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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Cool Cold Combo


The other day it was so cold (finally) that I was able to wear my cool hat/scarf combo. It covered all my hair, ears, and neck so I was fully covered. But as my regular readers can guess, I was glad to blend in and not look so foreign. I just looked like someone dressing warm with mismatched funky stylin' layers. It was fun.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Homebody, mind, and soul.

I've always had days when I feel like staying home, not going out anywhere, I had it in my school days and part-time work days. I'm sure we all have those days. Especially pregnant women and mothers, I'm sure. So anyway, I've been having those days a lot...seems like almost every day! It's not like I'm depressed...it's mostly just this feeling of not wanting to "deal" with things like traffic and other people. And then my mind always goes to the scarf---I think to myself, well, it's the scarf that is holding me back. It makes me too self-conscious. It makes things too complicated. And I think it just goes back to me not wanting any attention, because I don't feel as self-conscious about the scarf when I go out with other people. It's just when I'm alone. But it's still on. Although today was a bit funny. I felt really conscious of seeming like a "foreigner" today. I neglected to wear an underscarf with my slipperly silky scarf and plus I neglected to pin it, thinking it would stay in place if I just tied it under my chin (I had a high neck shirt on). Well, it kept slipping off, so I decided to find a pin and fix it right there in the middle of Wal-Mart. (oh and don't get me started on wal-mart, i'm almost embarassed to say i go there, but i digress...) The smart thing would have been for me to go the fitting room to fix it, but I was impatient and thought I could fix it discreetly next to a mirror in the ladies clothes section. Well, it slipped off entirely and I had to start from scratch with it. So there was my uncovered head in public after at least 6 months of it being covered in public...it felt weird but mainly because I didn't want anyone to notice me. Anyhoo...that's it for now. Here are some more cool hijab fashions:







Monday, November 26, 2007

Photo Ops

Well, I think I am done saying what I want to say. I will post pictures of stylish hijabi fashions that I find on the internet. Please send any copyright info to me if needed. Thanks!





Monday, September 24, 2007

Too much or Not Enough?



Scarf Update:

It's still on. It has come to mean several things to me.

1. A symbol that I am Muslim.
2. A rejection of secular society's insidious demands on a woman to trivialize her life into perfect beauty and exhibitionism.
3. A simple religious commandment.
4. A symbol that I want to be seen and treated as pious person among my family and fellow Muslims.

Some days it's 1 and 2. Some days 3. Some days 1-4. Some days just 4. Some days--- not a one--and I just go through the motions.

But it's still worth believing in it.

I think everyone has a religion--a belief system that makes life worth living--or not.There are those of us who have an organized one. And there are others whose religion is...
...politics
...music
...artistic expression
...nationalism
...racism
...love
...beauty
...new york city
...nature
...poetry
...history
...family
...human potential
and
...the study-hard, work-hard, to earn wealth and/or fame religion...
everyone has a belief system that makes life worth living or not.

There's that famous song by the band, R.E.M. called, "Losing My Religion." One interpretation of the song is it was inspired by a waitress who seemed to be glum and just going through the motions of her job. "She's losing her religion," they thought...and they wrote a song about it...

"Life. It's bigger. It's bigger than you. And you are not me. The lengths that I will go to. The distance in your eyes. Oh, no, I've said too much. I haven't said enough."

And there is this poem, a part of which I will end with..."Song of Myself," by Walt Whitman:

Listener up there! what have you to confide to me?
Look in my face while I snuff the sidle of evening,
(Talk honestly, no one else hears you, and I stay only a minute
longer.)

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

I concentrate toward them that are nigh, I wait on the door-slab.

Who has done his day's work? who will soonest be through with his
supper?
Who wishes to walk with me?

Will you speak before I am gone? will you prove already too late?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

In Over My Head

AM I IN OVER MY HEAD(SCARF)?




