Complaints about Hijab

Asalamu alaikum,

The complaints I get about hijab generally fall into two categories.  First from people who are not Muslim, and may have heard all sorts of misinformation, and second from Muslims themselves.

From Non-Muslims, I did(now that I live overseas this is very rare) get the occasional-“oh that is so oppressive why does your husband make you wear it.” I usually tried to keep my answers short and simple, as this type don’t really want to hear it, or change their thinking. A simple “He doesn’t, I am the one who chose this, he was against it in the beginning”. If they then seem interested in actually listening I would expand, but this generally didn’t happen, instead it was the head shaking, poor deluded fool look that I got.

From others, it was usually a more general less offensive comment, like “aren’t you hot in that?, or “do you wear that at home/all the time?” These got a smile and a bit of explanation-“Well my clothes aren’t tight, so there is a lot of air flow that keeps me cool and covering this much skin helps with the sunburn, as I burn easily” and “No, I just wear it when I am outside of my house, or around any man that is not a close enough relative, in my own home I dress just like most people.”

From Muslims, complaints and criticisms are a bit more difficult  to deal with as I don’t want to offend any one. My biggest stumbling block is that a lot of Muslims are raised in a culture of Islam, meaning they were born into a family/country that practices a certain way, rather than a more strict interpretation. So in trying to explain why I dress the way the I do it is very easy to accidentally offend someone. It can feel like I am trying to say that I am better than them/their culture because I cover more. With Muslims I have to be very careful about what I say and how I say it.


Hijab Haiku

Asalamu Alaikum!

Drape,wrap,tuck it in.
Free flowing cloth, light as air,
Is my dupatta.

Hijab is my cape.
My protective covering.
Armor made of cloth.

It makes me feel free,
For me to choose what is seen,
Not society.

A Reason for my Hats

It starts out small
an ache
a bit of fatigue
which never goes away

The doctor says it’s menopause
try this supplement
It’s just a bit of depression
take these and call if things get worse.

I’m sleeping 18 hours a day
We’ll up the dose
No, you don’t understand
the pills make me sleep.

Another day, a new doctor.
Let’s draw some blood and run a few tests
a few tests morph

Blood draws
Cat scan
Sleep study

Finally we know what it isn’t.
nothing to be afraid of
treatable but no cure
drowning in more pills

Then it starts
my hair falls out
The shower drain is clogging
bitter tears at this

Another day, a new worry
I got a sunburn where
and this is why I cover my hair.

To say that my family reacted poorly when I started covering would be an understatement. They gave me an argument that I’ve heard other people make before: “Covering makes you stand out, which obviously defeats the purpose of doing it.” To that, I say: “Pish-tosh!” (I love working pish-tosh into a conversation; it’s so much fun to say.)

It’s true that covering your head can make you stand out in a crowd, but I think one must consider motivation and the kind of attention one receives. It would be bad if I covered my head with the intent of getting attention. It would be bad if I walked into the room and announced: “Look at me! My head is covered! Aren’t I a fantastic person for doing this?” That would be intentionally making people notice me. I do not bear responsibility for the fact that modesty is (in my opinion) not the cultural norm.

Let me try to make a comparison. Pretend that it became culturally acceptable for women to go shirtless in the same places as men. I still would be firmly set against letting it all hang out while jogging through the park, even if it made people notice me. “Everybody else is doing it” just isn’t good enough for many situations.

I’ve noticed that people who are against covering tend to exaggerate the amount of attention that those who cover get. I’m not Lady GaGa. It’s not like I’m wearing an astrolabe on my head. It’s just a scarf. It’s not like all heads turn when I walk into a room. Only occasionally do people stare—and, honestly, half those people are little girls who think I look like a princess. I haven’t noticed myself drawing any more attention than I did when I wore my purple shoes before I started covering. (I still have the shoes. They’re awesome. One of my bosses thinks it’s great when I coordinate my headgear with my shoes.)

Covering may attract a bit more attention than not covering, but I feel that it’s far better to get a few stares than to ignore my conscience when I get dressed every morning. And (again, in my opinion) everybody should own a pair of fabulous purple shoes.