Friday, May 20, 2011

Don't talk to me about hijab

Let me start by saying that I am a fan of hijab. I wear hijab. I believe that hijab is mandatory, and I think any efforts to keep women from wearing it are wrong. So don't think this is a post about how hijab is not relavent anymore, because that is a seperate subject. I'm just afraid that Muslims and non-Muslims alike have inflated the importance of hijab way too much. We have made it the key to a woman's piety. A prerequisite for calling yourself a Muslim woman. And (this get where you get ready to reach under your abaya to take off your shoe and throw it at me) I just don't think hijab is all that important. Yes, that's right. I said hijab is not that important.

Lets put that statement in perspective a little. Why would I say that? Well, because there are so many other things in the religion that should be taking precedence over the issue of attire. 5 big ones that I can think of, the pillars of Islam. Why when a woman makes shahada are we all over the topic of whether or not she will wear hijab and no one ever asks if she needs help with learning salat? Maybe memorising a few surahs? Did anyone ever ask a new brother whether or not he would grow a beard and cluck their tongue disapprovingly when he said he wasn't ready yet? Did anyone ever question a brother about whether or not he was still Muslim when he shaved his beard?

So here's my radical idea. Stop talking about it. Throw hijab out of the conversational mix. Stop making it a part of what you talk to non-Muslims about. Of course they will ask, but don't get stuck on the subject. And PLEASE don't get all philosophical and start using metaphors. God said wear it, so I do. Simple and to the point. Because if you keep things in perspective you'll realise it's a subject that's taking away from the things we should be talking about.

Maybe it's just me here... But I feel like when Muslim women is the topic of conversation hijab is the focus. That's wrong, it's not the way hijab was meant to work. It was meant to let people see us as honorable and pious women and take "maybe I could hook up with her" out of the equation. But I would go so far as saying it isn't even accomplishing that anymore. Humans send many non-verbal signals, and our young ladies who wear hijab can certainly send the message of availability with or without hijab. Of course that's no reason to say it doesn't send the message of modesty anymore... But it can be said that wearing hijab doesn't make you modest, your behavior does that.

That's my message here mostly I guess. There was a time when women dressed modestly in general, no matter what their faith was. Women covered their heads, didn't show their body. That was the societal norm. So I imagine (and I could be wrong here) that hijab as it is practiced in Arab cultures was not really shocking. It probably wasn't even worth talking about because all the people around them were fairly modest too. Jump to now, where the societal norm is mini-skirts and suddenly Muslim women really stand out. Hence, hijab is the most visible thing about Islam and it gets talked about a lot. Too much in my opinion. How many people know about hijab but have no idea we believe in the same one god as the Christians and Jews for example? I'm not claiming I know how to solve this, or suggesting we all go burn our scarves in protest... But I think it's something we all need to think about and try to overcome.

As usual, just food for thought here. I'm no scholar.