Monday, October 23, 2006

RAZIQUEH HUSSAIN - 'Why hijab is an act of faith and liberation for me'

Raziqueh Hussain is a sub-editor with Khaleej Times. In this piece she writes about her active choice to wear a hijab and the liberating nature of her decision.

Following is an excerpt:

"“THAT'S so unfair! Have your parents forced you to dress this way?"

I have lost count of the number of times this query has been flung at me from the age of nine. And all because I made a conscious choice to dress in an Islamic way. Most people I meet for the first time somehow seem to think that I am coerced to cover up. Probably the first thought that crosses their mind is that I'm an oppressed female living in barbaric Muslim patriarchal environment.

But they are sadly mistaken. I dress the way I do because I am free to decide how I look. I believe in modesty and chastity which are the hallmark of a Muslim woman. For me, hijab is an act of faith that allows me to lead my life with honour, respect and dignity. I see it as a liberation for women; the veil is a symbol of my freedom to live with dignity and respect.

Contrary to popular belief, the covering of the Muslim woman is not an act of oppression but a liberation from the shackles of male scrutiny and the wordly standards of attractiveness. The objective of wearing hijab is to save myself from lustful and perversely judgmental gazes. I know that no one is looking at me and making assumptions about my character from the length of my skirt. There is a barrier between me and those who would surely exploit me if they got the chance. I am first and foremost a human being, equal to any man, and not vulnerable because of my gender. And the hijab is my shield...

Every woman has a right to choose what she wants to be. Probably this has given the so-called liberals a massive complex: they know that a woman in a hijab will not dance to their tune.

I am not denying that there are myriad problems in the Muslim world. Women are not as empowered as they should be.

They are fighting for their rights in many Muslim societies. But women, let's admit it, face similar problems across the world. It is a myth that skimpily clad women are modern and liberated.

What sort of liberation is it where women are reduced to commodities? Their bodies are used to sell products from colas to cars. I am perfectly happy with the way I look. My beauty lies behind my hijab. This is liberation. Oh, only if the world understood it as well as I do."

Food for thought....Raziqueh can be reached at

Another thinkpiece on this subject can be found at the On Line Opinion website, written by Rayann Bekdache.

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