Matter of choice
Wearing the hijab is not the deciding
factor in whether someone is good or not
By Leila Shirazi
October 7, 2003
I received an article from a friend the other day that made
me sit up and take notice. Not for the fact that the writing
made such good or groundbreaking points, but because it brought
up a lot of other issues for me that I felt the need to air out
into my writing.
The article was one of those "your friend
Marjan thought you would like to take a look at this article",
with a subsequent link attached to the bottom of the page. The
article itself was titled "The Science behind the Veil",
and its aim was to find scientific proofs of the benefits for
women wearing hijab.
I have to admit I was very skeptical at
first, but, vowing to keep an open mind, I gave it a quick read.
What I found didn't exactly shock me, though the arguments
are quite weak:
-- 40-60% of the body's heat is lost
through the head if it is uncovered' (I'll just
wear a winter hat if I'm cold, thank you)
heads in the hot sun can be submitting the brain to reaching
a sizzling and damaging 108 degrees' (One word: homeostasis...
our bodies sweat so that they never reach that high temperature.)
personal favorite: It's bad for men to be continually
aroused when looking at women's constantly changing hairstyles
(Do I really need to comment on this one?)
So this groundbreaking
evidence is meant to be the proof that all women who want to
protect their brain health and ensure the
longevity of their men, should take to wearing their hijab.
For those women of strong religious conviction
who choose to wear the hijab (many of the
women in my close family included), I give all of you my praise.
That's a wonderful choice to make, if you feel it is the
right one for you. The pressure some individuals exert on others
to wear it, however, is what disturbs me.
Maybe it's a
personal thing. The person who sent it to me is continually
trying to get me to see the many benefits of a headscarf. But
I believe that each individual woman needs to make that choice
for herself, not under coercion from family members or society.
So many people tout the necessity to wear hijab for every good
Muslim woman, yet there is no specific passage I have ever come
across in the Quran that states explicitly that women's
heads should be covered. I have seen the passages that stress
the necessity to draw the shawls over the bosom, but beyond
that, everyone's attempts to point me to the correct passages
have not been convincing.
You might also be wondering, at this point, why I feel like
I know anything about wearing the hijab, and why I feel like
I can determine that it's not right for me. The truth is, I
did try, at one point in my life, to put it on. I don't
mean in Iran, I mean here in the United States. The results,
for me, were disheartening.
I was just starting out on the renewal
of my religion, and a friend had convinced me that covering while
out in public was the ONLY way to be a good Muslim. Yet, instead
of strengthening my faith and sense of identity, it turned me
away from the true beauty of Islam. I felt uncomfortable in stores,
intimidated on the subways, and isolated while in large crowds.
I started questioning everything, and became so confused about
many aspects of my life. It was a very bad situation, and while
on the surface I was gaining praise from many of my family members
and friends, inside I was feeling more torn than I ever had before.
Then, one day, after a particularly bad episode in the lobby
of a hotel, I decided that wearing hijab was not the deciding
factor in whether someone was good or not. I came out of my room
for the first time without my scarf, and nothing happened; no
one stared, no one commented, no one laughed or pointed. I was
once again able to slip around the city unnoticed, and still
felt confident in myself and in my religion.
Don't assume that I have completely given up on the hijab.
I still cover when I am at religious events, and when
I travel to Islamic countries, I gladly wear a scarf over my
hair. But when I do this, it is at times where I feel comfortable
and at times where I feel it is appropriate.
I truly do not need
anyone breathing down my (uncovered) neck telling me how to
present myself or how to show my faith. Because, the truth is,
I do show
my faith - every day. I show it when I am charitable to my
neighbors, when I am honest, when I complete my daily prayers,
I carry myself with dignity and respect.
I am a Muslim woman,
and I am proud of that. The only difference between me now
and me a year ago is that, today, I wear my hijab inside of
this page to your friends