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Choosing the Hijab

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Muslim head scarf offers women 'freedom' from judgment

To the Editor:

I read with interest the article about the Manlius Pebble Hill students choosing to wear a hijab for a week. It is a topic very close to my heart. [image]

My daughter, who grew up in Syracuse as a Unitarian Universalist, graduating from Nottingham High School in 2002, converted to Islam in her second year at Columbia. Slowly, her garb went from tight jeans to loose pants, long-sleeved shirts, an abaya (the black Islamic cloak) and hijab (head scarf). Finally, she added the niqab, which covers her face.

She did this voluntarily and with much thought. She feels that her covering has "freed" her in many ways. Now she is no longer judged by her appearance, but by her words and actions.

She and her husband, a convert as herself, presently live in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, teaching English in a business college. They love it there, and I was able to visit them this year.

The entire time I was there, I never wore a hijab. It is not required for non-Muslims. Expats wore the abaya (which is required). The MPH girls would be allowed to walk down any lane in Saudi Arabia by themselves.

Muslim women must abide by their strict interpretation of the Quran, which means covering your hair. Covering the face is a personal decision.

During my 10-day visit, I was amazed by the number of people who choose to live in this country not all Muslim. Their reasons are varied: The money is good and they pay no taxes; the pace of life is slow; they agree with the values (modesty, no pornography or liquor) that are law in Saudi Arabia.

We met a doctor from Canada who has been living there for 14 years. His wife told us she felt safer there than in her own country. They were not Muslims.

I encourage other women to attend one of the Women Transcending Boundaries ( monthly meetings. There you will meet women of many faiths, each open and eager to learn about other religions and cultures. That includes Muslim women!

Judy Antoine


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