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Response to a Christian Sister

Response to a Christian Sister

This morning, I awoke to quite a few emails from readers, especially concerning the hijab. I’ve decided to respond to the following email I received because, well, it was the least harsh, and it contains a number of assumptions Americans have of the hijab. The name and email of the sender are hidden out of courtesy.

The Hijab isn’t a fashion statement, the way I see it. It is an article of your faith. By wearing it you set yourself apart from the rest of the American community.

America has always been a melting pot. Each of us relinquishes a part of ourselves from where we came from.

Suppose you’re from Germany and wear a dirndl, or an Austrian and you wear lederhosen (imagine the Governor of California wearing them). We become Americans. Of course he would be stared at if he did that. So, as for being stared at, you are asking to be stared at by wearing the Hijab in any country where it is not customary for women to wear such attire. The other questions are ignorance. Do you explain to them why you wear the hijab or do you merely treat them as ignorant beings?

America believes in your right to practice your religion. America is predominantly Christian. The Christian Bible admonishes us not to make a show of our religion. So, your wearing your religious dress as everyday attire places you in contrast to the values of the society in which you are currently living. Why are you surprised if you meet with resentment? If an American woman goes to your country of origin, then she is required to wear head covering; she is required to adhere to the laws of male/female or Muslim/non-Muslim segregation. And, she adheres to them. Why can’t you do likewise?

The Jews for centuries have set themselves apart. The result has been a catastrophe throughout history. In America, they have assimilated and live free; they are respected members of the community. Jewish young men who wish to cover their heads have opted for wearing baseball caps; they obey their god, but they do not thumb their noses at the community in which they live.

I have a great deal of trouble with Christians who flout their religion with their speech. It shuts down communication. I have the same trouble with women wearing the hajib. I do not feel I can communicate with them, because they are telling me advance through their dress that they have an attitude which cuts me off as a non-Muslim.

If you understand all of the above, as your wearing of the hijab leads non-wearers to assume, then you should not be surprised in America why you are resented by many people.

P.S. I have the same difficulties with people who profess their political parties. We were taught as children that it is rude and dangerous to discuss religion and politics in public.

The hijab isn’t a fashion statement. It is an article of our faith. The sole reason why we choose to wear the hijab is because Allah (SWT) asked us to. We wear it because we believe that women are valuable for much more than their bodies or appearances. We choose to wear the hijab because it forces people to see our minds rather than the way we look. Unfortunately, there are some people who choose to only see the hijab.

America is the melting pot of the world, not because people have “relinquished a part” of themselves when they came here, but because they maintained adherence to their religion and pride for their culture. Being an American doesn’t mean giving something up; it means gaining something, because you’re part of a beautiful spectrum of faiths and backgrounds. The attribute which distinguishes our nation from any other in the world is its freedom. Purging the differences that make up our country is getting rid of what makes America so special and promising. Why must a person “assimilate” to be considered an American? I was born here, have lived here my entire life, and chose to wear the hijab when I was thirteen years old after visiting a Muslim country and having the chance to learn what it represents. I don’t feel any less American; in fact, I feel more patriotic because I’m practicing my right to free exercise, which was granted to me by the Constitution I believe in. Plus, there are plenty of Americans formerly of different faiths who chose to study about Islam, converted, and decided to wear the hijab on their own.

You’re right – there will always be people who are ignorant. Personally, I try to clear misconceptions about my religion every chance I get. But, look at it this way – do you ask us why we wear the hijab, or do you merely treat us like second-class citizens?

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You are a Christian, but you are not living in a Christian country. This is a country of Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Atheists, Sikhs, and people of countless other religions. You don’t have to wear the hijab just because I believe you should, and I don’t have to take off the hijab just because you believe I should. Practicing our religion doesn’t place us at a contrast with American values, it places us in complete accord with them, because although our country is predominantly Christian it respects all faiths and has never sacrificed the rights of the minority for the sake of the majority. If we are met with resentment, it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with us practicing our religion – it means there’s something wrong with our society if it can’t tolerate differences amongst its people.

When a Christian woman visits a Muslim country, she doesn’t have to cover her hair. Muslim countries are also homes for many Christians, Jews, and people of other faiths, none of whom are forced to wear a hijab solely because they’re in a predominantly Muslim country. Actually, there are even plenty of Muslims who choose not to wear the hijab.

Besides, though the practice of covering one’s hair is commonly attributed to Muslims, it is practiced in numerous cultures and religions, including Christianity. Everyday we see nuns who respectfully cover themselves from head to toe, and Saint Mary is covering her hair in every image we see of her. This practice is also common amongst Orthodox Jews, and is a custom in many Asian countries.

