Hijab is a Choice
As a result of the mainstream media, we have grown up in a society that encourages us to focus in on our dissimilarities and highlight that which makes “us” different from “them”. Thus, we label, we judge, we stereotype and we generalize. Though it may be unintentional, we are all subject to the human condition of classifying others based on sex, gender, race, beliefs, religion and the list goes on and on. We are so easily persuaded by the media that instead of trying to learn about the true meaning behind different beliefs and values, we merely label them as a means to better understand them.
Think of the word Hijab. Take a moment to reflect on the different connotative meanings YOU have associated with this religious head scarf.
When we hear this word or are faced with young women wearing a Hijab openly within our culture, we often associate it with the oppression of women. But be warned, this is strongly the result of the mainstream media biasing our views based on its misrepresentation of this religious scarf.
Take the news coverage from earlier this year about the father who killed his 16 year old daughter for not wearing her Hijab. We begin to associate this religious item with total female suppression due to the few extreme instances highlighted by the media. I am not trying to suggest that unfortunate events such as this be overlooked, but rather that we think more critically before associating the Hijab with “female suppression” as a result of few regrettable occurrences.
Within our society, we have been conditioned to ally the Hijab with a sign of female inferiority largely due to its misrepresentation in the media. As a result, this has become one of the founding beliefs upon which we have based our views of the Muslim faith. These men “control their women, have them wrapped up from head to toe and keep them as possessions for their own.” However, when one scratches beneath the surface it is revealed that this “ symbol of female suppression” is not an indication of women’s compliance to men but rather, of their modesty. It has been shown that many of these women choose (yes they have the right to choose!) to wear the Hijab based on their own personal values and beliefs.
At the denotative level, we see women covered from head to toe on a hot summer’s day while their male counterparts parade around in shorts and a Tee. We ask ourselves why any women would put herself through this? And thus conclude, based on what the media has fed to us, that she must have been forced to do it by her male counterparts. Consequently, at the connotative level, we associate it with female submission. In reality however, this religious scarf is often a symbol of a woman’s modesty and devotion to her faith. And is part of her free choice (it should be noted that my focus is on North America).
What I am suggesting is that as a result of the misrepresentation of the Hijab in the mainstream media this religious head scarf has become a symbol for the suppression of Muslim women within North American culture. However, a much different picture can be painted with the proper research. More often than not this religious item is a personal choice that the women choose to wear as an indication of their devotion to their faith.
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