“Why do you wear the hijab?”
“Why did you take it off?”
“Why do you wear it like that?”
Muslim females like myself are sick and tired of hearing this. The flurry of questions I got when I started wearing the hijab the first time in July 2013 was astounding. Of course, I recognize my privilege in the fact I don’t look Muslim when I’m not wearing the hijab (whatever that means since Islam isn’t a monolith). It would be easy to assume that this is the reason why people reacted so energetically to my newly-donned hijab. But then riddle me this; the reverse question was also asked when I took it off for 7 months in 2014/2015. Muslim women, wherever we go, are policed. We are scrutinized for our choices incessantly, especially when it comes to hijab and modesty.
I have heard the following statements more times than I can count: “Honey, you live in the West, you don’t need to wear the hijab. Did your husband or dad make you wear it? Be free.”
Hello? I am free! The fact that I can wear the hijab by choice is part of my freedom and liberation. And “freedom” won’t be complete in any shape or form until people stop policing us and our bodies. My dad never forced me to wear the hijab, nor has my husband forced me to keep it on. It has been my choice entirely.
You see, Muslim women — in particular those that are racialised, indigenous, trans and/or queer — cannot be truly free unless we make it our duty as allies and fellow Muslim women to stand up against policing.
Asking why someone does or doesn’t wear the hijab is none of anyone’s business. I can’t believe that this is still something that needs to be stated, but the cloth around someone’s head, or lack thereof, doesn’t dictate piety or character. It doesn’t indicate any qualities other than the fact that some people are more comfortable outwardly proclaiming their faith, and that is okay.
You see, Muslim women — in particular those that are racialized, indigenous, trans and/or queer — cannot be truly free unless we make it our duty as allies and fellow Muslim women to stand up against policing. The job lies mainly on those with privilege, especially allies, to stand up and challenge the status quo. Why does it matter to someone if I wear a certain garb, or something around my head?
By policing our bodies and choices, you put us in very critical and dangerous situations. You suppress our freedom, freedom that is rightfully ours, and force us to make decisions that we don’t want to just so we feel safe.
To the supposedly-religious who assume that lecturing a woman about her headscarf is their religious right, spare us. There is absolutely no compulsion in Islam, and so, we get to decide how we cover. To those who oppose the headscarf and somehow view it as a sign of oppression, once again, I ask you to spare us from your two cents. It’s insulting to assume that a male in our lives forced us to wear the headscarf, because that assumption strips us of our agency and the right to choice. And then, somehow, you have put us in the very situation you claimed to be protecting us from.
Muslim women, and women in general, should always have the right to choose what they want to wear. Whether that choice comes in the form of a headscarf or a bikini, no one but the woman in question gets a say in that choice. And the next time you have an urge to police someone’s clothing, do us all a favor and don’t.