One time, my non-Muslim friends asked me about hijab, wondering why I chose to wear it. We were having lunch together in the café near the college surrounded by other students from all backgrounds – local and international, which means mostly from South Asia and Middle Eastern countries. I was glad to answer their question and gave them my typical but truthful response – faith and personal choice.
I loved wearing it and it made me feel good, confident and empowered.
They accept the answer with no argument, as they understood that every religion has its own conditions and rules. One of them praised how beautiful I styled my chiffon hijab and I even taught them how to wear it. As the conversation went on for quite a while, I noticed a group of girls around my age, sitting at the table next to mine.
I knew them.
They were exchange students from the Middle East and we were in the same group project for the semester. They heard the conversation. I noticed some of them were staring at me and few other hijabi friends of mine as if we have said something negative about hijab.
I tried to brush off the feeling but I could not ignore the familiar, uncomfortable knot in my stomach.
The next day, they approached me.
They questioned me as to why I gave my friends such answer. They could not agree with me. In their opinion, I gave my friends the wrong answer.
Hijab was not a symbol of empowerment, it was oppressive.
[bctt tweet=”Hijab was not a symbol of empowerment, it was oppressive.” username=”wearethetempest”]
I was stunned.
They were not wearing hijab at that time, but they were born and raised with Islamic value in their life. Surely they knew that there was no compulsion in religion, so why would they say such thing?
But for them, there was no choice.
Hijab had been forced on them since they were young and I would never understand their circumstances. I had a choice, where they did not. Not all Muslim girls are free to decide on this matter, so telling the world that hijab represents freedom was absolutely unacceptable.
I have never been in their situation, but still, I understood as to why these girls felt oppressed. Their family, parents, society, even the law enforced hijab on them. To this day, they are given no say on what to wear. For a basic life necessity such as clothing, even to me, it is absurd for other people to decide it for us.
There is no wonder they think hijab is a symbol of oppression and this built a lifetime of resentment towards hijab in them.
[bctt tweet=”This built a lifetime of resentment towards hijab in them.” username=”wearethetempest”]
But that does not mean they have right to resent others for wearing it by choice.
I wear hijab using my free will.
Nobody ever forced me to wear it. One day I just woke up and decided to put it on, it was as simple as that.
Hijab represents my identity as a Muslim woman, which is the first reason I wear it. Some people view it as oppressive, but nothing is more liberating to me than hijab. Women have dresses, makeup and any fashion trends to express themselves. I do not disagree on that. Just like how they have their own way of expressing themselves, so do I.
And hijab is one of my way of doing it, just like it does to any other women as well.
To those who are forced, know this: there are some that do wear it voluntarily. Being proud of hijab does not mean we glorify the enforcement of hijab on you. We support the (un)veiled women, no matter what their choices are. We respect their decisions and it is not our place to judge them.
Hijab is not a symbol of oppression.
Oppression is preventing people from expressing themselves.
[bctt tweet=”Wearing hijab does not mean we glorify the enforcement of hijab.” username=”wearethetempest”]
Telling us to stop proclaiming it as our strength symbol is a form of oppression too, don’t you think?
Stop blaming us for honoring this piece of “oppressive” cloth.
Blame it on the ones who forced you, not us.