Hijabi In A Western Society

I had a mini epiphany the other day. This epiphany was inspired through the mindless scrolling of Instagram when I stumbled onto a post of a Hijabi woman discussing her state of depression. The shocking aspect was the amount of comment I’d read which had followed the pattern of judging her current state of mind to her headscarf, which had been apparent in the video.

My epiphany was simply noting a number of situations I’ve been put in which had been quickly linked to the fact I wear a hijab.

You see, I began wearing my hijab at the delicate age of 11. I recall being hesitant and unsure with the covering, possibly even felt like I resented it at times.

Your immediate response to this would be that I must be oppressed, of course. However, maybe that is why I was so timid with revealing myself to the public with said covering. I had already unconsciously been knowledgeable of the fact that I would be perceived much differently with a hijab than without.

I never viewed myself as a victim. I am not unintelligent (in contrast to popular opinion) and I am incredibly ambitious and confident in my motive.

However, spotting me with a headscarf may give you the opposite idea. See, one of the most terrifying thing for any growing teen is the risk of not achieving acceptance. Now, put yourself in the position of a Muslim, Hijabi woman who is of colour and of an Arab nationality growing up in the busy streets of London. Let me just say, you feel pretty damn vulnerable.

From the stories your mother shares in fear of her daughter’s safety when revealing stories of girls who’d had their headscarf stripped off them, or having Hijabi women being pushed off onto train tracks as front headlines. You begin to feel like a branded target for abuse.

However, it wasn’t the risk of abuse that scared me. It was more so the risk of missed opportunities, odd stares and the grilling scrutiny society applies to your daily life. See, in a society where wherever you look, women’s beauty standard is often measured through factors like the brand of hair products used or the trendy cuts people follow, it tends to become quite daunting. The absence of my hair resting on my shoulders felt wrong, even.

This proved to be a problem when different phases followed. At times, I’d notice myself feeling timid about my Hijab and other times? I was over the moon. See, I began to grow more resolved and in love with my hijab. It was no longer a piece of fabric or extra clothing, it was a second skin. It was a part of me. I felt respected, honoured and true to myself as I chose to cover and become more resolute in my belief. But, certain days were harder than others.

The day I walked out of my home in a Hijab I had opened my arms to become more accustomed to odd stairs and new terms to add to my dictionary. The spectrum often followed from Ninja to Taliban, and if nobody had anything to say? You were greeted with awkward smiles and silent shuffles. I was a walking controversy.

My issue was that amongst all the reactions, what I wanted was rather simple. I just wanted to be treated as any other girl with luscious locks rolling down her spine. I wanted to be normal! I never understood why my choice of garments as I chose to follow a religion was such a problem. I felt as though I was struggling through emancipation, which would usually be encouraged or respected. However, I had only ever been viewed as oppressed, or even worse, an extremist.

You see, being a Hijabi comes with a certain rule of inspection you’ll have to pass in society’s eyes, even if it’s only once. The gruelling inspection often comes in the form of possibly a new friend, a teacher or simply spontaneous curiosity. You’ll be, what I suppose you could call ‘Hot Seated’ as you’ll be asked a following of these questions:

Does the Hijab pin hurt when you stick it in your head?
No, you see I had a designated small hole in my head to allow my pin to stick in it without hurting.

Do you shower/sleep in it?
I use Hijab & Shoulders which leaves the fabric of my headscarf silky smooth, allowing me to then blow dry and sleep comfortably in it.

So, like no guy can ever see your hair?
Not even an innocent child. Scratch that, not even my own family can.

Can I see your hair?
I’m actually bald as an egg, so there’s not much to see.

What if the wind blew it away, would you get sent to Hell for that?
First, I will be questioned to see whether it was my intention for the wind to come, or could I have avoided it by walking the opposite direction. Then, regardless of the answer I’ll be thrown into the fiery depth of Hell by Satan himself.

And the winner of being the worst of all is, Ladies and Gentleman.

