Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Illustrating the hijab matrix: Box #4

Last week on 4 September was World Hijab Day, meant to celebrate the right of Muslim women to wear the hijab. It was started when France banned the hijab in public schools in 2004 under the constitutional concept of laïcité (French for secularity/separation between church and state). While reading this article on tactics aimed to shame Muslim women into wearing headscarves over at Jezebel, this comment by regina_filange caught my eye:

"...I'm a former Muslim women who still wears the hijab. I wore it initially as a preteen for cultural reasons. I didn't understand the implications of being covered until I was actually taught about what it means through a muslim religion class specifically for female teens, where I was constantly told that I had a responsibility to cover myself and avoid the gaze of lustful men who just couldn't control themselves. Five years later, I'm and [sic] athiest, still living in my conservative parents home.
I wear the hijab, knowing that the second people see me people assume I'm an oppressed, uber religious, homophobic, backwards women. Sometimes I don't get that judgement, but the commenters here have reassured me that people can still look at a women, not at all know her story, and judge her that way."
As I mentioned before in my posts about the hijab matrix (Part 1Part 2), some women do not consider the hijab an obligation from the divine, but wear it anyway (Box 4 of the matrix). The commenter perfectly illustrates this with reasons why a woman would do so.
"In America, I know a lot of women wear the hijab because is a symbol of their faith. Some, of their culture. Some because it helps them, in a western country, present themselves as a conservative person, because the hijab has come to represent that more than anything else. Dressing modestly depends on the environment, and in America, I don't think the head scarf is neccesary to be modest. Or, that was my liberal interpretation of modesty within the religion, back when I needed to tell myself these things so I could remain faithful.
I now wear a head scarf for that reason. For example, I also wear skinnies and get a little tacky fabulous when it comes to matching, but wearing a headscarf in America, around most people who don't understand or give a shit to learn about what the hijab means, is like putting a sticker on your head that says you're not interested in doing something a conservative girl would (not)."
When she wore the hijab, she held dual views on it: she felt it was her responsibility in order to "avoid the gaze of lustful men" although she didn't think it was necessary for modesty. However, she now wears it even though she is an atheist, because the hijab is a marker of modesty and conservatism. By wearing one in America, she signals that she is a conservative person.

Another commenter, biokase, contributes another example that illustrates Box 4 (hijab for no divine reasons):
"My personal experience with why some women choose to wear the hijab mostly comes from my sister, who is a Muslim convert and did her doctorate in psychological therapy in the Muslim community. My sister does not wear it in everyday life, but often does so as a means of fitting into/blending in with the community when working with Muslims."
Whether this convert believed that the headscarf was obligatory or not, she wore it for clearly a social reason. I learnt a new thing here, that both Muslims and non-Muslims could be wearing it for social reasons!

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