Lately, my husband and I have been watching our two children run around in a grassy area with little hills and trees and neighbors walking their dogs. I've been wearing a long flowing skirt, basic black shoes, a long-sleeve cotton shirt, and a two-piece al-amira style headscarf (also kind of flowy). As I stand there on that hill or march on the grass (avoiding the mud and dog poo), I feel like I am straight out of that photo from "Little house on the Prairie." I don't like it. I want to be more sophisticated like the cool-fab second photo above. But I know, it's really not important, and I should get over myself.

But it's like that time I had a government job after college. I was in a serious and responsible position. I wore conservative clothes, of course. But I felt I needed that extra something...So I bought and wore a silver-beaded choker-necklace that helped me keep my...you know...rock star edge.

I don't want to look matronly. I want to look hip. And so...

I get this uneasy feeling inside.

Why? Maybe because I'm still not a cheerleader for this headscarf, because I still think twice before going out on my own because I still feel self-conscious, because I'm still very vain, and because I still need to be a better Muslim (need to establish regular prayers, study Islam more, etc).

and...

I still don't consider the headscarf/hijab as a way to conquer all vanity.
I still don't think the hijab is a gaurantee against people judging me for something other than my mind.

still...

I am 100 % sure the Holy Quran mentions a modest code of behavior and dress women.
I am 100 % sure that all Shia and (majority Sunni) Islamic scholars specify the use of headscarf to cover hair, ears, and neck for women.

but...

My main ignorance is in the study of hadith (the narratives of the Prophet, his family, and his companions)...so I am only 75 % sure of the use of a headscarf for women as specified in hadith. So, with a measured amount of doubt I will say that it is an obligation in Islam to dress with hijab of headscarf and body covered.

...But I am not "in love" with hijab, nor do I feel a strong passion for wearing it as many other Muslim women do. I think that the headscarf HAS become a symbol for Islam in many ways. And that symbolism is complex. For example, if I had been a student studying at university in Turkey when they banned the headscarf in public institutions, I would have removed the headscarf and continued my education. I cringe at the thought of those who will say I value education over religion because of that example...

Nevertheless, here I am...

and...

Basically, if the message I send while wearing hijab is...I am a Muslim, a member of the religion of Islam, which advocates the dignity, integrity, and protection of woman...and I want to be pious in a world that isn't... then I'm glad.

And that's all I can say. For now.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

I dare say? a Q & A!

Here is another viewpoint on the hijab that I think not only is expressed well by its author, Sara Padidar , but is also shared by many other women and men, Muslim and non-Muslim alike. The following is taken from an online discussion group with Ms. Padidar's reply following the discussion question:

QUESTION: I thought this would be a good discussion to start because once again I see to many pics [on facebook.com] that people think are hijabi pics but do not qualify. What I thought is the whole body with the exception of the face and the palms. So the neck needs to be covered right?

Here is Sara's reply after others responded to the original question with opinions that stated only the face & palms were allowed to be seen, no make-up allowed, and no jewelry permitted as part of "hijab" :

Ok at the risk of causing a furor I am going to ask anyway (plus this is a discussion board):

I'm a little confused - surely the very quote that is on the front page of this group says exactly what needs to be covered -

"...And say to the believing women that they cast down their looks and guard their private parts and do not display their ornaments except what appears thereof, and let them wear their head-coverings over their bosoms, and not display their ornaments..."

Surah Noor, verses 30-31

In short it has always utterly baffled me why people cover their head when the Prophet asked women to cover the ornaments of their bodies and to wear their head coverings over their bosoms - He did not say cover your head; but stated to wear the head covering instead of over the head wear it over the bosom.

When the Prophet was on this earth, He came to a people who did not wear clothes (esp women), women were traded (naked) and worth less than animals, women were a commodity and a possession. The Prophet was the FIRST Teacher from God to raise the status of women equal to men, and emancipate them. He was the FIRST Teacher from God to limit the number of wives a man could have. From my understanding of the Qu'ran, He did not ask they to be covered in such a manner to only show their faces and palms or any other ultra conservative interpretation that is now commonly subscribed to.

