As per my own experience, one of the major issues Muslim women who live in non-Muslim countries face is whether they should observe the hijab (via wearing a headscarf) or not. Now this question is not necessarily related to whether the family is strictly religious or not. Sometimes, it’s mainly related to how dangerous or disadvantageous it may be to resemble a person of our faith in today’s world.
People may argue that any person, whatever his or her religion is, has the total freedom and sometimes even the obligation to show their religious orientation. However, taking into consideration the western worldview of Muslim woman and Islam in general today might make us rethink the whole situation.
Since the safety of the individual is an important matter, even as a religious concept, some women opt to stop wearing the headscarf at a young age for the simple reason of protecting themselves from acts of intolerance towards Islam, or due to. With hate crimes on a rapid rise, and people of color not gaining the same visibility as their more homogenous counterparts, it would be naive to assume that these things don’t play a factor in the decision to appear visibly Muslim.
…what has to be known is that if a young girl is brought up in an environment where religion is approached as a lifestyle and a system of thought, this feared estrangement from faith is unlikely to happen.
While this decision in particular can be seen as a way of estranging girls from their faith, what has to be known is that if a young girl is brought up in an environment where religion is approached as a lifestyle and a system of thought, this feared estrangement from faith is unlikely to happen. In an environment where Islam is seen as a series of physical activities, or boxes that need to be ticked, the simple act of wearing of a headscarf is no guarantee that faith will truly stick.
Remaining engaged in society and being surrounded by peers, even if they don’t necessarily have a common culture or background, will encourage the young women of our ummah to grow in an environment where they don’t feel estranged, but rather empowered through their understanding of positive influences.
In addition to that, these young girls who grow up in a world so different from their own nuclear families are, in one way or another, going to have internal conflicts about their being when they are young because their narratives are not fully formed. Their ideologies are still being informed, and slapping a headscarf on their heads is not the way to ensure that the young women of our ummah grow up to be confident, and informed. We must give them the chance to dive into societies that are foreign to them, with full support, so they can open their eyes to what they want to achieve, and how they want to achieve it.
This can be seen in how Muslim women are rocking the world with their achievements. From Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib being the first female congresswomen of Muslim faith, to Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, the first female Minister of Education in France, as well as Ibtihaj Muhammed, the first woman to represent the United States at the Olympics wearing a headscarf. These women, along with many others, are introducing the world to what it means to be a successful Muslim woman, who can have a voice and the confidence to make it heard, whether they wear a headscarf or not.
Now, no one is arguing against the headscarf. The point being made here is that to focus in on the headscarf as though that alone is what makes a woman Muslim is an ideology we should leave in the past. If the mix of women listed above are any indication, whether they wear the headscarf or not isn’t what defined their success. These are celebrated Muslim women, some who wear the headscarf and some who don’t, who take pride in the positive communities that have shaped them, and this projection is the best way for young girls to have a role model who they can relate to.
Again, this matter is undoubtedly not related to how religious a person is, but it’s tightly linked to how we can succeed without feeling burdened by the fear of what society expects from us, or that we may be judged or attacked for appearing visibly Muslim. Islam is a religion of growth and prosperity when we know how to serve it rightfully, so keep your hearts pure, and go forth with the intention to do good.