On April 26, I published a blog post titled “Time for a confession: I wore the face veil for eight years”. Among the 1,845 words in the article, there are the following ten words: “I even have my own questions about the head scarf.”
In response to those ten words, several people asked me on the blog and on my Facebook page what I meant by that exactly. I even got a rather nasty comment that I refused to publish that included among other things something to the effect of “people are saying that you are planning on taking off your hijab.”
Let me set one thing straight: I have absolutely no plans to take off the hijab (the head scarf).
This does not mean that I do not have the right to question it, though. And what happens if I question it and come to the conclusion that I feel a need to remove it for any reason? Is that not my right as well? Does that turn me into a kafir (non-believer) or a loose woman, as some people would seem to imply?
It perturbs me very deeply that many Muslims believe it is the obligation of non-Muslims to study religions, question their own upbringing and faith, and as a result of continuous observation and research come to the conclusion that Islam is the one true religion. Many Muslims believe this but do not give Muslims this same right. Allow me to emphasize that it is Muslims who do this and not Islam. Islam is a religion, according to my understanding, that highly encourages questioning and reasoning.
So people, no apologies from me, I allow myself to question my own practices and my own faith just as I allow myself to question others’. I believe that this only strengthens faith, rather than weakens it.
So what are my questions about hijab?
When I question, I like to remove myself from the frequently repeated concept of: God ordered us to do such and such, that’s why. If I applied that concept to everything in my head, I’d close the door to questions. And I do not believe that is what God wants me to do. I believe God gave us brains to use them.
My questions are very simple and practical questions based on observation. The main argument used by Muslims when defending the hijab is that it protects the woman from being looked at as a sex symbol. I understand that and have repeated this many times myself.
But there are other arguments as well that need to be considered. One argument is that wearing the hijab actually turns a woman into more of a sex symbol than removing it does; that simply because she is a sex symbol in the eyes of man that she is told she must cover up in order not to arouse them.
There are people who argue that men living in closed societies where women are completely covered up are aroused by the smallest of things, perhaps even seeing the beautiful eyes of a woman, whereas men living in more open societies are less aroused over seeing something like a woman’s arms or hair.
Please note, before I go any further, that I am NOT talking about or defending women who intentionally dress (or undress) in order to arouse men. I am not talking about women who sway and swing in video clips with the least amount of clothing on possible.
When I talk about women not wearing the hijab, I mean the average Western woman who leaves the house in decent clothing, sometimes even shorts and a sleeveless t-shirt, same as men do, but with no intention at all of wreaking havoc in men’s hearts.
Something I have noticed is that people’s perceptions of each other are cultural. I’ve watched women in the West walking down the street dressed in a business suit, for example, with their hair done nicely, and no one even noticing them. Earlier this week while I was in Italy on a business trip, I attended a church service out of curiosity. Men and women were sitting side by side during the service and not one of them seemed to be having thoughts of pouncing on the woman sitting next to them (of course I don’t read minds, but I’d assume a man having such thoughts would at least be a bit fidgety). I’ve asked many an Arab man if, when he travels to the West and sees women’s hair, he has problems controlling his sexual urges and thoughts. They’ve all told me – and I’m just going to have to trust them on this – that seeing women’s hair in the West does not arouse them.
Of course there is the occasional sick man who cannot control himself and goes around harassing women and sometimes raping them. I would like to assume, and I hope you assume this with me, that this kind of man is the exception and that this kind of man is mentally ill. This kind of man will attack any kind of woman; fully covered or not. We have many rapists in the Islamic world who have raped women wearing the face veil, wearing the hijab, or covered up very respectably. When a man rapes a woman, the blame is to be placed on the man who rapes the woman, and not on the woman who is being raped, NO MATTER what she might be wearing. A normal, healthy man can control an urge to pounce on a woman who passes him by on the street.
I’m also disturbed by the many claims I’ve heard from Arab men that “it’s different for men than it is for women” in response to the question: why don’t men have to cover up as well? Who says that a man’s body is not as attractive in a woman’s eye as a woman’s body is in men’s eyes? Who says that women do not have sexual urges that they too need to control? Why is it that it’s the women that need to fully cover up to protect men’s sexual urges but the opposite is not true?
These are some of the questions in my head. I’m certain there must be answers and I’ll wait for you all to give them to me – which I know you will.
But the fact that I question does NOT make me a bad person! The fact that I question means I give myself the right to understand and then to believe rather than to simply have weak faith.
So no, I’m NOT taking off my hijab. But yes, I DO have the right to question it.