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July 25, 2008


PART 2So then, why would Muslim women choose to wear the hijab if it is understood to be so oppressive by so many people? What does the hijab represent, what does it mean, and what are the responsibilities that a Muslim woman has in wearing the hijab? Have Islam and the hijab, a simple piece of cloth, liberated or oppressed women? And could there possibly be any benefits in wearing the hijab in today’s modern consumer loving society?

Well we spoke to some young Muslim girls who shared their views on the hijab, their experiences and how they feel in the Australian society. But to get the answers to the most important questions asked by so many, all we have to do is look at the basic Islamic sources: the Quran, Holy Book and the Sunnah, traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

The hijab is a piece of cloth or material that covers a woman’s head, hair and chest area. A woman with the hijab on must cover her whole body excluding her face and hands.

Aisha, the wife of the Muhammad, reported that Asmaa, the daughter of Abu Bakr, came to the Messenger of Allah while wearing thin clothing. He approached her and said: ‘O Asmaa! When a girl reaches the menstrual age, it is not proper that anything should remain exposed except this and this. He pointed to the face and hands.” (Abu Dawood)

The word HIJAB means to veil, cover, screen, protect, seclude and obscure. But most importantly, it means ‘barrier’. It can be a barrier that protects and screens off a woman’s body and beauty from men and the public.

Why do Muslim women have to wear the hijab?
This is the question that everyone asks, and, the answer is simple: because Allah has asked Muslim women to do so.

“O people, tell your wives and daughters and the believing women to draw their outer garments around them (when they go out or are among men). That is better in order that they may be known to be Muslims and not annoyed…” (Quran 33:59)

Muslim women wear the hijab for modesty, for respect and to fulfill their way of life: Islam. The hijab allows women to be judged on their intellect rather than their appearance. The hijab helps Muslim women to make a statement about their identity, feel dignified, modest and confident. The hijab also limits the way men treat women as ‘sex objects’ and allows them to be treated as ‘equals’.

The requirement of wearing the hijab is to cover ones beauty, the hijab covers ones hair, neck and bosom (chest area). The whole body is to be covered except for the face and hands, clothing should be loose, not to show ones body shape; clothes must be thick, not see through; and they should not attract a man’s attention. A Muslim woman’s dress should not imitate that of a man it should be modest: not too fancy, not to ragged, just right.

More importantly though, the hijab is not merely the external dress code, it also has an internal facet. The hijab also involves the behaviour, manners, speech, and appearance of a woman in public. The external appearance is just one part of the total being. The hijab is not a restriction, but it is seen as a way in which society will function in a proper, Islamic manner.

The hijab has liberated women not oppressed them. It gives women their rights and freedom in society to be treated like a human being not a sex object or a man’s slave. In the past, before Islam and the hijab were introduced to women, women had no rights; they were owned by men for sexual enjoyment and seen as a factory that produces offspring and a devil in human form. When Islam came, women felt liberated and were treated with dignity and respect. Through Islam, women were given equal rights as men and were no longer obliged to the injustices and torture laid on them by the Pre-Islamic world.

Why is the hijab so important in today’s society?
The hijab allows women to be judged on their personality and mind, as opposed to their looks and appearance. This is an important moral in our society today. The ‘West’ say they give freedom to women, yet why do they have to throw in a women in every commercial and advertisement that has nothing to do with women?

In today’s world women are being encouraged to show off their bodies and be proud of their femininity. And yet we know that the majority of designers behind the most dominant fashion names are men. So, women are still being controlled by men and are not apparently equal in today’s society.

Today, getting dressed half- naked is seen as ‘girl power’. Is it really, or is it sexism? The ‘West’ argues that women should wear what they please; so then why do they find it so hard to understand why Muslim women choose to wear the hijab?

The absurd things people say to girls that wear the hijab…

• “Do you go to sleep with it on?”

• “Do you take a shower with it on?”

• “Does that mean that you are bald underneath?”

• “Are you engaged now?” one girl was asked when she put it on in year 7

• “Can your Dad or your brother see your hair?”

• “Do you know Osama Bin Laden?”

• “Are you a Terrorist?”

These are just some of the remarks young Muslim women get from people. Such negative ideas and ignorance on the hijab only alienates Muslim women in the wider society and destroys the willingness to accept and respect each other.

It is important for every person to understand the reasons Muslim women choose to wear the hijab and how they feel in the Australian society.

By the way, the answers to the above questions would most probably be: no, no, no, no, yes, no, and no!

By Fatma Youssef and Amna Elghoul



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