Were you forced to wear it?
I cannot even humour you with this one as it is a massive issue that I struggle to prove to people who are adamant in the belief of my supposed ‘oppression’ to believe. No amount of emphasis can I put on the No for this question. I’m afraid, you don’t get to play some hero who will save me into liberty. It’s my choice, stop questioning it.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I have no issue with questions, in fact, I encourage it as that means you’ll get your answers from a genuine Hijabi rather than what CNN feeds you. However, when I am still struggling with my faith and I am in certain situations, such as a classroom and your teacher sweeps up a chair to come and grill you? It can be pretty bloody frustrating. What’s worse is when people leave taunting comments, such as when you’re innocently getting your head bandaged by your medical teacher only to receive comments such as ‘This wouldn’t be so difficult had you not worn this thing’ and ‘ you know, you could just take it off, I won’t tell your Dad’ is straight disrespectful and doesn’t need to be tolerated. ( Actual situation, I’ve been in)

You see, I am in my fifth year of wearing the Hijab, and I’ve learned that I will constantly have to tackle Hijabi stereotypes. I’ve learnt to smile that extra inch just to make sure I don’t get shunned as dull or depressed in public. I make sure to be the first to point out my opinion in fear of being perceived as having no character or intellect. I make sure to constantly prove in some way that I am not brainwashed or oppressed. I have to literally fight to appear that slight bit more like any other breathing being.

Also, the fact I hold a responsibility for an entire religion when I put on my Hijab can be very daunting. See, people immediately reflect my actions, back onto Islam. The knowledge that I possibly hold responsible for putting my religion in jeopardy through scrutiny from a person who was displeased by my actions can be incredibly overwhelming. If you don’t believe one person could form a view onto an entire religion, switch on the news.

In fact, I fear that we are going backwards. A recent law permits companies from firing employees if they refuse to remove their Hijab in European work places. Do you understand why for somebody who has lived and breathed this society and acted as an active member of it may be confused by such laws? How frustrating must it be for a person to decide that how I cover diminishes from my working capabilities? Or that a harmless piece of fabric could possibly offend anyone?

These actions result in consequences for too many people for it to be something to overlook. Any Hijabi understands that removing their covering is not an option. Like I said, it’s a part of us. Thus, this means many women will have to resort to staying at home, causing our society to go back in History. Women did not fight for their rights for such a long time for it to be at risk simply because of a few ignorant outlooks. Some of these women will be single mothers with mouths to feed, how are you going to allow that to rest on your conscience?

To gather all this up, I am not ashamed of my Hijab. I am a member of a western society which I honour and love, as well as my Arab nationality. Although, the contrast of the two can be confusing at times, not going to lie. I am not bitter about society’s scrutiny of the Hijab, I understand where said views come from, but that doesn’t make it okay! I hope you’ll one day share my views and help make the Hijab a respected normality.

THE F-WORD

Excuse the censorship, but I’m afraid gender equality or dare I say Feminism is simply far too drastic a term for some people.

Sexist people, that is. You see, for as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with comprehending the mentality that some may have on the basis of gender.

Whilst I saw it as a beauty that creates a wonderful humanity, it seems most seemed to relate it with separation and superiority.

A few months ago, I presented a speech to my all girl classmates on feminism. I recall witnessing shocked expressions as I expanded on the details of certain statistics such as; 1 in 5 women experience sexual assault on college campuses. I could already see the calculating look in their eyes as they wondered if that is what their future held.

However, it was the faces that stared back with dull eyes as they awaited the speech to end due to their boredom that terrified me. It was as if they already knew the consequences that came with being a woman.
Everybody knew they were at risk of assault if not even had expected assault in their lifetime due to their gender.

But, how can they not?
It’s all, we’re ever taught. Don’t go out at night, make sure you’re always with company, keep that skirt a little longer, oh and don’t cake on too much of that mascara. We come with a rule book that prohibits most acts of human nature.

