I’m a Hijabi & You Make Me Feel Awkward!

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I’m a Hijabi & You Make Me Feel Awkward! I chose to wear Hijab when I was 14 years old. At the time, there was a strong influence of Imams and Sheikhs who started a whole new wave of spreading religious awareness. At the time, you’d easily find those cassettes for Amr Khaled and his likes who were talking significantly about different Islamic tenets and practices. Hijab topped their list as a way of showing modesty and adopting a minimal approach to life. Of course, such modesty would bear other responsibilities that are not exclusive to appearances; modesty was directly and sometimes implicitly communicated as a way of life that also extends to behaviors and attitudes.

By time, Hijab grew more popular among women and young ladies. As any form of clothing, it became a subject to people’s interpretations and different styles. Consequently, Hijab has translated itself to many forms and thus became a source of controversy.

Personally, I used to think that living in a country where the majority of the population is made up of Muslims would make it much easier to wear Hijab. However, I have come to face everyday challenges, difficulties and sometimes humiliations as I chose to dress just “differently”. It turned out that there are different shades of Islamic and secular beliefs and sometimes misconceptions. Here are some of the situations that get on my nerves as a Hijabi girl.

“Oh, how can you stand wearing it on hot summer days?”

Usually, this is a trigger to a whole conversation questioning the Hijab notion. It all starts with a simple stylistic question which might appear as a superficial exclamation as if an extra piece of cloth will set me on fire. Apart from any hidden intentions meant by that question, I need people to think for a minute before verbally expressing themselves. Do you really think that Hijab would make me feel more stifled? What about all those blow-dryers that you have to endure on a weekly basis to have your hair done? I bet you don’t feel cooler when the hairdresser closely subjects the babyliss or the blow-dryer to your scalp.

“Oh, you were too young when you wore it. Poor you!”

Hmm, okay. I was young, but not too young. I was physically and mentally mature enough to decide for myself. Usually, people think that Hijab has been forced upon me by my parents, because I was 14 when I chose it. On the contrary, my family was against that decision, at the time, as they feared I might take it off. A couple of days ago, I celebrated my 12th Hijab anniversary and I don’t regret it. So, there is no need to feel sympathetic for my alleged “poor” condition. I knew what I was doing.

“God didn’t command us to cover our hair. This is not Islam.”

Quran, Sunnah and other sources of Shariaa are apt to different interpretations. Just because I chose one interpretation of a Quranic verse does not mean that I don’t respect other people’s choices.

Also, what if I chose Hijab and it turned out that God didn’t demand us to wear it, what would have I lost or missed? It’s not that I’m taking the safe side and opting for Hijab fearing that I might be punished or “doomed” if we don’t wear it, but what I’m saying is I’m the only person bearing the consequences of my decisions. Not you. Not anyone else.

“This is NOT Hijab!”

As if Hijabi girls are not having enough difficulties because of other people judging them, but many of them seem to hate on their fellow Hijabis as well. I used to think that such verdicts are jotted only by Egyptians, but while flipping through Instagram profile of some internationally-acclaimed Hijabi bloggers, I found tons of similar comments by Muslims of different nationalities. As humiliating and judgmental such comments may sound, they are actually exposing Hijabis to extra burdens and social pressures. Many of the Hijabi girls, including myself, are trying to abide by our modest teachings while striving so hard to keep up our personal style and look decent. With hard-to-find Hijab-friendly Fashion choices, girls and women are pursuing spiritual Jihad.

You can easily walk down any mall, check out all those sleeveless dresses and cute hot shorts, log into Instagram and see beautiful ladies showing off their outfits, check a magazine or two and see all those flawless models spreading for the camera…, do you think it is super easy for Hijabi women to look and feel elegant?

Moreover, Hijab, itself, is a controversial notion as I mentioned earlier; there are different interpretations and theories regarding Hijab and even Niqab. So, how can we be so sure about a certain dress code? In Islam, there are no intermediaries between God and Man, so how can anyone position himself/herself as God and decide what works as Hijab and what does not?

“Huda Shaarawy took off their Hijab decades ago and now you’re wearing it?”

With all due respect to Huda Shaarawy, Seza Nabarawi and other Egyptian female pioneers who led an impressive social revolution in the early 20th century, I cannot seem to recognize the connection between what they did decades ago and Hijab nowadays. At their time, Hijab or Burkaa was a means to oppressing women. It had a cultural background not a solid religious one, so by taking off their Hijabs, women made it clear that they would not be subjected to any form of oppression.

The question is “Am I being oppressed?” Well, my granny wore Hijab when she was in her 60s, mom chose it in her 20s while I wore it in my teenage years. Putting it this way, you might think that Hijab has become symbolic of social backwardness. But, when I look back to my ancestors’ conditions and my own, I grow pretty convinced that covering my hair did not entail covering my mind. I chose to dress conservatively, but I had a chance to have a proper education, speak different languages, have a decent job, communicate with the world… and along with many other significant cultural, spiritual and social opportunities that my ancestors were denied back in time. So, for me, any talk about oppression would be misplaced.

“Congrats! You go, girl!”

As there was a big wave about ten years ago when women started wearing Hijab, there is another wave nowadays of many girls and women taking it off. Regardless of their various reasons, I believe in freedom of choice and thus totally respect their decisions. However, for me, I feel that some people are exaggerating when reacting to one of their friends taking off Hijab. When I read a “Congrats” comment, how shall I feel? I totally believe that everyone has the right to express himself/herself very freely, but at the same time I really wonder about what goes through their minds when the post-Hijab partying starts over.

I, personally, think that there are still some people, including many Muslims, have conflicted opinions about Hijab. I don’t blame them for this, but whoever said “Ignorance is bliss” was truly mistaken. If you happen to feel uncertain or skeptical about the whole Hijab notion, take some to read, question and talk “friendly” to Hijabis and ask them about what they really think and believe. If you still feel this way, at least try to be less judgmental and more merciful when dealing with Hijabis along with others whom you disagree with. You won’t regret it. I promise.

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Noha Rahhal

Noha is the Founder & Editor in Chief of Sans Retouches. Apart from her obsession with glossy stuff, Noha is a hardcore bookworm and a music addict. If you happen to spot her in any of Alexandria's hot spots, you'd find her either pouring her thoughts on a chic notebook, picking a political argument with some fellas or even enjoying an exotic meal to keep her full for days.

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  1. Pingback: I’m a Hijabi & You Make Me Feel Awkward! | Voix Magazine

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