Once again, for the month of April, I decided to wear a hijab, in solidarity with women around the world who choose to wear, and not to wear, a veil.
Last year, during one of the most difficult times of my life, I decided to wear a hijab after reading about women villified for wearing hijabs and niqabs. In France the legal system went so far as to ban niqabs and threatened women who wore them with arrest. This law still stands and is completely against a woman’s human rights. Women are very capable of making their own choices and do not need “papa” government or bystanders telling them what to wear.
Admittedly there are women forced to wear veils, either because of family pressure, work pressure, faith-based pressure, or because of the country they live in. I don’t know the percentage of women who are force to wear one as opposed to those who choose to wear a headcovering, but it is important to acknowledge the fact that some women do not have a choice. Wearing a veil should be a personal choice and no one has the right to make that choice but the woman herself. It should be respected, but for many women that isn’t the case.
For those women who choose to wear a veil it is one part of their faithful following of Allah. The hijab is much more than simply wearing a veil. It represents faith in Allah, modesty, privacy, and morality. It is a part of their daily lives and matters to them in the same way that other people wear symbols of their religion.
Whilst my wearing a veil began as a benign protest/solidarity movement, it became an opportunity to bring a visual representation of Islam to the non-Islamic population in my community. It was a chance to break down racist misconceptions and barriers, and maybe inspire dialogue. It was also an opportunity to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes… or in this case, veil.
In 2012, I expected a lot of flak from local people. I live in a small rural Ontario Canada village with no visible Muslim presence. In this environment it is easy to develop uninformed ideas about people based on media and rumours. I was prepared to explain, and maybe deal with negative comments. In fact, the only slight negativity was from a couple of people who didn’t really understand why I “bothered” to wear a hijab. It was something they didn’t like, and didn’t really “get” what the process was about.
During that month, along with learning how to wear a hijab from wonderful Youtube videos, and trying my hand at a variety of looks, I also got to sample what being a Muslima felt like. At the cancer hospital where I sat listening to a doctor talk about my father, the doctor kept averting his eyes when he looked towards me. I found this strange, as if he was being sly, or dishonest. Later I learned this was proper behaviour from a Muslim man, and he was paying me a high compliment. Also at the hospital I was greeted with “as-salaamu ‘alaikum” from a nurse, also wearing a symbol of her faith. She thought I, too, was Muslim and was happy to learn that, although I wasn’t, I was trying to understand the hijab and Islamic faith.
I discovered, to my surprise, that my hijabs began to feel comforting, like a gentle embrace as I dealt with my father’s declining health, as if I were enveloped by angels’ wings. It was sort of a blending of faiths and felt very special during an emotionally difficult time.
This year I decided to wear my hijabs again. I have a few now and was eager to wear them. My reasons were the same as last year, but this year I wanted to further explore the faith issues around women covering their heads, and modesty as a symbol of faith in the Creator.
The choice of modesty is echoed in other faiths as well. In the Jewish faith there is Tznuit, in which women dress modestly and cover their heads. This is especially important for married women, who choose to keep their hair covered and only for their husbands to see. Catholic women traditionally have worn some manner of head covering, such as a veil, when entering church and for prayers. I remember as child being told to cover my head when going to (protestant) church. In other Christian faiths, such as Mennonites and Amish faiths, women wear a head covering. There are scriptures in the Bible that discuss reasons for women to cover their heads. Today women still choose to adhere to this expression of their faith. It is a personal choice and should be supported by society as a whole.
My hijab tutorials were from two Youtube video providers this year: Amena, from the UK, who owns www.pearl-daisy.com, and Saman, from Ontario Canada, who owns www.samansmakeuphijabs.ca. These ladies create some lovely and easy to follow videos for how to wrap hijabs. As well, they share their faiths and reasons why they wear the veil, which was really helpful in gain insight into Muslima women. And they sell some lovely scarves!
Throughout the month, as I went about my life around town, I received only one brief puzzlement over what I was doing, a “why bother doing that here” kind of attitude. I am choosing to interpret this as a positive testament to the accepting nature of people in my community and that is a blessing.
I am grateful to the Muslim women I know who have been very supportive of my small attempt to see life from their perspective. It has been a learning experience and has me wondering whether the idea of covering my head, even in a small way, would be something I might like to embrace. I will certainly think more on this issue in the coming days.
The month of hijabs culminated on the 30th April with “Peace Veil Day”. This is the third year for this event. From their FB page they posted: “Peace Veil is a silent protest where we don a veil or some form of head covering to stand against prejudice and racial profiling.” Everyone is encouraged to wear some version of a veil, or at least to cover their heads.
The following are links you might wish to check out.
Peace Veil 2011: http://youtu.be/gzrLFK1Oc4E
Peace Veil 2012: http://youtu.be/2gU_q6Ved3M
Peace Veil 2013: http://youtu.be/-vrt-ZeO1IA
Wearing a hijab for a month is an easy way to walk a mile in someone’s shoes, and to bring better a better understanding of the Muslim faith. It is a growing experience and one I will definitely repeat next year. As-salaamu ‘alaikum! (Peace and blessings be upon you!)
Hijabs 2012 (some hits, some misses)
Hijabs 2013 (more hits, more misses)