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When I was a freshman in college, I have to admit: I was in my feminist phase back then. I had completely bought into the idea that “ hijab is a choice,” that it was all about “freedom,” that it made me “empowered.” So is hijab a choice or is that just a feminist slogan? Listen to the podcast here Muslim women at Harvard discuss is hijab a choice?
I was interviewed by a fellow Egyptian Muslim girl at Harvard (let’s call her Sara) about my experience with hijab. It was a group interview setting where Sara interviewed me as well as a few of my Muslim friends, asking each of us why we abided by the rules of hijab. She published the result of the interview as an article in the campus newspaper, the Harvard Crimson.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, it was a trap. I found this out only when I read her article after it was published. It turns out that Sara had a bone to pick with Muslims who insisted on following the Islamic guidelines for dress. She began her article with a story about how when she went back to Egypt for a summer visit once, an older Egyptian woman, a stranger, chastised her for wearing in public a short shirt that showed her midriff. Sara angrily recounted how she was incensed by this incident.
How dare anyone tell her how to dress! In America, nobody would ever dare do such a thing! But in backwards Islamic-law-adhering countries like Egypt, apparently a random strange woman on the street had no qualms about violating personal autonomy and policing another woman’s dress or public behavior. The nerve! So the semester after her summer in Egypt, Sara found herself a group of Muslim girls at Harvard whom she could interview about why they dressed as they did. Her article was a scathing review of the oppressiveness of the Islamic dress code and the naivety of the females, like me, who followed it.
At college I was a Muslim feminist Looking back at this incident, I am not as bothered by Sara’s vindictive setup of an interview as much as I am by my own incoherently feminist answers to the question of why I wore the hijab. I have to admit: I was in my feminist phase back then, much to my chagrin. I had completely bought into the idea that “the hijab is a choice,” that it was all about “freedom,” that it made me “empowered.” I wince now in embarrassment to remember that these cliché feminist talking points about hijab were part of my answer to her question of why I wear it. I proudly parroted back the stuff I’d heard other American Muslim women say hijab was about: Hijab is not mandatory—it is a choice! See, I’m not oppressed like you think! I chose to don this piece of fabric on my head out of my own free will and it is a sign of my unfettered personal agency.
Hijab is all about freedom! Wearing it makes me free of the oppressive gaze of men. It gives me the freedom to go about my life in public unburdened with the sexualization that can result with showing too much skin. Covering my body in this way is a way for me to gain freedom, you see. Hijab makes me feel empowered! I wear it to show my independence and power as a proud Muslim woman who is not scared of others, of being different, or of expressing my ethnic or religious heritage! America is a melting pot!
Read full article here https://farhatamin.com/is-hijab-a-choice/
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