Young Muslim women make decison on traditional religious veil
Kaelyn Rodrigues | Staff Writer
When senior Zara Kabir started to feel unattached from her faith, she began wearing a hijab.
The Hijab, a headcovering worn in public by some Muslim women, has been traditionally worn by Muslim girls and women to show modesty, which is a common value of the Islamic faith. Kabir, who has been wearing a hijab daily since July, said she had not worn one earlier because she worried about being judged.
“I’m a people person,” Kabir said. “I like talking to new people and one thing I hate is when you can see somebody judge you. So I was kind of scared to do it freshman, sophomore, or junior year, but senior year I was like, ‘you know what, this is a stupid reason to not wear it if I think I want to.’”
Kabir did not feel as connected to her faith without the hijab, but by wearing one, she said she felt closer and more connected to her religion.
“Personally with my faith I kind of felt like I was losing it,” Kabir said. “I wasn’t praying as often, and in Islam you’re supposed to pray five times a day. I kind of thought to myself if I wore the hijab, then it would be like a reminder to me every time I looked in the mirror (to) embrace it fully.”
Sophomore Ayesha Chaudhry began to wear a hijab in fifth grade before coming to Mason. She said she started wearing it because she saw others around her doing so, not because of its significance in Islam.
“In fifth grade I went to an all Islamic school,” Chaudhry said. “My teachers and friends (wore) hijab, so it just seemed like the thing to do. I didn’t really look at the religious significance behind it or what it might mean to me spiritually.”
Since most of her friends wore hijabs at her previous school, Chaudhry said she did not expect other classmates at Mason to treat her differently because of her hijab.
“I had never been to a public school, so I didn’t even think people would react weirdly to it,” Chaudhry said. “But then people started making fun of it. Not just my hijab, but also other parts of my religion. I wore baggy clothes and I wore a lot of clothes because you’re supposed to be modest and cover up, and I just got made fun of a lot (so) I stopped wearing it.”
After her experiences with being bullied, Chaudhry said she realized that wearing a hijab was not right for her.
“I understand why people wear it and their reasoning behind it and the religious significance, but for me it was never about the religious significance (or) importance behind it,” Chaudhry said. “When I started looking more and more into it, I realized that it wasn’t really cut out for me. I didn’t really agree with some of the message behind it. That was (the) first time I even questioned why I started wearing it.”
(from left) Ayesha Chaudhry chooses not to wear a hijab. Zara Kabir chooses to wear a hijab.
If she had not been bullied, Chaudhry said, she likely would have continued to wear a hijab since she would not have been initiated to reexamine the decision she made when she started wearing it in fifth grade.
“(It’s) kind of insane to me that I would’ve kept living in ignorance,” Chaudhry said. “Obviously that was a terrible experience for me and it makes me super insecure to this day, but in a way it was still a blessing because it forced me to open my eyes.”
According to the Pew Research Center, about 48 percent of Muslim women in America do not cover their hair. Junior Hafsah Malik does not wear a hijab and said she does not plan to in the future because it was not prominent during her upbringing.
“In the culture and community I grew up in, wearing a hijab wasn’t really emphasized,” Malik said. “Where my parents grew up, in Pakistan, they respected the fact that hijab was a choice between a person and their faith and did not emphasize wearing it that much. Although, there are many people who wear the hijab in Pakistan. It’s to each its own.”
Though she does not wear one, Malik said she thinks the meaning behind the hijab, explained in Islam’s holy book, the Quran, is more empowering than demeaning as some believe it to be.
“The hijab is not just something for conservancy,” Malik said. “People say (women) wear the hijab to be oppressed, but it’s the opposite. In the book, it says that it’s more towards (the) feminism side where women are more empowered. Women wear it because they’re so strong in their faith that they’re willing to give up that part of their self for God.”
Although it is common in Islam, Kabir said wearing a hijab is not the only way to practice modesty.
“In Islam, hijab is basically modesty,” Kabir said. “There are different ways that you can be modest, that’s why a lot of muslim girls don’t actually wear hijab. That doesn’t mean that they’re bad Muslims obviously, it’s just the level of modesty that you want to go to.”
Malik said that Allah, the Arabic word for God, believes forcing women to wear the hijab is wrong and that wearing a hijab is a decision that women should make for themselves.
“The hijab is a choice,” Malik said. “It is written in the book as a choice, but some more strict communities believe that every girl should wear it, even though forcing someone to wear the hijab is seen (as) very wrong in the eyes of God. My mom doesn’t wear the hijab, my mom’s mom doesn’t wear it, but it’s still my choice at the end of the day. My upbringing and community have taught me to make my own choice and to wear the hijab to bring myself closer to God– not because someone told me to.”
Photos by Tanner Pearson.