Awhile ago, Humans of New York (HONY) did a series in Egypt. They posted a photo on their Instagram of a Egyptian women in Alexandria, who shared her story of why she took off hijab, and what happened after she took it off. If you do not know what HONY is, it is a photography blog on social media, by photographer Brandon Stanton, showing portraits of random people and the story behind the people in the photo. It started on the streets of New York City in November of 2010 but now they are going all over the word to show us stories of other cultures, religions, and races.
In the post of the Egyptian women, it was highlighted that after she took off her hijab, her parents became upset with her.
She said, “My mom was terrified of what people would think… She said if I didn’t wear the hijab, then I couldn’t live at home. So I packed four big bags and went to live with a friend. It was the first time I’d ever slept out of my house. Over the next few weeks, I sent my parents messages every single day. I always told them where I was, what I was doing, and who I was with.”
They did not talk for 3 months, until her uncle invited them over for dinner during a holiday, then they reconciled in a surprising but beautiful encounter. Though I do not agree that her parents ignored her messages, I wanted to talk about what I saw in the comment sections of the post.
I noticed that many people that were commenting on the post were relating her taking off the head scarf to freedom. They were also talking badly about hijab and Islam in general. I feel no non-Muslim should have any criticism or comments in regards to hijab because it is not their religion and they do not understand it.
In the comment section of post, there were also people commenting about how women are forced to wear hijab. However, the women in the story never stated that her parents forced her to wear the hijab. Who knows if her parents even forced her to wear the hijab, she never said that they did it. Sometimes Hijab is a pressure by the society around you. When or if it was the case that if a Muslim women is forced to wear it, then some women who take off the hijab, may feel like they are free since they took it off. Though I cannot speak for what happens to the Muslim women oversees, I have never met a Muslim woman in this country who was forced to wear the hijab. In this country I have seen women getting their hijab torn off their head or maybe even their family opposes them wearing hijab, like my parents for instance.
She concluded her story by saying, “(my parents) see I’m doing great things with my freedom. I have a great job and I travel. They’re very proud. I’ve learned to do what you want in life. Because if you do, the world will change to match you.”
You do not or should not need to take off the hijab to be free or feel free. It is sad to me that one feels limited because they are wearing a hijab. Though to some, maybe taking the hijab off makes you feel free, but it doesn’t to me. In addition, for people to generalize a religion from a piece of cloth exhibits a lack of knowledge of them not being able to separate religion from culture. If only those people knew that the Quran itself says there is no compulsory in Islam.
The hijab is not the only thing in Islam, so I am not sure why there is so much focus on it. Or why there is always so much focus on how women dress.
It is true that some Muslims focus on hijab like it’s the 6th pillar of Islam but they don’t follow the actual 5 pillars or other stuff in the Quran. Even soon after I have seen a woman convert to Islam, the first thing that is brought up to her is the hijab. To the Muslims reading this, though Hijab brought me closer to God, everyone is different. Whether it’s hijab, fasting, or prayer, everyone is on their own journey. Your Islam is your Islam. Don’t let anyone let you think or tell you otherwise.
Here is the West, we are raised to think that exposing yourself is freedom and maybe it is to some. But just because someone does not like the way I dress, does not mean I am going to dress how you want me to, to make you feel more “comfortable.” I don’t want to be told how to dress by society or to be told that since I cover up I’m not free or I’m oppressed. In reality, the only one who oppresses Muslim women are the ones who think they have a right to talk about what they think we should or should not wear. They are the ones who treat me bad for the way I dress.