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Hijab – Are Muslim Women Oppressed?

By: Aicha Bentley

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               “This is a free country. You don’t have to wear that anymore.”  I paused and turned toward the person who addressed me, upon hearing this statement. I smiled and said, “Yes, this is a free country, but I am still a Muslim.”

Its statements like this which highlight the confusion many people have when it comes to the subject of the hijab. There doesn’t seem to be a clear cut answer for those who may have questions. A quick google search will not only give you many different answers, but will, sometimes, give extremely false information about hijab and its purpose.

The questions usually involve the idea of oppression and male domination. Did a man force us into this veil? Our father? Our husband? Do we do it out of fear? Was it part of a male dominated culture, which we are afraid to leave behind? In order to answer the questions surrounding hijab properly, one need look no further than the source; the Quran.

“And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and to display of their adornment only that which is apparent, and to draw their veils over their bosoms, and not to reveal their adornment …” (Quran 24:31)

                In accordance with the Quran, we are instructed in every aspect of our lives. Hijab is one of those instructions. These instructions didn’t come from a man, but from Allah. For this reason we not only wear hijab in obedience, but we wear it with joy. Every time we put on a headscarf, we are not only obeying Allah, but we are wearing a sign for the world to see. We are making a statement. I am Muslim.

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This is where it gets confusing to many. Not all Muslim women wear hijab. I know, I just said that we are instructed to do so, but, just like Christianity and the bible, there are many different interpretations of Quran. Some women may feel that this verse means something altogether different than what I feel it says. It all boils down to the woman herself. It’s a choice. A decision made out of personal beliefs and what feels right to her. Does that sound like oppression to you? Sure, it does not.

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Many of us have fought to wear hijab. It’s that important to us. Honestly, though, we shouldn’t have to go through all this. It’s a new millennium. In this day and age, women shouldn’t be judging one another by what we are wearing. We’ve come too far. The next time you think of hijab, don’t think oppression, but think, instead, women’s rights.

How is it women’s rights to believe we must wear something over my head all day, every day? For starters, we do not wear it at home. We do not wear it with our husbands or with our families. Hijab is meant as, not just a form of obedience, but a shield against the outside world. We wear it when we leave our homes. When we are in the presence of men of non-relation. Once again, this is not because our husbands or fathers feel the need to hide us away. This is not some insecurity in our culture. It’s our own choice, to follow the words of the Quran. To trust in Allah and accept his guidance in all things.

“Oh Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks (veils) over their bodies (when outdoors)….”         (Quran 33:59)

             8114334-Pile-of-Broken-Bricks-Stock-Photo    In the future, if you come across the path of a Muslim woman, don’t feel sorry for her. Don’t cast judgment. Ask yourself what kind of woman it must take to wear something so controversial, so misunderstood, into a public which challenges her at every turn. Certainly not an oppressed woman. Wearing hijab takes courage. When you see a woman wearing it, you are seeing a sign of faith and strength.

No, we are not oppressed.