'Hijab’ a personal choice for most
By Brian Kern
— PLAINFIELD —
A recent marketing and communications study
conducted by the HCD Research Corporation in New Jersey reports
significant differences in America’s perception of Muslim women,
based solely on whether they wear a hijab as part of their attire.
A hijab is the headscarf worn by Muslim women to cover the hair
and, according to the University of Essex Islamic Society, the
practice of hijab is done to symbolize modesty, purity, and
“Hair on a woman is such a thing of beauty and even in U.S. history I
think we’ve seen many instances where up until the 1950s or ‘60s
women have worn hats and bonnets and even veils to cover their
faces,” Plainfield resident Sobia Khan said.
Khan, who is a Muslim, says that she made a personal decision to
wear the hijab in her late teen years.
“When I was younger, probably in my first or second year of college, I
read a lot and I had this feeling that I always wanted to do it,” she
said. “I was ready to put it on.”
HCD President and Chief Executive Officer Glenn Kessler said the
research firm asked 600 Americans to analyze two photographs:
one containing a woman wearing a hijab and one containing a
woman without the Islamic veil. Little did participants know that both
pictures were of the same woman.
Among the findings, 51 percent of those surveyed believed that the
woman wearing the hijab was “a devoted wife” whereas only 33
percent of those same respondents attributed that trait to the woman
without the hijab. Furthermore, 82 percent of those polled indicated
that the woman without the veil was an American citizen. Conversely,
only 18 percent classified the woman dressed in the hijab as an
The study also revealed significant differences in people’s
perception of other traits such as class, personality, social status,
and even their comfort level with having the woman in the photos as
Dr. Arthur Kover, the consulting director for HCD, said the results of
the survey indicate that stereotypes are still stronger than ever.
“Underneath it all, there is a strong and defined prejudice against
those who are different,” Kover said.
Plainfield resident Afsheen Khan agreed that wearing a hijab can
often make a woman stand out, but said that could be a positive
“The faith becomes her identity and people think ‘Oh! She must be
from a Muslim country because she’s covering her head and they
will show her respect,’” she said.
Sobia Kahn said that wearing a hijab is a personal choice and one
that her daughter, Fatima, will need to make for herself.
“In the summer I would get really hot, and sometimes I just didn’t
like it,” the seventh-grader said.
Fatima added that several of her schoolmates are Muslim and wear
the hijab in class, which routinely sparks questions from their
“They’ll see one of the other girls wearing the scarf and be like ‘How
are you the same faith?’” Fatima said.
Fatima’s father, Shariq Siddiqui, serves as the executive director of
the Muslim Alliance of Indiana and said that he will be supportive of
Fatima’s decision, regardless of whether she ultimately chooses to
wear the hijab.
“A lot of people think that it’s about ritual, and it’s not,” Siddiqui said.
“You are hoping that you are giving her a faith that teaches her to
behave modestly. If the hijab is a tool that helps that, then it should
be worn, but it does not have to be.”
Siddiqui noted that the custom of wearing a hijab is actually more
common in the U.S. than it is in some regions of the Middle East
where the Islamic faith is most prevalent. The reason is that for
many Muslim women in the U.S., the decision represents freedom
and personal choice.
“It’s totally antithetical to the stereotype,” Siddiqui said. “It tells them
that they are powerful women and have the freedom to express