Facebook has a feature called “On This Day,” which allows people to re-share their old posts that were published on the same date in previous years. This post recently showed up on my Facebook homepage (a “memory” from 4 years ago):
My first instinct was to press the “share” button, since I still stand by what I wrote in the original post. But something stopped me from doing that…
Things have changed a lot in the last 4 years. There were different problems then, and different problems now. Yes, Muslim women who don’t wear the hijab/headscarf are still judged unfairly. I remember what it’s like to be in those shoes; it’s not pleasant. The fact that it happens is awful. But there’s a different type of judgment that’s more prevalent today than it was in previous years.
When I first started wearing the hijab 5 years ago, I was a little worried that people would think I don’t look as pretty or stylish. This actually didn’t end up being as big of an issue as I had thought it would be. What I didn’t realize was that some people would assume I have become self-righteous and stuck-up. I was also exposed to the dichotomous pressure women face when choosing what to wear with the hijab. If she wears skinny jeans, she “might as well take off the hijab.” If she wears an abaya or similar clothes, she’s being “too extreme” and needs to “go with the times.”
But these issues seem silly to me now. Because now, 5 years later, there is a whole movement going on to de-legitimize the hijab. No, not by non-Muslims – that’s old news. I mean from within the Muslim community. Wearing the hijab now means that a woman is giving in to domination from “the patriarchy.” Or that she’s silently supporting the enforcement of hijab on girls and women who don’t want to wear it. Or that by covering her head, she is unconsciously choosing to oppress herself due to internalized misogyny.And because of the changing times, if she takes her hijab off, she deals with two conflicting messages: On the one hand, she is criticized and belittled, and assumed to be weak as a person and in her relationship with Allah. On the other hand, she is applauded for her bravery and her beauty, and for fearlessly going against what is expected of her. Which leads to even more confusion and internal struggle, especially in those who are still wearing the hijab and watching all of this unfold.
And of course, there is the ever-present message of, “Don’t wear the hijab unless you’re a perfect Muslim and are willing to publicly and privately represent Islam and the whole Muslim ummah in your every waking moment. And if you do think you’re capable of doing that, you must either be full of yourself or hypocrite who deserves to have her mistakes put on blast.” Oh and don’t complain about any of this, because wearing the hijab is your choice so you should be willing to deal with any amount of harsh criticism that comes your way.
So today, I’m writing this to validate the experiences of those who I left out from my original post – the “hijabis.” This is not a comparison or a competition. I just want to say, it’s not easy. And Allah knows that. Your reward is with Him.
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