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Friday, August 19, 2022


Movement to shed hijab exposes biases on all sides

Anusheh Siddique has never felt pressured to wear the hijab as a testament to her faith. | Dana C. Jones/The Cougar

Countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia, which require women to wear hijabs, have inspired some faulty notions of Islam in the west. The recent hashtag #NoHijabDay has enforced this assumption by creating the idea that hijab is a tool of oppression.

I grew up in a Muslim household and followed the Islamic faith for the entirety of my life.

My mom and sister both wear hijabs, but I never felt any pressure to wear one myself. I was raised with this notion that wearing your hijab is a personal decision between you and your creator, yet both sides have tried extremely hard to enforce or demonize this piece of fabric.

This hashtag makes the small demographic of women who are pressured into wearing a hijab seem vastly disproportionate to reality. Heavily perpetuated ideas regarding the relationship between oppression and hijab, its flexibility and its evolution as a statement of women’s rights are fallacious.

The hashtag #NoHijabDay originates from women in Iran protesting the requirement to wear hijab. Foregoing the hijab for a day began as a sign of solidarity, but it evolved into a disparaging statement on this facet of Islam.

Biology freshman Tashfia Nazmee. | Dana C. Jones/The Cougar

There’s something absurd about policing such an intimate aspect of faith, whether it be enforcing it or advertising its removal. Western women face no legal obligation to wear it. The social repercussions of donning a headscarf vary drastically, depending on its wearer. Regardless, all women understand the attention their hijabs receive.

“I definitely felt the target on my back,” said biology freshman Tashfia Nazmee, who wears a headscarf. Other girls recounted their parents’ concerns as the Trump administration shifted toward what feels like a less supportive political stance on their faith.

One of the privileges of not advertising my faith on my head is the security it affords me, but that is inherently problematic. This differing treatment of two members of the same faith is hinged on the faulty notion that a hijab brings its wearer that much closer to the faith, and therefore to the fears of many Americans.

Biochemistry sophomore Sahar Baige said she felt “discouraged by family from wearing the scarf for safety reasons.” The culpability of this rests on flawed representation of Islam in the West.

When it came to the hijab, I often felt like a coward for not wearing one. This has little to do with my family or environment and more to do insecurity about my faith. I saw the hijab as a commitment to my creator that I wasn’t entirely sure I could uphold.

This piece of cloth can make one feel as if “they’re the spokesperson for Islam, the literal face of it” said accounting freshman Firdaos Adesina.

Accounting freshman Firdaos Adesina. | Dana C. Jones/The Cougar

This wasn’t a responsibility for which I was ready.

Identity is something we all struggle with, but being a Muslim woman is especially challenging. The strangest part of my relationship with the hijab was how overwhelming it felt in public. It was not out of the norm for non-Muslims to approach me, commending me on my liberation from oppression. While it felt laughable at the time,  I realize now how implicating those statement were.

After years of spiritual journeying, pretentious self-proclamations of epiphanies and research, and I have still not fully discovered my identity. The comfort I have attained within my faith and alongside hijabi and nonhijabi members is a motivating incentive to keep growing.

After speaking to several Muslim girls, both hijabis and nonhijabis, I found the gap between these two experiences has less animosity than both parties often assume.

In my adolescence, I definitely felt the insecurity of not wearing a scarf in the presence of girls who did, but looking back, I’ve found that was a reflection of uncertainty in my own identity.

Psychology freshman Mahnoor Ahmed. | Dana C. Jones/The Cougar

“I have friends who don’t wear hijab and pray five times a day,” said psychology freshman Mahnoor Ahmed. “It doesn’t define you the way we expect it to.”

The community responds affectionately toward a girl who starts hijab, but it can be unforgiving toward those who choose to take it off. I discussed these implications with healthcare administration freshman Fareeha Dadabhoy, who felt some pressure from her family to wear the hijab.

Taking it off led to a less-than-warm reception from friends and family and embodies the cultural stigma that comes with the realization that the hijab “represents something significant” and does “not do it justice by not wearing it and representing as it should be.”

This realization is a difficult one for many, but it takes a mature and determined perspective to choose sincerity to your identity before appeasing others. The Muslim community needs to address the taboo of removing the scarf, because otherwise we will find ourselves vulnerable to this association of hijab with oppression.

Commitment to faith is powerful. Wearing a headscarf influences every aspect of your life, but I think maintaining modesty is enough for me to feel the connection with my creator. There’s something beautiful about the strength of hijabi women under duress from a president that turns a blind eye to their hardship of expressing this show of faith.

A hijab isn’t just the piece of cloth — it’s a reminder to personify the attributes of kindness, respect and warmness. It may not be for me, but I will always defend a woman’s right to wear it.

Staff writer Anusheh Siddique is a political science freshman. She can be reached at [email protected]

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