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Latest incident of the obsession with hijab: Sania Mirza


Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Before I begin, I want to apologize for being lax on the entries lately. The spring semester has started and things are getting busy again. I may not write as frequently but I promise to write when the time allows.

My husband forwarded me an e-mail about Indian tennis star Sania Mirza which critiqued recent comments made by Zakir Naik: "Everyone has different levels of modesty. There were tennis players who wore long skirts and performed just as well. But personally, I support Sania Mirza as she prays five times a day, so the skirts she wears can be ignored." The e-mail basically said that Naik was wrong for making these statements since the Qur'an commands Muslim women to wear hijab. It also said that since Mirza is a celebrity, she is by default, a role model for South Asian Muslim girls and thus, they may think it's ok not to wear hijab. I googled her name and found that the e-mail was just one of many critiques written, usually by men, of Mirza's attire. I was actually surprised to see all articles on Mirza's attire considering that there are Indian Muslimah celebrities, such as Bollywood stars, who don't wear hijab and wear revealing clothing as well.

The point of this is post is not to debate whether hijab is mandated or not. My personal decision is to wear hijab. The reason why I put emphasis on personal decision is because at the end of the day, hijab, has to be a personal decision. Muslim women need to be given their autonomy and this cannot be done if we insist on policing their morality, clothing, and more. Mirza's decision to not wear hijab is her decision and ultimately, we cannot force her to do it. In addition, each Muslim woman must decide to wear or not wear hijab of her own accord. When hijab becomes cultural and when women wear it simply to appease their families and their societies, hijab, in reality it becomes quite superficial and meaningless. Is this what we want from Muslim women? It should be done out of conviction and the desire to please God.

Another issue I have with the campaign to pressure women into hijab is that it places a woman's morality and faith on her clothes. I find it frustrating when non-hijabis are considered to have a lesser faith than hijabis. Why is a woman's iman reduced to this one piece of cloth? I know that some of you are thinking that the same exists for Muslim men in regards to beards, etc. I won't deny that some Muslims will think less of a man who doesn't have a beard. However, I do not think that the stigma of a beardless man is not nearly as strong as the stigma of a hijabless women among the ummah. This stigma isn't just created by some men but by some women who view non-hijabis with disdain and who have little respect for them. Is our concern with hijab based partly on the fact that hijab is one of the most visible symbols of Islam? If a Muslim woman does not wear hijab, does this threaten the visibility of Islam? I think that for some Muslims, this is where the real concern with hijab lies. For most societies, the "reputation" and honor of a society lies with women. For some Muslims, women not wearing hijab is ultimately a stain on the honor of the ummah.

I don't think this is true of all people who wear hijab or advocate wearing hijab nor am I necessarily condemning people who may talk to non-hijabis about hijab. What I am proposing is that we critically evaluate our attitude to women who wear hijab and women who don't. Why are some of so concerned even obsessed with whether or not a woman wears hijab? Is our concern for our sisters really masking other issues and insecurities? Think about this the next time you want to chastise a sister for not wearing hijab.



thinkingitover said...

i am tired of the idea that a person can measure a woman's deen through the idea of "hijab". I am so sick and tired of people really thinking that my only purpose in this world and religion is to cover up! i don't wear hijab, I took it off almost a year ago, and I don't believe that I will ever wear it again. I have my beliefs and people have their own. Let's leave it like that!

8:45 PM HYPERLINK ""HYPERLINK ""Zeynab said...

Salaam! Great post!

12:52 AM HYPERLINK ""ummzee said...

Alhamdulillah i agree with every word you have stated. And actually what Dr Naik said was similar too he also said individuals should not be singled out and critiqued for one thing he also implied she is being singled out because she is a woman, while the many male muslim Bollywood stars are hardly ever critiqued or held accountable for the fact that they live very UnIslamic lifestyles...and the fact remains hijab isn't that widespread in India anyway i was in Mumbai two years ago i was only hijabi in my in laws family doesn't mean they aren't good practicing Muslims though...they are much better Muslims than me!


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"Is our concern with hijab based partly on the fact that hijab is one of the most visible symbols of Islam? If a Muslim woman does not wear hijab, does this threaten the visibility of Islam? I think that for some Muslims, this is where ... Posted by About Me at 10:28 AM

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