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Stigmatisation of Hijab is irrational and unreasonable

6 June 2008

The headscarf, or hijab, is just a small piece of fabric but the controversy that often surrounds it is immeasurable. Muslim women who wear the hijab are often socially stigmatised, in non-Muslim and sometimes even Muslim countries, as being mindless drones who are under the thumbs of their domineering husbands.

This could not be further from the truth. The reason Muslim women wear the hijab is because Allah commands us to do so.

"O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks (veils) all over their bodies. That will be better, that they should be known (as free respectable women) so as not to be annoyed. And Allah is Ever Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful" (Quran 33:59)

The hijab, and the outer cloak or abaya, fulfills the requirement of modesty in Islam that applies not only to women but men as well. By wearing the hijab a woman is actually liberated and not oppressed. Think about all of the ads on TV and the trailers for this summer's hottest movies. They all include ads with women dressed scantily with bulging bosoms and voluptuous bodies and hair, the things that make a woman a woman, right?

However, these are also the things that turn thinking and living souls into nothing more than sexual objects — glorified 'eye candy' for men. The hijab removes sexuality from the equation. When a woman is dressed modestly and her hair is properly covered, she can only be seen for what she truly is, which is an intelligent woman with ideas and a voice of her own. She is not a piece of meat to be drooled over and defamed.

It's surprising that Islam is consistently slammed in the popular media as being anti-women when in fact Islam is the pioneer of true feminism. Islam raised women up out of the wilderness of Arabia over 1400 years ago when Allah Almighty chose Muhammad, peace be upon him, as His Final Messenger. During this time, women were bought, sold and often traded as commodities. Women were inherited when their husbands died which meant that their own sons could do with them as they pleased. Women also had zero rights in the marriage.

She was not entitled to hold property and her husband could divorce her at his whim without compensating her. He could also simply throw her out of the home, not divorcing her, which meant she would spend the rest of her life in limbo unable to remarry. And she had no voice in her society either. Women were not even allowed to seek an education. All of this changed when the Quran was revealed to the Last Prophet and women were given their rightful voices. With the advent of Islam, women were able to vote, seek a divorce and receive alimony, get an education and have her own property amongst other things.

The debate over the hijab will rage on regardless of the true nature in which it is worn in obedience to Allah Almighty and for self-preservation. I have often had conversations with my own family who simply do not understand it calling the hijab a 'towel' that I wear on my head. However, it is very interesting to note that the command for women to wear the hijab can also be found in the Bible as well as the other books of Allah. This verse can be found in the Bible: "But any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled disgraces her head-it is one and the same thing as having her head shaved. For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or to be shaved, she should wear a veil." (Corinthian 11:5-6)

The majority of Christians ignore this command. However, some Catholics do wear a simple lace veil on their heads when they attend Mass.

All women have the right to wear what they choose even if it is not the hijab because Allah is the One and Only judge. Allah alone will judge between humans on the Day of Judgment and we will all receive recompense for our deeds dependant upon whether they were good or bad. It would be unfitting for anyone to slander another just because she chooses to reveal her body, however it would also be unfitting for others to judge women who wear the hijab simply because she chooses modesty in obedience to Allah.

Muslim women are often ridiculed for wearing Islamic clothes or 'garb' as is the popular term in the media. What other piece of clothing screams, "I am a Muslim!' more so than the hijab? Quite often this makes Muslim women unwanted targets of ridicule and contempt, however there is a stern warning in the Quran for those who would poke fun at the expense of Muslims living their lives in accordance with Allah's Divine Decree:

"Was it Allah, and His Signs and His Messenger you were mocking? Make no excuse, you have disbelieved after you had believed. If We pardon some of you, We will punish others among you because they were sinners." (Quran 65:66)

The hijab is not meant to be restrictive in anyway. Quite the contrary, it gives the woman wearing it more freedom of movement than any other piece of clothing she could buy in the trendiest boutique.

Sumayyah Meehan is a Kuwait-based American writer who embraced Islam. She can be reached at 

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