So then if I tick each box, am I safe from my gender?
If I follow each rule, will I be one of the lucky ones?

No.

I’m afraid our gender comes with many repercussions. Now, you’ve presumably been birthed a beautiful baby girl with one too many aspirations. But, the truth is, you’re going to suffer and struggle a lot more than if you had grown a beautiful baby boy. Allow me to display the troubles you’ll more than likely face; Firstly, Parents may want you to succeed, but they will adamantly refuse you any opportunities. Wouldn’t want your fragile little heart getting into any trouble, eh? Also, let us not forget the wage gap you’ll face, but of course you’ll get that one-year maternity leave if you do possibly decide to birth a child, so it’s only fair, right? Now, let’s not forget about the over sexualisation that will overwhelm your life in the form of a stubborn obstacle. But, don’t get offended with the sex jokes, they’re only harmless, right?

In contrast to the depressing attitude I’ve expressed throughout, I swear that womanhood is one of the most beautiful miracles to exist. As I sit my menstrual cycle each month, look down at my body that is able to carry life, develop a mind that is able to drive me to success and remember the role of women’s lives throughout history – I feel blessed.

In fact, all the consequences of my gender motivate me to want to achieve and succeed more…
You see, I choose to be as opinionated, educated, strong, girly, funny and indecisive as I bloody want!
Because I know my gender is seen as a limit In my life. It’s seen as; be strong, but not too much and God forbid appear masculine. Be opinionated, but not too much to be intimidating. Be educated, but careful not to outsmart and possibly embarrass your male counterparts.
Don’t be too much Women.
I am a rebel for simply being in my own skin.

A saddening aspect I found during my speech to my classmates was the exclusive shock that overcame the room once I mentioned males and their consequences for being in their own skin. This proved to me what a silent topic this truly was…

You must understand, it is not just us girls who face consequences due to gender. It has often been viewed that adding a male involvement is an insult to female proficiency. The thing is, we won’t see radical change until every inch of society sees this as their problem too. Labelling gender inequality exclusively as a ‘Woman’s issue’ can offer men an excuse to dismiss it as nothing to do with them. And it does, this is having to do with both men and women, it is what I would view as a human issue.

Unfortunately, society has claimed what a ‘Real man’ is like, which basically means a stature of muscle with no soft emotions. But, is that even realistic? Women are often angered at the mere sights of magazines that claim they have to be a certain type, a certain weight or even a certain personality. Yet, we dismiss any man who is angered by the same scrutiny in society’s eyes of what they should be like. Why do we continue to visualise such expectations of people which simply torments and constricts them?

Is that equality?

Why should a man’s mental health not be taken as seriously had he been a woman? Why should a man not be allowed to express his emotions in fear of being the scandalous terror of ‘Less of a man’? Why do people still doubt that men can suffer from domestic or sexual abuse too?

My point is, there is no gender who isn’t fighting for the rights of equality. However, the issue is often difficult to tackle due to individuals choosing to turn a blind eye. Turn to ignorance, even. We all know it is easier to avoid the problem than to face it. However, we cannot continue with such a detrimental cycle.

Fortunately, after centuries of fighting for equality, we are finally getting somewhere. There were times when women were not able to vote before the 1920’s, because of the belief that women simply were not as intelligent and capable enough because of a few biological identifications. Thankfully, there were enough suffragists who decided to fight for their right to vote.
Due to mass movements such as these, I am born to many privileges and opportunities which my ancestors would’ve only ever dreamt of.

Now, our job is to continue working for equal gender equality, just as these suffragists had, and we will, someday have gender equality.

Finally, allow me to introduce the term ‘Feminism’. Some people may cringe at the word, others view it as anti-men. However, the simple and proper definition of the word is simply ‘The theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes’. Some people love it, others loathe it, and others tend to view it as a nasty word to steer away from.

However, I consider myself a feminist.
In fact, it isn’t even the word itself that matters. Call it what you like, as long as you stand by its definition and reason behind it. And I hope you will all stand by it.

