Thursday 24 June 2010

An Apology to the Non-Hijabi

At a recent Egyptian dinner in honor of a visitor to our town, I encountered a situation that opened by eyes to an important issue that is rarely addressed.

I approached the honored guest to offer my obligatory salaams. She seemed nice, more quiet than others and the wrinkles on her face indicated that she must be a grandma. She asked me hesitantly which one of the women behind me was my mom so she can extend her good wishes to our family. I pointed in the direction of where my mother was assisting the ladies set the table for dinner, The old lady gasped for air and looked puzzled and said with disgust FOR EVERYONE TO HEAR:

"Why doesn't your mom wear hijab? And how come you wear hijab and your mother doesn't?"

My initial reaction was to tell the woman off. But given the setting, the people she was related to I cared about and my good upbringing, I defied my instincts and calmly responded: "Why don't you ask her yourself?"

I realize now, years into my understanding of my own identity of a Muslim American woman, that most frequently women who don't wear hijab tend to be harassed, marginalized, patronized, lectured, judged, attacked, and insulted--get this--BY THEIR OWN COMMUNITIES, the Muslim community specifically.

I've read countless articles, blogs, books, etc where Muslim women whine about their rights to cover, to not be judged for their choices, etc. But the opposite isn't always true. If a woman by choice doesn't wear the hijab, she is mistreated or pressured by the community to become a hijabi. I find it interesting that Muslims tend to preach and demand rights from others, yet they fail to fulfill them themselves. Where is the respect, freedom of choice and tolerant attitudes when it comes to Muslim women who don't wear hijab?

I would like to say it loud and clear for everyone to hear: Muslim women who DON'T wear hijab are Muslim; they can be practicing; they can be God-fearing; they can love God more than a hijabi ever will; they can provide for the community. A piece of cloth doesn't determine who you are with relation to God.

Hijab doesn't mean piety. I've met the most despicable people who wear hijab, niqab, abaya, or whatever. And I've also met the nicest, most practicing, most inspiring women who don't wear hijab, but are modest in their heart, body and soul.

A recent Twitter buddy was upset when she took a short cab ride to her job in Cairo City, Egypt. The driver guilt her about her exposed hair. He told her she must cover because it's the duty of Muslim women to cover. She embarrassingly admitted that she wasn't Muslim and his lecture didn't apply to her. He then continued with his abuse and told her she was going to hell either way then!

I think the 'holier-than-thou' attitudes in the Muslim community have no place in Islam. Prophet Muhammad didn't teach hate, but love. He taught us to be kind, to react calmly and to be gentle. I say we leave judging for God and embrace one another so we can fulfill the Godly command in the Quran to stand united by one another to battle evil and do good.

On behalf of the abusive men and women who have made you feel 'less' of a Muslim or who have lectured you endlessly on the lack of your faith, I would like to apologize to you, the Muslim Non-Hijabi, for all the pain and disrespect we've intentionally and unintentionally caused in the name of God.

Forgive us.



  1. Thank you for this post. I'm with you 100%.

  2. Thank you for this post. I have frequently had people make me feel like a terrible Muslim for not wearing abaya. thank you for reminding people that dress doesn't equal piety!I mean, i do wear a hijab, but I frequently am told that jeans are slutty and that i'm a hojabi which really hurts.

  3. I do welcome your observation (needed but a taboo). Though I do disgree with your distinction of being hijabi or non-hijabi. The root for that lies in interpretation. You obviously have your opinion and others have theirs and thats ok.

    Hijab does not mean headscarf to all Muslims - for many muslims and certainly until recent years the headscarf was not common to see. Anyways the point is, those who say " we chose to wear the headscarf" get respected and defended. The rights are championed.

    Yet these ladies and their ilk can not afford the same level of tolerance to those who say "we chose not to wear it either because we don't believe it is islamic or because we don't feel it is nessecary or whatever applies".

    Double standards. You just cant escape them.

    Many females (despite age sadly) tend to be so hateful and intolerant that it begs the question if their iman is so weak or whether it is just plain ol' fashioned jealousy?

    Many of the headscarf wearing girls are more fashionable and more sexual in their appearance than those without. As a female even I notice their beauty. What must then not be going on in the hormon ridden male minds when they lay eyes on these girls with skin tight outfits, makeup, beautiful facial piercings, fancy scarfs, bling etc? Even non-muslims begin to wonder.

    Why this need to obsessive need to force unto others your (generally speaking) intrepretation of Islam?

    Iman and taqwa should be the driving forces - and not what others do or don't.

    And as the Quran says, taqwa is the best of clothing for a momin/believer.

    But its like people are too obsessed with others that they won't let them live. Throwing things like (the blog author also mentions above) "you are not a proper muslim" or"you are not muslim at all", "you are sinful" are not exactly islamic behaviour or tolerance or peaceful for that matter.

    Statements like "dear sister (note the irony) you will be hung by your bare breasts in hell and your hair on full display and mocked and then you will be asked so you really wanted to flaunt your hair in the world now burn" are not to me sisterly love or tolerance.

    Where is the love? Hey if you can't love all, fair enough. Tolerance however is affordable. Its free. No price. But nobody cares.

    Still I do appreciate you for bringing up such a sensitive topic. Mind you we often observe these things, when we suffer them.

    At the end of the day, I could not care less what a girl wears. I just wish these girls could extend the same tolerance the other way around.

  4. i don't ever comment on these topics but I really couldn't help myself. I think people forgot how to be tolerant with one another. Yes, people have their own views and some keep it to themselves while some express it. Some show it in their appearances and some don't. And i understand that non hijabies get penalized for not wearing a scarf in their own community. And its even worse if you used to wear one and then take it off and I know because my best friend did that and we're still best friends.

    But at the same time, hijabies are only human, their hijab comes from their islamic faith and some choose to wear it and there may be some who don't but regardless its an expression which different people wear for different reasons. But doesn't mean some hijabies don't want to look pretty and wear nice clothes or make up. Again, people express themselves in different ways, and im sure these hijabies who choose to look more beautiful than they already do also get scrutinized by certain communities or strangers because of the way they choose to dress or look. And whether your a hijabi or not, most want to look better and to feel confident about themselves. Nothing wrong with that, so i don't understand why its not okay to make a non hijabi feel uncomfortable for not wearing a hijab (And I agree, you shouldn't make them feel uncomfortable) but make a hijabi uncomfortable for wearing tighter clothes or make up. it defeats the concept of not judging others for the choices they make.
    its like if you wear a hijab, thats it you cant do this and that and i understand, you should be a better person because your wearing an islamic symbol and you should get rid of your face piercings and wear more modest clothes etc. well, guess what, no one likes having the burden of representing and being perfect when nobody is.

    in the end, neither hijabies nor non hijabies or anyone else has any right to judge how people express themselves. Again, this ties back to my point on tolerating and accepting how people express themselves and how it shouldn't be anyone elses concern. You can think what you want but keep it to yourself because this is hurting other peoples feelings. Its not your place to say whats in someones heart. As well, there are great and not so great people from every type of group. I know this sounds like a rant but its something I've wanted to let out for a long time especially since I've had arguments with people about this. BTW nice article.