Jews have always been devoted to their religion even in the face of the strongest adversity. Throughout history, that has met with “catastrophe” not because they were bold enough to hold their own beliefs, but because they were unfortunate enough to have been confronted with people like Hitler who show no tolerance or remorse for people different than them. Even in America, they have not “assimilated” – we still see Jewish men wearing yarmulkes, Jewish women covering their hair, and some Jews even choosing to wear black fedoras. They have not relinquished their religion and are still very active and valuable members in our society.

You say that when you see a woman wearing the hijab, you assume she wouldn’t be open to communicating with you. Before she even speaks a word, you think she has “an attitude which cuts [you] off as a non-Muslim.” As you can see on this website, our Muslim sisters are very enthusiastic about explaining to people what our religion is really about; we all just want the opportunity to be heard.

The root of resentment towards the hijab, or Islam, or any religion in general, is and always will be ignorance. If we all opened our hearts and minds to learning about each other, our beliefs, and our practices, then the darkness of hatred will inevitably be lit by knowledge. I can only hope for more interaction and dialogue between us, just like this email, so we can create more opportunities to teach each other and chip away at the prejudices that we unknowingly hold within ourselves. Thank you for starting the conversation.

View Comments (35)
  • I find the email rather ignorant.

    There is too much I want to point out. I doubt this person has even approached a muslim sister to ask her about her scarf,or else they have had bad experience and are judging the rest of us based on that (stereotyping, anyone?)

    The emailer also probably managed to offend a high number of jews. How can you suggest that what happened was the fault of people merely wishing to practice their religion?

    I do not have a problem with people practicing their religion, nor do I care about people openly declaring support for their political party. As long as they do not preach to me, I do not care what they do.

    You live your life, let me live mine.

  • “We were taught as children that it is rude and dangerous to discuss religion and politics in public.”

    That’s not my idea of democracy. Wasn’t there something like the freedom of expression ? Why dangerous ? Do she live in China or Iran ?
    I think this woman should educate herself before wasting her time writing such an inept letter like that.
    I also doubt that she is christian, because a real christian does not judge people by their looks or their religion.

    • she have the freedom and right to say she is not confortable. My girlfriend is muslim btw.

      Also nice jugdging her. Cristhians should respect muslims but its not that easy in the other way right?

      • She does have the right to say that she has issues with whatever she feels like. She has the right to be upset about Muslim women wearing a hijab. She has the right to feel upset about whatever she wants, but she should not look down or judge others for what they see as a part of respecting their religion (“Judge not lest ye be judged.”) I am Christian, by the way, and my husband is Muslim (born and raised in America). I do not wear the hijab on a daily basis, but when we got to the Masjid (Mosque) I wear one out of respect for God’s house. The Qu’ran says that women should pull their scarves over their chests in order to be more modest. Even in Christianity, the Bible teaches us that we should cover our heads in modesty. As to your second statement, everyone should respect everyone else. Christians, Muslims and Jews all follow the same God: the God of Abraham. But even beyond that, we should have tolerance for others, no matter what beliefs they hold to. America is a melting pot and because of that we have a unique opportunity to learn about other cultures and religions. Why is this not exciting? We should be hopeful that our children will get to grow up in a country where you are not looked down upon because of the god you pray to. Tolerance is key to a peaceful world. BTW, thank you Amani for this wonderful website! I am glad I stumbled upon it, Masha’ Allah. Oh, and HAPPY RAMADAN!

        • Elaine, thank you so much for such a beautiful comment — truly warmed my heart. So glad to have you on here! Happy Ramadan to you and your husband as well!

  • i agree with everything you have pointed out in your reply to this girl’s email. it seems to me she is a little ignorant and needs to read up on islam and even christianity. she seems quite judgmental, which is not necessary.

    “Being an American doesn’t mean giving something up; it means gaining something, because you’re part of a beautiful spectrum of faiths and backgrounds.”
    i could not agree more! being an american, no one has ever asked me to change who i am. if anything i have been able to embrace my family’s culture, all the while being patriotic and loving america for the amazing country that it is!

  • The comments here are a PRIME example of why people still feel this way about Muslims in America. Many Muslims need to stop acting so “holier than thou” and closed off to their non-Muslim surroundings. People don’t want to approach you and ask questions, to learn, because of this reason. You call people ignorant and want people to “educate themselves”, but none of these comments prove any willingness to teach.

    Anyways, the article was a very well written and intelligent response that actually gave some insight. Thank you for writing.