Let’s create a generation where sticking to your skin isn’t such a battle.

 

 

 

Evil And Suffering

The photo above is one that the photojournalist Kevin Carter took of a young girl in Sudan attempting with all her might to reach the food centre as the vulture you see standing by, simply waiting for his next meal. Everybody was told not to touch the girl in fear of transmitting disease.

The photographer took the photo and soon left. The fate of the child is left unknown…

I remember hearing about this girl a few years ago at a lesson in school, causing me to sob my heart out as soon as I reached the welcoming of my bed. Remembering this young girl now makes my heart fill with sorrow and my mind to wander.

Do you remember the first time you saw Terror?
The first time you witnessed pain or suffering?

My first memorable experience was when I was only young through the classic news channels you can’t avoid. I remember witnessing cries of civilians, the blood of children, and the chest aching sobs of mothers who held their still eyed children against their breast.

War, Poverty, Horror, Disasters, Illness, Pure sadness…

All of this seemed so foreign to me at the time. I never understood the power certain leaders controlled. I never knew the destruction a few could create. I never knew there could be such blurred lines between Good and Evil. I suppose I always saw a silver lining in every situation, much like most children. To me, there were only ever the goodies and the baddies in the movies. But, maybe the good side doesn’t always win in reality….

In truth, I still don’t understand the majority of that list. For I am one of the lucky ones. You are too, most likely. I could never fathom the true feeling of hunger or loss and terror. I am simply too damn blessed, and I will never understand why I can be tucked into bed with all my privileges, whilst a child only an ocean away won’t ever experience enough days with glee filled eyes as their next morning is never a promised tranquillity.

Strangely enough, this knowledge makes my heart consume with guilt if I ever feel myself slipping into self-pity. I know I am in a much better position than so many others to simply allow my heart to wallow in pain. I am not saying it is wrong to recognize the flaws in one’s life, but not recognizing one’s privileges must be one of the worst cases of ignorance to exist.

So, why?

Modern Society leaves no argument against the two categories of evils that surround everybody simply waiting to pounce. Natural Evils are by definition as when ‘ no non-divine agent can be held morally responsible for its occurrence ‘ which seems to be why people across the globe suffer from occurrences nobody can help, such as Volcanoes.

Contrastingly, there are Moral Evils which again by definition are ‘the result of any morally negative event caused by the intentional action or inaction of an agent’ in other words; what human beings manage to throw on themselves.
None of this answers my initial question. Why? This all contrasts everything most religions believe about an Omnibenevolent or Omnipotent God that people subject their entire lives to. Understandably, religion can be a sense of hope as it provides a warm sense of meaning amidst the chaos of life. I would know, as a believing Muslim I live my life, trusting God with all my troubles. I have faith God has great plans for all his creations.

However, why are all his creations made to suffer so badly then? Why are some able to feed in luxury, whilst others only taste rubble? What’s the bloody point of it all? Carrying his instructions in a medieval manner, telling us that we are all to do the same through its blurry curves. Yet, some can only witness destruction as they plead for simply anything while they cry out at the moon fearing for tomorrow’s fate, and the rest of us are able to live in a comfortable state with the optimism of a wonderful future.

So, what about the ones who go by each and every rule of the book? Or, the ones who cry out praying for a meal to feed their children?

There is so much suffering and so much pain. Most of which society has resulted to causing it a normality or ‘That’s just Life’ to excuse their selfish ways or drown out their guilt. Nobody wants to believe they could be an accomplice to another’s anguish. However, maybe we are at fault. Are we doing enough?
Time and time again we learn about atrocities in the past, present or even ones predicted for the future.

And whilst I don’t know who to blame; Ourselves, God, Ancestors or the damned human cycle we all follow. It could be a mixture of all. However, I am tired. There is no good enough reason for the tragedy we’ve endowed onto this magnificent Earth.

Let others troubles be a source of motivation to better this Globe, so hopefully coming generations don’t need to see suffering so early.