'except what appears thereof' means hair, face, neck, arms, legs, hands, feet. If is perfectly possible to dress conservatively whilst displaying all of the above.

'guard their private parts and do not display their ornaments' means just that your sexual organs including the breasts. Some may argue the midriff - and I would be inclined to agree, the navel of a woman is superbly sexual.

I dare say no one will agree with my comments by virtue of the name of this group [Hijab is for facebook too!]- but it would be nice if someone could logically explain to me why a conservative hijab is what is dictated in the Qu'ran.


I admire Sara's risk taking on a discussion board that obviously exists to discredit the term "hijab" by pointing out all the so-called flaws and mistakes Muslim women have in their dress. And I admire the way she asks the question and makes her point without intending to cause offense, but sincerely wanting an answer to a reasonable question.

I responded to her question, and we had a complex exchange of opinions, but here is my reply to her initial question:

...to answer ur question quickly, other than cultural custom, i think many hijabi women wear it because they follow the teachings of a scholar who is there to interpret the Quran in a way that the common person can not...so they wish to follow islam as accurately as possible, and often a scholar is better at making interpretations of certain verses in the Quran.

http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=2577120825&topic=2862

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Let Loose


NOTE TO NEW READERS: this is the most recent post. please start from the first post to understand my progress up to now. scroll down to the archives ... thank you!

unencumbered

adjective
1. free of encumbrance; "inherited an unencumbered estate" [ant: encumbered]
2. not burdened with cares or responsibilities; "living an unencumbered life"

WordNet® 3.0, © 2006 by Princeton University.


I've had a few days recently where I just wanted to let loose... just go out with a t-shirt and summery pants and my hair up in a pony tail...just wanted to ... feel unencumbered.... maybe it's the humidity...the heat...i just want it to be winter. winter is so cool, literally and figuratively. ahhhhh!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Well-Said!

This is an article on the topic of hijab that I found online. The author was gracious enough to allow me to post it here on my blog. I really enjoyed it and think it was very well done--well said!

from: http://www.hudakazi.com/2005/may/the.women.who.cover.html

The women who cover and the women who criticize them
On the one hand, hijabi women are dowdy and primitive, too feeble-minded to realize they're being oppressed by their misogynistic cultures. They never had a chance! To see what they could be! Oh, if only some cowboy could ride in on his F-14 fighter jet and give them some freedom.

On the other hand, hijabi women are a disgrace to the religion. Did you see what she was wearing? Why you could almost make out the faint shape of her leg if you focused so hard on her pants that you came dangerously close to passing out.

Back on the first hand, those hijabis need education and exposure to the western world. Even the ones who already live in the western world. Obviously if they think they're putting that scarf on their head voluntarily, they haven't been properly enlightened. After all, this is the twenty-first century. We've long since left such archaic traditions behind; now women can wear what they want!

But on that second hand (can't forget the second hand, by far the more irritating of the two), hijabi women, they're so hypocritical. Can't you see that wisp of hair peeking out from underneath the scarf? And her shirt is so short! Not as short as mine, but still, it only goes halfway past her butt. Can you believe it?

Yes, yes I can. And I have a message for all of you, so listen up, because I'm only going to say this once.

STOP JUDGING US.

Those of you who aren't Muslim and don't understand why we do it: We would love to sit down and explain it to you, or not, as you choose. But we don't judge your taste in clothing (or lack thereof) or your religious beliefs (ditto), and we'd really appreciate it if you didn't judge ours. We don't need your women's lib organizations staging an intervention on our behalf. We're fine. Really.

Those of you who are Muslim and wear hijab yourselves: You should know better.

