*for the purpose of this post, hijab will mean all varieties of head coverings.
When I am asked why I wear the headscarf, I struggle to find a response I believe. It was only recently, during a reflective meeting, I realized my true answer to the question.
I do it for God. God alone.
I no longer subscribe to the classical Muslim rationale behind hijab: a piece of ‘cloth’ is enough to simmer down a man’s attraction to a woman, and temptation to break a holy commandment. According to this school of thought, the burden falls on a woman to ensure order. A woman is blamed for misconduct and the man is portrayed as a helpless victim who is unable to restrain their inflamed desires [refer to ‘Man Box’ post by my friend Jehanzeb). One could argue, society as a whole has conditioned men and women into these measly roles – with very little room to break free.
The question remains: Does hijab preserve a woman’s sexuality and offer protection from the testosterone-laden hungry wolves?
I would go with ‘No.’ Hijab doesn’t protect women from being raped, sexually harassed and objectified [See current events: Egypt and other Muslim countries and their struggle with sexual harassment]. I received an alarming email from my university last night. A young woman walking late at night was close to being raped if it were not for a pedestrian who saved her. That could have been me. I park my car close to that area. My scarf would have not mattered: a rapist doesn’t care about my scarf. If someone wishes to harm, they will.
When hijab is presented within the context of ‘protecting one’s sexuality’ and ‘ensuring order’ it reduces a woman to a piece of meat or a helpless lamb who requires protection from the angry wolf. It blames the victim and enables, justifies, reinforces man’s perverted sexual behavior to which women pay the price.
If you’ve ever been in the company of young Muslim men and women, you’ll notice that the ‘hijab’ is never an obstacle or a barrier from having two people fall in love, feel attracted to one another or to have premarital sex! I, for one, express my fashion sense with my hijab. And, in some instances, my hijab reflects my sexuality, not conceal it.
If as Muslims we honestly reflect on how we argue ‘for’ hijab, we’ll find that it’s more of a symbol of piety but in no way reflects piety or offers protection from temptation.
The argument women when in hijab are no longer ‘rated’ by their body but their ‘brain’ is untrue. Muslim women (or men) are not immune to the pressures of modern society to fit in a certain mold. If you are a Muslim woman (in hijab) and you walk into a Muslim gathering, women and men will JUDGE you based on your looks, your body and how you are dressed. Women today are pressured to ‘lighten’ or ‘darken’ their skin; go on extraneous diets to lose mad amounts of weight; and, are expected to either ‘tone down’ or ‘up’ their fashion or dress choices.
Muslim or not; female or not, the pressure is on. It just looks different for the secular or religious. Women are ‘screwed’ either way, not even in the good way.
I am intrigued by how nuns live. Here are women who have chosen to ‘marry’ themselves to God (although He didn’t ask it of them) and sacrifice one of the most fundamental functions of life: sex. I could never comprehend ‘why?’ What benefit was it to be celibate for life?
And one day it occurred to me, the nuns made their sacrifice for God, and God alone. They were not practicing their faith for man, but FOR GOD. And in so many ways, wearing the hijab in order to protect from man’s lust goes against my monotheistic faith. My beliefs dictate that all my actions are done for God, to please Him alone.
My job as an equal human is not to curb anyone’s sexual fervor, but to enhance my own faith and connections with God.
So the next time someone asks: “Why do you wear it?” I’ll point to the sky and smile “For Him”