    • I don’t agree with what you’re saying. First of all, it is never the fault of the person being discriminated against if they’re faced with prejudice. How a person can blame that on the person they’re stereotyping is beyond me. If a person is put off by seeing a hijabi walking down the street, then that’s their own personal defect. Furthermore, thinking Muslims act “holier than thou” and “closed off to their non-Muslim surroundings” are perfect examples of stereotypes. Labeling all Muslims as such is completely unfounded and does not justify judging someone before asking them about their beliefs or practices.

      The reason why the comments here are negative towards the email isn’t because the sender was asking a question – but rather because her approach was dogmatic and trying to legitimize hating another person for practicing their religion. No one will tell you they’re not willing to teach as long as they’re speaking to a person who’s willing to learn.

  • I think my Christian sister speaks more from a biased, eurocentric, political perspective than from a Christian perspective. Despite what she said, we are no longer expected to assimilate in American society. This is and should continue to be a thing of the past. The melting pot concept in modern times is viewed as insulting. We do not have to give up our culture, religion or clothing to become Americans. In the old days, people gave up these things because they were forced or because they were made fun of or abused by the previous wave of immigrants who were now the established majority. Abusing people and making them feel bad about their ancestry and homeland is not an American practice we should want to continue. It is also clearly not Christian.
    The scripture that the writer may be referring to says that we should not pray aloud in front of people and ‘wear our religion’ fas a show of arrogance in public. I do not by any means believe that it is appropriate to use that scripture to argue against hijab. Hijab is the opposite of being a show off, it is clearly modesty, reverence and submission to God. Thank you, Amani for responding so kindly to her. As you said, let the conversation continue. Amen.
    sisterdeie, closetsuperhero

  • “If an American woman goes to your country of origin…”

    What if the US is our country of origin? There are many Muslims born in the US – they are Americans too – and Americans who convert to Islam. Being Muslim doesn’t necessarily mean being from a certain country. A Muslim can be from anywhere.

    Plus, it’s rare that women are legally obligated to cover up in Muslim countries, except places like Saudi Arabia and Iran. In most other predominantly Muslim countries, you’re never required to wear a hijab unless you enter a mosque, etc. If you want to wear one to blend in, that’s your choice, but you don’t have to.

  • Ack! I AM german, and I most certainly DON’T wear dirndl. Plus, anybody wearing hijab doesn’t infringe on the personal freedom of people NOT wearing hijab, so complaining about it is quite UN-amerinca. American values (and german ones too for that matter) usually hold personal freedom in high regard and in both countries the right to religious freedom is pretty much guaranteed in the constitution.

    “America is predominantly Christian. The Christian Bible admonishes us not to make a show of our religion.” Can everybody else see the incredible contradiction in those two phrases? Argh!!!

    ” I have a great deal of trouble with Christians who flout their religion … I do not feel I can communicate with them, …. I have the same difficulties with people who profess their political parties…”

    Anybody notice a trend here? SHE has a problem….but leaves it up to other people to solve it. Self-centered and egoistical much? Yes.

    To sum it up, this lady has a ton of personal problems, bigotry, lack of education and self-centeredness amongst them. Your response to her was beautiful and well thought-out and I admire that you took the time to do so. Hopefully, it’s get her to think a bit.

  • I think a better discussion would explore how the look of the hijab can be intimidating/exclusive. Of course, it is everyone’s responsibility to expose themselves to different cultures and whatnot but I’ve had many friends tell me it’s difficult to learn about Islam from Muslim girls because they tend to be quiet and keep to themselves (live modestly). 

  • I’m sorry, but you are wrong. Culturally, the USA is Christian. And most Muslims in the USA don’t cover their hair. If you choose to do that here, you are in the minority. So obviously over half of the Muslims in the USA don’t feel it is religiously necessary to cover their hair. Are you better than them, or more correct than them because you do? Last time I checked, Islam didn’t have a pope, so there is no absolute answer to that. Either of you could be right.

    My friend Bahar is Iranian and doesn’t cover hair here because she feels like it is not necessary to be a good Muslim. If she were in Iran, she would legally have to. So would I. Same goes as in Saudi Arabia. So you are also wrong about Christian women not having to wear hijab in Muslim countries…and no country is more Muslim than Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of the prophet, right?

    There is so much wrong with this. But yeah, deal with reality and understand that the USA is not (and hope to God) will never be a Muslim country. There would be another nucleur war before people would deal with Shariah here. 

    • First, one cannot be “culturally” Christian. Christianity is, by its very definition, a religion. 
      Second, if a certain percentage of Christians decided it was not necessary to visit church, would that make that part of the religion null and void? No. The same goes for the hijaab. There are many women who choose not to wear it, however, that decision does not make up for the fact that the hijaab is a mandatory part of a muslim woman’s dress. It is mandatory not because a pope or religious man said so, it is mandatory because the Quraan, our religious text, the be all end all of Islamic rulings said so. 

