For several reasons, Muslim women around the world wear the headscarf, or hijab. One reason is to fulfill a religious obligation. This isn’t oppressive or demeaning for Muslim women but rather is an honor and a constant reminder of who we are.
I belong to the Islamic faith and proudly wear the headscarf. Although it is an obligation, many of us start when we feel we’re ready and end up gaining a better understanding and appreciation of the blessings that the headscarf offers. There are, however, women who are forced into it and may not be able to appreciate or understand why they wear it. Living in such a liberated society as America, women not only can come to a better understanding, but have the chance to eliminate any misunderstandings.
One misunderstanding people have about the headscarf is that it is oppressive. People think it’s absurd for women to cover themselves, and feel they do it against their will. What some fail to realize is that a lot of women, especially in America, wear it by choice. It is not oppression but rather a shield against the danger of getting dirty looks from perverted guys, verbal and sexual harassment, provocative fashions and, most of all, being viewed as a piece of meat.
Women who cover themselves receive respect and admiration from males and females alike. From personal experience, I can say that this is true. In fact, one day when I was having a conversation with two males, one was using profane language and the other firmly said, “You see this cloth on her head? Have some respect.” Even though I wasn’t too bothered by his language, the other male was. Wearing the headscarf not only keeps me in check but others, too.
Most women in headscarves don’t need to worry about men checking them out, or talking to them for sexual reasons. Males tend to take you seriously, especially in the work force. I totally disagree with the Turkish law of banning the headscarf in public offices. If women cover themselves and maintain a modest look, they will be judged for their qualifications rather than their looks. Apparently not only Turkish men but even some Turkish women feel that headscarves are symbols of backwardness. Mind you, most Turkish women are Muslims. However, there is a growing number of young women in Turkey who view the headscarf as a symbol of liberation. Some women feel they must be modern, not realizing one can express religious values and modern thoughts as well.
Many women, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, feel bad for me. Why? Because I don’t have to spend two hours doing my hair? Or because guys talk to me not because they are attracted to me, but because there is an intellectual mind behind this alluring appearance? If that is the case, then pity away, but keep this in mind: it is not that I can’t have all that, just that I choose not to have all that. I find it more impressive to have a male attracted to my personality, sense of modesty, values, internal beauty, and obviously so much more that only he can see and enjoy.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.