They see the scarf on my head and they see oppression. They see me covering my hair and wearing loose clothing to hide the shape and figure of my body and they wonder how can I possibly be happy clothing myself this way. They see misogyny. ‘Her husband must have forced her’, they think to themselves. They see men’s orders and their power over women. ‘Unveil yourself’, they say, ‘show your beauty’! Because the only way to have your value recognised is to show your beauty?
Beauty – the standards of which are dictated by the society we live in. Beauty standards which affect the mental wellbeing of many individuals. Beauty standards which have contributed to causing eating disorders to increase in prevalence in women, men and even in children from as young as the age of nine. These beauty standards can affect people’s self-esteem and instigates bullying towards people who do not conform to this society’s specific expectations of beauty. Beauty standards which exclude individuals from minority backgrounds, different races and ethnicities.
These are the beauty standards which I happily choose to disregard and take no part in.
For me, and many other Muslim women, the scarf I wear on my head represents an ordainment from God. It represents a shield and protection for me. I see the scarf on my head and on other Muslim women and I see empowerment, liberation and freedom. I see my own choice and my own intentions and beliefs being fulfilled. I choose to cover my hair and dress modestly to veil my beauty which I choose only to share with my close family. I do not want society to judge me and value me on the basis of how beautiful I am by their standards. Value me for my words, my opinions and how I contribute to society. Listen to me because I have a voice and not because I may or may not be beautiful.
They see Muslim women covering their beauty and they say ‘let us help you, you are oppressed, don’t you see?!’
How oppressive to be told that your own beliefs, values and opinions are irrelevant. I am not oppressed because I wear hijab, the only oppression I experience comes from people misguidedly telling me that I am oppressed. Indeed, some people say so with the best of intentions; they truly believe that Muslim women are oppressed by the hijab and truly want to absolve said oppression. However, it is extremely condescending to assume this perspective is the only possible truth. Just because western values don’t believe that a woman covering her hair and beauty could be a personal choice does not mean that is true.
Yes, unfortunately and disturbingly, there are women and girls who are forced to wear the hijab but this is completely against Islam and in fact negates the whole point of hijab as it is all about the individual’s intentions. However, the fact that this fits with the narrative that hijab must always be oppression can lead people to assume this cancels out all of the women who do in fact chose to wear and love wearing the hijab.
They see Muslim women covering their beauty and they don’t see individuals, they don’t see people. They don’t see personalities with different likes and dislikes. They don’t see strong, powerful women who are intelligent and bold. That’s what I see.