    • Christian women are not required to cover their hair in Saudi Arabia. They are only required to wear a black abaya, the long, flowing dress that some Muslim women wear.

      Muslim women who are not Saudi nationals are not required to cover their face, btw. They are only required to cover their hair and wear a black abaya.

      There is so much ignorance about KSA that I want to scream sometimes.

      • Read your comment – u started with saying they’re not required to cover their hair – and then u ended with saying they are required to cover their hair

        • Christian women are not required to cover their hair. Muslim women who aren’t Saudi nationals are required to cover their hair.

          Reading comprehension please.

  • Amina,

    You are so eloquent and respectful, especially in the face of such ethnocentric extremism. Whilst I might not be Muslim, I love your articles for the insight and well worded thoughts they provide. 

    Keep up the wonderful work!

  • when I  was a little girl we are obliged to wear a scarve or a hat when we go to church, I am use to go to Marroco, and other muslim country, I respect the tradition long sleeves, no short, long dresses, and I do same when I go to a christian weeding it’s important for me .
    For me life style will be respect for people and their religion, don’t forget our religions have the same roots .
    Sorry for my poor english

  • Hi, I am a American Christian, and I find this person’s ideas very saddening. Why is it that people feel that they need to conform to society? Society does not always know what is right, and no one should be told that they need to be like everyone else if they want to fit in. Most world religions do not teach conformity to society. On the contrary Christianity and Islam both teach its followers to defy the normal ways of society.
    If you find conforming to society to be more important than the teachings of your God, can you really claim to be a follower?

  • I would add that racism and any kind of phobia says more about the hater than about the object of their hate. If it bothers you to see a woman wear the headscarf, you should ask yourself why difference is an issue for you.

  • As a messianic woman it irritates me that some christians claim to know what the bible says like they are experts even if they have NEVER EVEN been studying the texts in the original languages. Some do not even know how many times their new bible-version has gone through translations. If this woman would have atleast searched up a direct-translation she would have known what the New Testament teaches us about how we should live in these critical end times. AND IT IS NOT ASSIMILATING TO THE WAYS OF THE NON-BELIVERS. Everyone who knows ANYTHING about the true New Testament understands the HUGE importance of letting our light shine AND NOT HIDING IT these days! She needs to realise the hebrew society 2000 years ago where jews gained high social status by showing off their ascetic sufferings IS KIND OF THE OPPOSITE OF AMERICA TODAY.. One should NOT hide ones cross from view or keep quiet about faith in these days!
    And she also needs to know the most arguments for veiling ALL THE TIME comes from the NEW TESTAMENT. Not from muslim scriptures, not from Jewish scriptures, BUT THE NEW TESTAMENT. Many christians do not even know there is a very long text about the spiritual symbolism in the New Testament and most of those who do know think it´s about the hair of a woman because they do not know there are two DIFFERENT words used for the covering made of garment and the hair in the original text! Messianic people who actually study original languages tend to know this, though. WHY ELSE WOULD ALL THE FIRST FEMALE FOLLOWERS BE WEARING VEILS OF GARMENT AND WHY ARE SOME NUNS STILL IN THIS DECEPTIVE DAYS WEARING IT ALL OF THE TIME? Mind you some christian and messianic women veil even when sleeping, since we know the true symbolism has to do with the spiritual world! The answers are there for those who sincerely serach for them! The true followers of the Messiach did not CONFORM to the roman society, which can be compared to todays freemasonic ruled America -they where persecuted through the entire empire! WAKE UP please.. Disney-princesses with beautiful let out hair is part of indoctrination of small children -physical glory in the form of beautiful hair is NOT a way to be truly free, neather can it ever be a holy veil. Love for pride can never be humility.
    Oh, and IF you read up on the veil in the New Testament and hear from someone that Raul (Paul) told women to conform to society.. Know this; People who have actually studied the historical background knows the Corinthians of Rauls (Pauls) time was a hedonistic people who had gone through a sexual revolution where they had started using seducive clothes and hairstyles AND EVEN CONTRACEPTIVES FOR THE SAKE OF UNLIMITED SEXUAL RELATIONS OUTSIDE OF MARRIAGE. The temple of the earlier religion with veiled women had been destroyed about 30 years before he wrote that letter. Corinth of his time was much like the west of this time when it came to clothes and sexual values. And he told them to let their light shine AND COME OUT OF THE WORDLY CULTURE. Katakalupto does not just mean any covering eather.. It was a cultural hebrew word that meant LONG DRAPING HEADGARMENT. Again, WHY would Mariam (Mary) always wear such a garment? It was not for the sake of showing off or being immodest, I assure you! I really HATE the virtue of vice that people are so indoctrinated with in this most dark day and age.. Much of it is actually trashtalking the first messianic people.
    As for the jews everyone who has studied the old testament knows what happened to them when they conformed too much to the societies they lived in.. Let´s just say the most high was NOT SO PLEASED WITH THEM THEN.

