Confession: I’m Fascinated By Hijabs

Personally I don’t feel that me dressing like a Hindu, behaving like a Hindu, and generally living like a Hindu is at all appropriative. I am a Hindu, so I think it’s appropriate! Sure, there aren’t particular clothes that are labeled as Hindu, but there are clearly clothes in which you fit in during Hindu worship and clothes in which you do not.

I’ll tell you what is entirely inappropriate of me. I covet some of the religious expressions of religions that are not my own!

I’m reluctant to admit this, but I am fascinated by hijabs in a completely racist and insensitive way. Women who wear hijab look to me exotic, mysterious, beautiful, and interesting. I stare at them. I subconsciously think that they must be saintly and pure and perfect. I love to look at pictures of hijabi women. I know! It’s shocking, right?

I try to keep my racism in check by reminding myself that that’s what it is.

Strangely, I’ve always felt drawn to extremely restrictive religions. Before I realized that I was a Hindu and I always had been, I was searching for the right religion for my life. I kept finding myself leaning towards the most conservative versions of religions.

My best friend growing up was Jewish and I was attracted to Judaism as a religion, particularly for its community. Yet, when I spent time in Jewish groups and activities, somehow I always idolized the Orthodox.

I liked their head covering too.

(Funny story: I dressed very modestly in college and a lot of people assumed I was Orthodox Jewish since I also have the dark hair and light skin that could easily be taken to be Jewish. My close friend there, who was Jewish, and I decided to dress me up as Orthodox for Halloween. We thought it was hilarious. No one else got the joke. They all thought I was Orthodox).

I learned about branches of Christianity where women wore head covering full time and submitted to their husbands and didn’t date, but trusted God to bring them a man, who had huge families and wore ankle length skirts. I spent a lot of time reading about them and their stories. In a lot of ways they reminded me of home and the ankle length skirts we wore at SES, the misogyny that was rampant there, and the Victorian ideals we were held to.

We drove through Amish country when visiting my grandmother and I LOVED the Amish bonnets and dresses.

It was always in the clothes. I have this tendency to think that if I dress like a demur and saintly woman, that I will become it. As though what I wear is the only thing that matters or that it creates my behavior (Well, actually, it can a little bit. Just not as much as I give it credit for!)

Luckily I was self-aware enough to realize that what I liked in these other religions was their fashion and (duh) that’s ridiculously shallow. Not a reason to follow a religion. I don’t pick my religion based on which has the best clothes!

Okay, so I didn’t realize that immediately. I did briefly try covering my hair but I didn’t want to have to talk about it or explain it to my parents and so I did it as subtly as possible. Not subtle enough to fool my brother who really knows me very well and is sharp-eyed. He caught on to what I was doing and called me on it!

As a Hindu, I don’t cover my hair. I know in some regions women pull their pallu over their heads for worship, but that’s never been the practice in the Hindu communities I’ve been part of.

So yes, I believe that if I were to cover my hair in these ways, that would be cultural appropriation. I’d be doing something because it looked cool and made me feel special rather than because it was a religious calling and I’d be cheapening the behavior of women who do cover for religious reasons.

Another thing that I realized a while back is that all these restrictive religions have a lot of rules. Rules for dress, but also for food, speech, behavior, and most of those rules written hundreds of years ago in an entirely different society.

There is a huge temptation to join a religion where the rules of behavior are super important. Why? Because I feel like if I have rules to follow that are specific and really clear, then if I just follow those rules I’ll be okay. It’s so easy to slide into a comfort zone where you’re not thinking or questioning or striving for moksha, but rather doing what you’re supposed to be doing and thinking that’s all you have to do. Obey the rules, get into heaven, end of story.

I don’t believe that, but there’s a part of me that wants to. Because it’s easier. It doesn’t require any thought.

I chose a religion that requires me to challenge myself every day and to be always thinking and aware (Actually, it’s more like Hinduism chose me, but you know what I mean).  This is not to say that other religions aren’t about thinking and questioning and awareness, I just know for me that if I had a restrictive set of rules to follow that I would fixate on doing that and not progress beyond it!

So I don’t cover my hair, but man, I’m jealous sometimes of those gorgeous hijabs!

