Hijab: Culture, Custom, and Chaos

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Hijab: Culture, Custom, and Chaos


In my life, first as a young woman who had not yet chosen Islam, I have dressed with a dress so short, I had to keep standing if I wanted to keep my underwear covered. Then I chose to cover only in long dresses or slacks and to wear some kind of scarf or wrap over my hair. This was long before I first began reading about Islam and before I entered into a mosque. My ancestors, including my Muslim ancestors, came to America as slaves. The women were stripped at the auction block with no choice about how to cover themselves. I just decided that the right to exercise some control over who saw my legs was just as empowering as the other way around in some other context.

By the time I did go into a mosque to make inquiries, the men-only present must have thought I had made the greater sacrifice; so saying shahadah or declaring my faith in Allah and the Prophet was the lesser sacrifice. I can actually say: I became Muslim because of the way I dressed. I also chose to cover my face: way back in the 70s, in the U.S. city of Philadelphia. But I was in retreat from the world as I knew it. I observed the niqab for four years before moving on to the next stage of my living faith. I am still moving, because at this age, I go out for regular errands with no scarf, after more than 35 years of covering by choice.

In the public settings, I tend to cover my hair with the exception of the length of my dreadlocks down my back. I stick to this, especially when I travel; although I am always asked if I can take my scarf off when at the airport. Either that or I’m given the pat over. I guess to see if I have a bomb with those locks! I think to myself, yes, I can take this off, but I say “No.” Not here, and not now.

I exercise choice that some are denied, and that is as important as what choice I exercise. The freedom to make both choices is a privilege I do not take lightly given the politics of hijab these days.


Issues Pages: 

Thanks for that find writer.


Feminism in the Muslim World


"Muslim women have little to expect from a feminist movement that is identically incapable of confronting a system built by and for men.."


Mmmm.  Fizzy acidic Islamophobia.


Craigmont, as a new poster I was going to give you a warning about linking to Islamiphobic sites, but looking at your posts to other parts of rabble.ca, it is evident that you have wandered into the wrong forum.



So its Islamophobic to link to a memorial site for a young female victim of domestic violence? Would you censor somebody for Christianphobia if they did a link to something about the Bountiful cult? I think not. Time to stop sticking up for crazy old mysogenist men who think God tells them stuff like killing girls who dont cover up.

Maysie Maysie's picture

Bye KClarke.