. Somewhere between the fervent struggle to remain ignorant of real facts and the wild campaign of agenda-pushing propaganda, it has somehow become acceptable to mute a person’s opinion simply if you do not agree with it. If you are exhausted by the relentless attempts by others to silence you, disheartened by society’s silent compliance and tired of regularly having to fight for the rights you are entitled to, I am writing this to remind you that you are not alone, and that you must persevere.
In the whirlwind that is both our domestic politics and international relations, we witness many matters of injustice and inequality that need to be addressed at a governmental level. We rightly — and clearly insufficiently — recognize the difficulties of people of different colors, backgrounds and religions. Quite often, however, we fail to recognize the challenges of the largest minority of all — women.
Science fiction stories like George Orwell’s 1984 always fascinate me. They show us a terrifying world where there is no privacy, no individuality, no liberty; your life is solely a subject of the government. If you act out of line, you disappear. You are subject to every whim of political paranoia and overbearingness, where government spies infiltrate your everyday routines, and they even keep a surveillance compound right next door so they can keep you right under their nose. It’s the all-seeing Big Brother who’s there wherever you go, keeping track of every move you make, endlessly seeking to permeate your thoughts and keep you under its control.
Oh wait, that’s not a figment of Orwell’s imagination – that’s what the NYPD has been doing at Rutgers University.
Last summer while I was staying with relatives in Jordan, a new family moved in next door to our Amman home. They had an energetic little boy named Adam, who did not let the harsh Middle Eastern sun deter the playful adventures he’d have in the neighborhood. We could always hear his bold laughter, whether it was lulling its way through our window curtains or chasing after us down the street. No wall was too tall for him to climb, and no deserted path was too scary for him to explore. Whenever I saw him, he was always sprinting towards some unknown destination at high speed, but would stop just long enough to look up at me with his bright sea foam green eyes and ask me if I’d like to join him for some ice cream. No older than five years old, he was already fearless.
I was shopping in a store last week when a woman approached me to ask me a question. When she looked up from the product she was examining and saw my hijab, she was startled and quickly exclaimed, “I’m so sorry, do you speak English?”
At this point in my life, the best response I have been able to come up with to this question is a polite smile and a “Yes I do. How can I help you?” in the hopes that this refined and approachable reaction is enough to break the ridiculous correlation between people of minorities and their ability to speak English. It’s definitely a better alternative to the anger and inner turmoil I used to feel when receiving this question.