Jumanana HASEEN Under the veil, we are free souls

I’m a regular teenager who loves everything that has to do with fashion. I don’t fancy covering my head like Muslim women are supposed to either and I consider myself someone with a neutral view of things. But the recent hoopla on in social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter over Muslim women being oppressed and suppressed under the burqa is something that I strongly disagree with. I can’t help saying that the media, along with certain sections of society, are exaggerating things as usual.It is simply beyond my logic why people whine and create a lot of commotion over women wearing burqa, but are completely at ease with the so-called “forward” bikini-clad women. Society is okay even with celebrities posing nude for glam magazines but raise an uproar over burqa-clad women. This couldn’t get any more disgusting.The actual question, though, is about the freedom of choice. If a Muslim woman is comfortable with her dressing and is doing no one any harm, then why bother about it? Nobody opposes the lingerie ads and the photos of women in “hot pants” and exposed cleavages printed in magazines and hoardings. Why the double standard? Is this fair in any manner?Coming to the next misconception. I have been hearing this over and over that Muslim women are being oppressed under the burqa. Yes, there are women being oppressed and subjected to the most inhuman torture and brutality imaginable, especially under the Taliban. But there’s a small correction here. Just because a woman is wearing the burqa, it does not necessarily mean she is oppressed. And come to think of it, every Muslim is not a supporter of the Taliban and, on the contrary, many are against them. I live in Calicut, where a majority of the Muslim women I see are under the hijab and some of them I know quite well! But I must say, under the hijab lies the empowered, well-educated, smart, independent women who are also well-versed in English. They go about driving scooters and cars like any other and they are also important decision-makers in the family.As a girl who sees empowered, happy and smart women in hijab around, it is indeed hard for me to digest the statement that women are being suppressed under the burqa. In fact, most of the women I know have chosen to wear this attire out of their own choice and not out of compulsion. While society and feminists are busy saying how narrow-minded the Muslim society is, I would like them to open up their minds a bit and look around before making a solid statement. Of course, there are exceptions like the unfortunate women I mentioned earlier. But my point is that the hijab doesn’t make Muslim women the slightest bit oppressed. It is only a matter of personal choice.I’m a regular teenager who loves everything that has to do with fashion. I don’t fancy covering my head like Muslim women are supposed to either and I consider myself someone with a neutral view of things. But the recent hoopla on in social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter over Muslim women being oppressed and suppressed under the burqa is something that I strongly disagree with. I can’t help saying that the media, along with certain sections of society, are exaggerating things as usual.It is simply beyond my logic why people whine and create a lot of commotion over women wearing burqa, but are completely at ease with the so-called “forward” bikini-clad women. Society is okay even with celebrities posing nude for glam magazines but raise an uproar over burqa-clad women. This couldn’t get any more disgusting.The actual question, though, is about the freedom of choice. If a Muslim woman is comfortable with her dressing and is doing no one any harm, then why bother about it? Nobody opposes the lingerie ads and the photos of women in “hot pants” and exposed cleavages printed in magazines and hoardings. Why the double standard? Is this fair in any manner?Coming to the next misconception. I have been hearing this over and over that Muslim women are being oppressed under the burqa. Yes, there are women being oppressed and subjected to the most inhuman torture and brutality imaginable, especially under the Taliban. But there’s a small correction here. Just because a woman is wearing the burqa, it does not necessarily mean she is oppressed. And come to think of it, every Muslim is not a supporter of the Taliban and, on the contrary, many are against them. I live in Calicut, where a majority of the Muslim women I see are under the hijab and some of them I know quite well! But I must say, under the hijab lies the empowered, well-educated, smart, independent women who are also well-versed in English. They go about driving scooters and cars like any other and they are also important decision-makers in the family.As a girl who sees empowered, happy and smart women in hijab around, it is indeed hard for me to digest the statement that women are being suppressed under the burqa. In fact, most of the women I know have chosen to wear this attire out of their own choice and not out of compulsion. While society and feminists are busy saying how narrow-minded the Muslim society is, I would like them to open up their minds a bit and look around before making a solid statement. Of course, there are exceptions like the unfortunate women I mentioned earlier. But my point is that the hijab doesn’t make Muslim women the slightest bit oppressed. It is only a matter of personal choice.
The media usually salivates and greedily laps up stories of “Islam oppressed me, but now I’m liberated! Let’s celebrate!” by women who choose to give up religion. Which is what made the Open Page article, “Under the veil, we are free souls!” (April 22, 2012) by Jumana Haseen Rahim, a pleasant surprise. While the Taslima Nasreens of the world hog the limelight with their views and definitions of freedom, it is rare that Muslim women, with conflicting views on women’s liberation, are given a chance to voice their thoughts. However, while Jumana’s article speaks out against labelling women in hijab (veil), it does not explain why many Muslim women feel so passionately about the hijab.
As an educated woman in her early twenties who chooses to wear her religious convictions on her sleeve by practising hijab, I have been subjected to animosity, and worse — pity, from feminists and those who cannot fathom the reasons behind my choice. While I can attribute hurtful, anti-Muslim slurs to narrow-mindedness and bigotry, the assumption made by the educated, so-called forward-thinkers, that we are all oppressed girls whose lifestyles are dictated by the men in their lives, is both frustrating and demeaning.
Hijab is more than just a religious obligation. People need to realise that, in its own right, it symbolises liberty. It gives women the freedom to show male strangers only the parts of the body that they wish them to see. Yes, the simplesalwar kameez and kurti do come under the category of ‘modest’ clothing. But if men want to objectify women, hijab just makes things harder for them. I would even go so far as to call it the ultimate feminist statement. A Muslim woman’s definition of empowerment is being judged by her personality alone, leaving her looks to be appreciated only by those who matter. To those who refer to theburkha as a “medieval garb,” I ask: Why is it that a nun wearing a similar robe is looked upon with respect, while a woman in a burkha is labelled as ‘backward’?
Jumana’s article has received a mixed response. While many agree that it all comes down to personal choice, others raise the valid point that many Muslim girls are compelled to wear burkhas. Having been born into an educated, open-minded family which has kept me aware of my rights as a woman, it is especially painful to hear stories of Muslim girls being forced into burkhas, being deprived of their rights and being made to conform to norms set by misguided men. But can anyone name ONE religion in which patriarchy hasn’t reared its ugly head?
The niqab (face-covering) raises questions about its being not just a threat to security, but also the cause for a woman’s identity to ‘fade away’. A woman who wears the veil is obligated to reveal her identity whenever security demands it — in airports, in banks and in court, and she is fully aware of that.
As for the danger of her losing her identity, it must be understood that the face-veil is worn only when she steps out of her home. It is not worn in front of other women, as well as close male relatives. If only male strangers lose out on the chance of seeing a woman’s face, I fail to comprehend how that constitutes the loss of her identity.
Crimes against Muslim women cannot be attributed to Islam as a religion. Islam was the first to give women the right to own property, to divorce and to remarry (rights that were won by women of other religions only after fighting for them). In order to prevent girl babies being associated with burden, Muslim women are the ones who can ask dowries of their husbands. Islam doesn’t oppress women. Men oppress women. The reasons behind the exploitation of women in all religions and communities are the same: women being kept in the dark about their rights, and patriarchal, skewed interpretations of the religious text.
 

2011-04-13-danzcolor4741.jpg

A hijab is a head covering only. It can be worn many different ways
including as a simple wrap around, shown here, or Al Amirah style.
Regular clothes that cover the arms, shoulders and legs may be worn
with the hijab. Women who wear the hijab are Muhajaba, which means

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s