  • I know this is old – but i believe approaching a Muslim sister in general is uncomfortable. As a Muslim – born and raised in the states there is something that triggers our brain to avoid eye contact and shy away from Muslim sisters – I know it’s immature – but it’s valid – so I understand how a non Muslim can find it even more difficult. For a twenty something year old – they’re is a fine line between conversation that can be perceived as flirting (which would insult your modesty). So perhaps by just brushing the emailer off with – don’t be a closed book and ask ! Realize its not that simple and provide some tips on how approach and have a conversation with Muslim sister ( assuming the emailer is a male )

  • I’m super late to this party but I just found your site sooo… “I have the same trouble with women wearing the hijab. I do not feel I can communicate with them, because they are telling me advance through their dress that they have an attitude which cuts me off as a non-Muslim.”, I don’t think the trouble is them, I think it’s you. You may have formed this misconception about the hijab and the women that wear it, most likely thanks to the ignorance of the community/society in which you live, and that’s what blocks your communication. I would ask you to ask God to open your heart to it and to the women that wear it and also to educate yourself on the significance it bears for the women that wear it. Personally I think it a beautiful thing the hijab and I’m Christian

  • What bothers me the most about the idea of the first women is that conforming is the best solution, I wonder if she knows what diversity means. I live in San Francisco and I love walking down the street and seeing the amazing array of people that pass me. America truly is a melting pot, but I would never have know that unless people had held onto their culture, heritage and religion. If I see a Buddhist women with a shaved head I shouldn’t be intimated by the fact that she hasn’t conformed to the overly sexualized ideal of American dress but commend her bravery and strength to stick to her way of life. That is being an american, someone who sticks to their guns, practices their beliefs, and is open enough to have a conversation about it. It’s as if she is saying you cannot be american without looking like everyone else, sorry to be rude but thats just incomprehensible, her argument is flawed and based off of some 1950’s idea that conforming to a ‘standard’ is better than expression. It’s very saddening.

  • It’s intriguing to put this discussion in the context of value.

    I’ve had a few discussion recently with my wife (who is Iranian) about how modesty can say quite a bit about how much a woman values herself. But in order to better understand this, let’s explore the culture of the United States over the past 100 years or so.

    While parenting has never been perfected, for the first few decades of the 20th century, American parents were vigilant in speaking value into their children. Parents would typically both be present in the child’s life and engage the child in conversation regarding the child’s unique abilities and how they have value to offer the world. It is a universal truth that the father sets a precedent in his relationship with the daughter that any other man is required to meet if he wants the daughter’s attention. As the 20th century carried on, we saw husbands and fathers become less emotionally invested in their wives and children, the divorce rate increased, and now a large percentage of children grow up in a home where there is only one parent. This parent carries the complete and total responsibility of two parents, so there is an exponential decrease in the opportunities for establishing the child’s value.

    When children were highly valued, they valued themselves highly. It was in this paradigm that dating worked well, where a young man and woman could go have dinner and in their discussion be able to make a decision of whether they were uniquely valued by the other person. If not, they would go their separate ways. But if we fast-forward to today, it is socially conventional for men and women alike to feel the need to go to extreme lengths to establish any level of value, commonly via sexual acts within a few hours of meeting someone. This reflects not only a low level of self-value, but a low amount of value established by their parent(s).

    When a woman has been called valuable her whole life, there is no need to establish value by exposing skin. She may still choose to do so, but the need for it is not there. She knows that she can cover up as much as she wants and her personality and high level of value will be all she needs to find the man she desires to be with.

    While everything above is my belief, I do not see a need to adhere to a religious framework that enforces it. How men and women dress should be about choice. Because without choice, love cannot exist. If choice is removed, the paradigm becomes one of control. A woman who dresses immodestly for the purpose of establishing value is submitting to the control of a social paradigm just as much as a woman who dresses modestly for the purpose of establishing value with God is submitting to the control of a religious paradigm. The focus moves from what is primary to what is secondary, and in this example clothing (in much or in lack) becomes the focus instead of God. With God there is always an option that transcends our own human understanding of the world. Let our focus be on Him, and as a byproduct we will have abundant answers, knowledge, and wisdom.

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