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  • satyam

    we should not judge people by their nationality.if someone is calling himself hindu, who are we to certified him that he is a hindu or not.well my friend do not get mix up with PRACTING HINDUISM and HINDU

  • Madhu K Agnihotri

    he is really crazy dont understand sanatandharma which prevailed whole earth and is still but politics of religion destroyed many sampradayas

  • Madhu K Agnihotri

    islam is just half truth of sanatan dhamra we know it is shiva but in wrong hands.. hijab is not islam it is cultural issue well created in turkey hijab is not allowed in islam for skin should not be visible to any men. only hijab is against islam… we hindus must should make kaaba free from arab invader looters and give shiva a pure vedic rituals

  • Tonaltzintli Yaotl

    That’s a burqua, I think you might be confusing
    “hijab” with “jibab.”

    burqua: (also spelled burka) is a garment that covers a
    women completely: either the eyes are visible, or nothing at all.

    hijab: a veil that covers the head and chest, which is worn
    by some Muslim woman beyond the age of puberty in the presence of adult males outside of their immediate family.

    jibab: refers to any long and loose-fit coat or garment worn
    by some Muslim women, it covers all but the hands and face, the head and neck are then covered by a scarf or wrap (khimar). Some women will also cover the hands and face with a niquab.

    niquab: is a cloth that covers the face; usually worn with a

    Hijab, the word means “a screen or curtain”, the
    Qu’ran tells men to “talk to the wives of Muhammad behind a curtain (hijab),” (along with additional verses), from there it’s interpretation.

    I have a Muslim friend who emails me little tidbits of info on Muslim and Arabic culture every other day.

  • Tonaltzintli Yaotl

    Only if the woman wearing it is forced to, or may possibly be shunned for not doing so.

  • Pranav OM

    I am a practicing Hindu from London. And in the past I’ve dated some Muslim girls out of which 1 was Hijabi. And others would wear hijab occasionally.
    Somehow I get myself attracted towards Hijabis too I find it attractive because as you said it focus on your face. And another main reason for me was is when they wear skin fit Abbaya in which you can see their figure definition so which makes more men attracted towards them.
    Although I know many girls who’s been wearing them since their family won’t allow them to leave the house without wearing it, some girls wear it because they don’t like showing their hair and it takes maintenance to look after the hair, few are forced to wear since they’re small and it becomes part of their life, but most wear out of their free will for religious reasons and some wear just for fashion too.
    I’ll sum it up I guess I just found Hijabi girls to be more physically attractive or how in England we say FIT just based on a clothing sense. E.g – you often see the lower body of a girl wearing skinny jeans and check her backside. The same goes for a girl wearing a fit body top or v neck t shirt it automatically drove your attention towards her upper body, the same way I believe Hijab can take your attention on persons face and since the hair is covered all you see is face. But then again I feel the same for any girl wearing a hat and a scarf together as your attention automatically comes on her face.

    If I talk from a guys prospective I find some Hijabi girls more appealing & maybe it’s easy to identify them that’s why. Or just generally those Hijabi Girls are good looking that’s why as I don’t find all Hijabis to be attractive. Or as I mentioned earlier just like skinny jeans or slim fit tops it sexually attracts some people and how it take your attention towards the body part and in hijab it takes your attention towards face.

    Even I don’t know the clear answer myself but, I think it’s mainly I find it sexually attractive clothing to be honest just like skinny jeans. I know it sounds wrong but that’s the honest truth sister.

    Namasté ! Hare Krishna !!

    • Ambaa

      It’s funny because it seems the purpose of hijab is to not draw that kind of attention!

  • Siobhan

    I could have written this, I too have been fascinated by covered women of all faiths and have dressed as a fundamentalist christian in a veil, an orthodox jew, and own an amish prayer cap. As a child I wanted to be a carmelite nun. I dont find islamic dress as attractive, its far too oppressive, but I am fascinated by it, especially the niquabs and do see a certain elegance. I have travelled in the middle east and am always impressed that whilst I am a sweaty mess, the women there are cool, collected and elegant at all times. I find sarees beautiful but uncomfortable to wear. I am vaisnava so do often wear them, but am more likely to wear a gopi skirt, blouse and scarf, its just easier!