Becoming a Symbol of American Muslims?
By Moin Moon Khan
Khan, an Illinois-based political activist, can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org or at 630-889-0588)
when I watched the one-minute snapshot of the hearing of the Patriot Act
in US Congress, I saw about half a dozen veil/Hijab-wearing Muslim women
sitting in the audience. That is the only image that got registered in
my psyche and certainly in the minds of millions of Americans.
salute Muslim women, who wear Hijab, for their courage, initiative,
volunteerism, outreach work, and patriotism. They are the symbols of a
true American because a true American believes in constitutional
freedom, participates in the civic arena, partakes in debates and
peacefully lobbies for an issue that is near and dear to her and him.
said that, I must acknowledge that it bothers me when a religious figure
represents my secular identity as a proud American. Fighting against
some of the terrible provisions of the Patriot Act is indeed patriotic,
but fighting it from a religious perspective is religiosity. Fighting
for my civil rights is my innate human right, and it does not need any
group champions pro-life issues, it does not need priests, rabbis, or
imams to go on a picket line because saving the existence of a child is
and should be everybody's business, and any Tom, Dick and Ahmad should
walk the walk.
the same sex marriage does not need any recitation from a scripture to
justify its annulment. The supporters of common law marriage have to
justify their cause by emphasizing the need for progeny and respect for
their way of life, etc. In this country of secular leanings, the
overdose of religiosity weakens an issue like strong and bitter words
indicate a weak cause.
watched the 60-second image of the Patriot Act's hearing may rightfully
ask why are Muslim women in Hijab propelled on the forefront of
defending the rights of seven to eight million Muslims of America? Where
are Muslim men? Where are Muslim women without Hijab?
image is not a solitary picture of 2005. In almost all public meetings
all over the United States, Hijabi women outnumber men and "regular"
(for lack of better word) Muslim women.
question is where are "regular" Muslim women? Are "regular" Muslim women
not volunteering for these events and causes? Do the organizers not
approach them? Or do the organizers strategically place Hijabi women in
indicated earlier, I have great respect for Hijabi women, but I don't
want to use them to fight for my civil rights. They should not be used
as our weapons or as our Marines, so to speak. Fighting for our rights
in the United States in the name of religion is the worst act we can
perform. We should not bring the Hijab and Hijabis to a boiling point
that had stirred the anti-Muslim sentiment in France and pushed Muslims
in the back seat as the Nine Eleven terrible catastrophe recoiled
Muslims 20 years back in the United States.
It is not
important what is on a woman's head - scarf, Hijab, hat, bandana, burqah,
veil, purdah, chador, or simply hair; the most important point is what
is in her head. Mother Teresa covered her head, whole life, like
millions of Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, and Christian women of India, Pakistan,
and Bangladesh, and also like my mom, but she was also known for working
for the most untouchables.
years ago, my wife's niece graduated from her high school as a
valedictorian. We were discussing her speech content, which was
interspersed with quotations from American president, philosopher, and
scientist. Her one relative asked her to include some passages from the
Holy Qur’an or Hadith. However, I had a different view. My argument was
that she was wearing a full length Hijab, which was in itself a
life-size portrait of Islam. In that situation, she did not need any
overdose of her religion there.
erudite speech given by Queen Noor of Jordan, and Maliha Lodhi, former
ambassador of Pakistan to the United States, always fascinates me, and
they do not wear Hijab.
year, I watched with amazement proceedings of the Organization of
Islamic Countries on C-Span. Most of the wives of the heads of the
states of Muslim countries were not wearing Hijab, and I saw them
shaking hands with Mahathir Mohammad, the then president of the OIC.
nephew got married recently in Pakistan. We received a videocassette of
the wedding ceremony. There were only a handful of women who were
wearing burqah or Hijab among about 300 well-dressed beautiful women.
Let it be
very clear. I respect Muslim women with Hijab and I support those who
want to wear it. There are a few of them in my family. This is their
choice, which is part of their civil rights. At the same time, I would
like to have similar respect for Muslim women who choose not to cover
their head. There should not be any kind of whispering and allusion to
sins or aspersion on their characters. We need to respect both groups
and we should not use one group over another in public meetings and
I would prefer the image of Hijabi women piloting NASA's satellite into
the space, working as CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, reporting on CNN
from the White House and Pentagon, anchoring a talk show like Oprah
Winfrey, and developing a new medicine for AIDS control. We should
inspire our daughters and ladies to be heroes and not the examples of
victims. When Islam is presented with the example of excellence, it is
the best and most suitable presentation of our faith and issues.
Moon Khan, an Illinois-based political activist, can be reached at
email@example.com or at 630-889-0588)