Society is dynamic. In terms of values, ideals, perceptions, and norms, ideologies are constantly changing and therefore, alter our perceptions and the way we interact with one another. One of the major issues in regards to these changing perceptions pertains to Islam.
In particular, Muslim women face several impasses because of the hijab, which makes them easily visible, and susceptible to more scrutiny. The social implications that coincide with wearing the hijab represent the way in which, society collectively passes judgment and appoints certain behavioral standards for certain individuals.
The hijab represents something much more than just Islam. Hijab represents good character, and modesty. Hijab is not just religious obligation, but rather something that represents individual values and character. A person who wears hijab does not do so, to appear as if she is perfect. Wearing the hijab is a personal choice that is made, in order to encourage ones self to be the best Muslim and best person possible. By wearing the hijab, it is a constant reminder for that person, to be the best version of herself.
However, it seems as though society has developed the tendency to hold Muslim women who wear the hijab to certain unrealistic standards.
As part of my own study, a group of Muslim women were asked, “What is the biggest struggle you face as a Muslim woman?” 100% of women mentioned the hijab. However, this was not due to the act of wearing the hijab. Rather, it was the social implications that come along with the act of wearing the hijab.
Interviewee 1: “I think one of the biggest struggles is not being able to do certain things like have a proper career, social life, choose my own marriage partner, because of stereotypes/rules/expectations that the Muslim community has made for young girls”
Interviewee 2: “I would probably say the pressure within our own societies being a Muslim woman who wears a hijab. They hold us to unrealistic standards and judge us a lot harder.”
Interviewee 3: “The biggest struggle I face, as a Muslim woman would have to be wearing hijab in our society. It’s a symbol of Islam and that’s how people know you’re Muslim without even asking you, and in the media Islam is portrayed in such a negative light. It’s difficult to walk around knowing that some people think these things of you without even meeting you because of one ‘bad Muslim.’ It makes it difficult for not only myself, but other women that I’ve talked to that wear hijab, to wear it. But what keeps me wearing it is the fact that I’m doing it for Allah and don’t need anyone else’s acceptance.”
Interviewee 4: “One big thing is like the whole hijab aspect. It’s not as easy as it looks and it’s also really annoying when some Muslim men look down on you or judge your character because you don’t wear one.”
Interviewee 5: “The thought of being accepted in society. Specifically, wondering if the hijab will impact the employees decision of picking a hijabi to work for them.”
I think at one point and time we have all heard the phrase “… And she’s a hijabi!” It is no doubt that the hijab is a symbol of Islam and therefore, women who wear hijab have more of a responsibility to represent Islam in the best way possible. However, there seems to be the expectation of perfection. For many Muslim women, hijab becomes a part of their identity.
The hijab, and what it represents (being Islam, modesty, and good character) becomes a part of who an individual is as a person. Wearing the hijab empowers women through their ability to express themselves and their individuality freely.
However, the constant regulations that society and the Muslim community holds against women who wear hijab, stifles them and makes them feel as if they are not able to freely express themselves and their values.
Not giving Muslim women a chance to make a mistake, causes them to feel uncomfortable and insecure in their own expression of individuality. The hijab serves the purpose of building someones character, not diminishing it. Allah says, “O you who have faith! Avoid much suspicion. Indeed some suspicions are sins.” [Surah Hujurat:12]
It is important to remember that Islam reminds us not to make assumptions, and to make excuses for our brothers and sisters instead of judging their actions. In some cases, a persons actions do not represent their intention, and they may be closer to their faith than one perceives.
This article is a re-post from Mainstream Modesty.