I was born in a Muslim household, got educated in an Islamic school, and then went to a minority institution. I have known so many Muslim girls and women in my life and I’ve noticed that most of them choose to wear hijab. Interestingly, through my own understanding of feminism, I’d say that most of them, and by most I mean almost every one of them, is a feminist.
When I was in the eleventh standard I had career anxiety which led to mental unrest. To cope this, I started reading about Islam as an escape from the pessimism that was taking over me. Soon thereafter, I started wearing hijab.
When I entered law school, I had a really hard time blending in. But I was always certain of one thing – I did not want to lose my identity for a degree, an identity that I chose for myself. People called that extreme, they still do, but then it’s my life at the end of the day, isn’t it?
I do not judge people for having different choices than me then why should others judge me for following my faith?
In this journey of self-pity to self-realisation, I have encountered a lot of questions. Some uncomfortable, some out of curiosity, and then others just out of prejudice and hate. To any woman who is asked questions for the choices they make, you know how hard it is, don’t you? Having that burden of being judged with just one slip of tongue or one moment of absence of mind.
Later on in life, which is quite recently, I decided to stop articulating those ‘perfect’ replies with the most ‘perfect’ smile for the most prejudiced people.
Today, I decided to compile all the possible reasons for me to wear hijab. Some will make sense to you and some will not. But then again – to each their own, right?
I am a woman of faith and my Lord commands me to cover my hair and body. That’s an enough reason for me to adopt hijab and that was actually the basic reason behind me adopting the hijab at the very first place.
Also, I do not understand why many millennial see it to be a bad thing to be a person of faith. As long as my faith is not hurting your beliefs and it makes me happy, why do you care? After all, at the end of the day it’s a short life and we all are searching for peace of mind. I do not judge people for having different choices than me then why should others judge me for following my faith?
Comfort and Minimalism
Second most important – comfort. Yes, you read it right. It’s the most precious comfort. So let me break this to you. I have some 4 daily wearable burqas, one faded burqa that I hardly wear now and planning to recycle and one burqa that my mother forced me to buy (there is no escape from that). I do occasionally shift to other outfits too when forced but burqas are great when it comes to comfort.
They are dark in colour, easy to wash, easy to iron and very comfortable to wear. And yes, to make this clearer, burqa is a South Asian term and does not have any Quranic reference, it’s just a dress preferred by Muslim women as it serves the purpose of hijab more aptly. And yes, wearing burqa is also a great way to be a minimalist and to avoid wastage of money and cloth. And for a lazy, non-capitalist, and middle-class person like me, it’s pure bliss.
Resistance, Identity And Being A Communitarian
Now coming to a serious reason – Resistance. So I got a lot of backlash from my family, relatives (they are never happy) and society in general for choosing to wear hijab. There were people who kept telling me how it will make my life difficult as a student and as an upcoming lawyer. And then there were people who kept teaching me how the idea in itself is sinister and against ‘modern’ society. I wonder if by becoming a ‘modern’ society we have not yet become a society which is inclusive of the choices that women make then we really need to relook at our definition of modernism.
Whether it’s my burqa or someone’s skirt, to question attire that we choose puts a bar on our freedom.
In my experience, I have witnessed a society which is trying to make clones out of people. Some particular accents, a particular language, a particular style of dressing, and a particular set of thoughts are what I find blooming everywhere. My decision of wearing hijab in that office filled with Islamophobes is my act of resistance.
In a country where my community is a minority and one person of my community is lynched almost daily, my decision to wear hijab and get identified as a Muslim is not only an act of resistance but an act of sheer bravery. My decision of wearing hijab is in solidarity with the women of my community who decide to wear hijab and face uncomfortable questions daily. My decision of wearing hijab is an act of resistance at its core.
Women of the world, Unite
To the people who are reading, particularly the women, I urge you to be less prejudiced. All of us should learn to have empathy towards each other. Whether it’s my burqa or someone’s skirt, to question attire that we choose puts a bar on our freedom. The never ending debate and arguments on what women should wear and putting label on everything is a universal norm.
‘Oppression’, I believe, comes in many shades. It is oppression when we ask women to act in a certain manner or dress in a certain way. Whether it’s forcing us to wear something or asking us to stop wearing something, it is oppression either way. I do not identify ‘liberation’ with the length of a dress. For me, liberation is covering my body in resonance with my beliefs and my comfort.
It is crucial to understand that decisions are based on subjectivity and the reason for a woman to wear something can completely differ from that of another woman. As women, I believe we should more often talk about things that we share in common rather than focusing on our differences. We should come together in solidarity with each other which is the only way to survive and rise in this patriarchal world.
Let’s not fail each other, as women and fellow humans. I do not need your pity, I need your warmth – just like you need mine. And yes, sometimes I just wish to be invisible in a metro or in a crowded mall and not be stared at for who I choose to be.
Featured Image Source: Al Jazeera