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A Woman in Hijab! 

By  Bibi Ayesha Wadvalla

Freelance Writer - South Africa

 

"It is a bridge, it is a barrier! My Hijab."

 

A few weeks ago, I enjoyed one of the most memorable Sundays in a while. A couch surfing picnic with people from different countries and cultures guaranteed good conversation-‘the best things in life are free.’

During a lull, one of the South Africans-who is  also a good friend of my sister, but whom I had met for the first time- asked me if she could ask me a question. I knew what was coming!
"Bibi, if you do not  mind and I do not  mean anything by it, I know your two sisters for a while now, looking at them, I feel they are  modern but you are traditional, in that you wear a scarf. Why is this?"

"Well Ri, the scarf is not  traditional. I am just as ‘modern’ as my sisters, and while I do not  like to say I am more religious. I do feel as a Muslim woman that I should follow the Qur’an. I do not think my scarf prevents me from integrating with others. I live my life fully, but I do so while adhering to my religion."

At this point, another friend said "Well, you certainly are very stylish and modern. Just look at those sunglasses!"

 I continued my talk mentioning  experiences of meeting people coming from different cultures who thought one thing before talking to me and  then realized they were blinded by pre-conceived notions about women in Hijab.

"But it is not just about religious rituals. Spirituality plays a vital role too. Take Manuel, (Our Argentinean friend whose spiritual Christianity was re-ignited after a visit to Jerusalem) I like that he now turns to God. When I see Jewish women wearing modest clothing and covering their hair, I feel happy because religion is what defines us." All friends were listening to me intently, and there were nods of agreement. (Oh, I almost gave a speech there and  cannot  remember all I said)

Manuel said he was impressed by my reply, as was Ri. And somebody mentioned that they would now look at Muslim women in a different light.

I am proud to be identified as a Muslim woman by my dress. I am privileged to represent my belief.

At work, I am continuously questioned on Hijab and Islam. These are not snide remarks, but rather a desire to genuinely learn. On last Friday, a co-producer in my team and I enjoyed a detailed discussion about my Hijab. Being a journalist, I was surprised that he did not know much about Hijab and Niqab-considering the media’s obsession with these topics!

Sometimes, I almost feel like I am  on repeat, fed up with such situations! But I love to explain what it means to be a 'woman in Hijab' :)

It defines who I am, and plays a role in charting my life path. It is a bridge, it is a barrier. It provokes insulting debate, it is a spark which starts stimulating conversations. It is regarded as traditional by some, but it is timeless. It represents me. My Hijab. 

Bibi Ayesha Wadvalla is a South African freelance writer and radio presenter. You can contact her at artculture@iolteam.com.

 

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