And those of you who are Muslim and don't wear hijab yourselves: Exactly where is that leg you're standing on? If a hijabi woman bent down to pick something up instead of squatting (and the squatting rule applies to all women, thanks), I don't want to hear your horrified shock as you stand there talking to me in your short lacy sleeves and exposed head. Until you've gone through it, through the comments, and the staring, and the coveting of something beautiful you can never wear because it cuts just a little low or a tad too tight, I don't want to hear it. When you've made the effort yourself, I might care what you think about another woman's hijab... but I don't really think so because that's between her and God.

Sometimes a hijabi can use some guidance. We welcome that. It's like when I was sixteen years old, facing my high school graduation, and wanting desperately to fit in when I walked across that stage. I wanted to find some way around the hijab, some other way to cover my head, possibly by tucking my hair into the hat. (I tried it, but my head is so abnormally huge I had to get an extra large hat, and even then there was no room for the hair.) My mother said I could do whatever I wanted — wear it, not wear it — but that I should remember it was the decisions I made in times like this that really mattered. I wore it. The other hijabi who graduated didn't. All that meant was that I had the direction I needed; perhaps she didn't, but what she certainly didn't need was the resulting chatter throughtout the entire religious community. Guidance is not the same thing as judgement. Or criticism. Or gossip.

You non-hijabi Muslims understand why we cover, you don't do it, yet you're completely nonplussed about excoriating a hijabi's attire, even one unknown to you. Hello, pot. Meet the kettle.

And finally, to those of you, Muslim and non-Muslim, hijabi and non-hijabi, who stand beside us and support us every day, who fight for our right to wear what we want where we want, who understand when we slip up, and who see the person before the hijab: Thank you so much. You have no idea the strength you give us
.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Fashion and Faith





NOTE TO NEW READERS: This is the most recent post. For this blog to make the most sense, it's best to begin reading at the first post. For older posts, please scroll down and go to the archives. Thanks.
----



Yes, indeed that is celebrity, Jennifer Lopez, known for her flaunting of her sexuality--yet in this picture...looking strangely like a "fashionista" of Muslim hijab! And I've seen some early haute couture fashion which had a woman all covered up, including a dark hood over her head, ears, and neck--it looked very sophisticated. Interesting. It makes me wonder...could popular fashion ever include the use of a headscarf? Well, just look at the other photographs of fully covered women in Islamic fashions!

I reluctantly admit, since starting the hijab, I've become more interested in looking stylish, fashionable, "with-it." I suppose it is because I have a more limited selection and also because I have a greater self-consciousness about my "image" as not only a Muslim, but also a mother of 2 kids in a suddenly 30 year old figure!

Still, the question is: Is mixing faith and fashion a slippery slope?

Here is an interesting clip from NBC's The Today Show, aired July 15th, 2007. It showcases the young Muslim female's desire to fit fashion into her faith.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=-iE0_rwvJAU&mode=related&search=

There is also a great support system in the social networking website, http://www.facebook.com for Muslim women who wear hijab. It offers many discussion groups which cover all of the topics associated with Muslim hijab, including one group called "Hijabi Fashionistas," whose members submit photos of their various styles of Islamic dress. It's not exactly "Muslim Vogue," but it has that touch of elegance, taste, and style.

And I find it amazing that this information and support is out there. It would have been a great comfort for me when I was in high school. But it seems that the generation under me is the one that is embracing and promoting the hijab with style and confidence! Some conservative Muslims would caution against these materialistic fashion trends--headcoverings or not! Hmm... Am I a conservative Muslim? Do labels really define the diversity?

Well, I'm still looking...and wanting to go shopping!

Deal Breakers

I mentioned in a previous post, "Fear of Commitment," that I had just that, a fear of committing to the headscarf. I would say that I am committed at this point. Still, I do want to let it be known that there are a few cicumstances that might cause me to re-consider the headscarf. These include:

1) GOD FORBID, another terrorist attack on America in the name of Islam and Muslims.
2) Pysical, verbal, mental, or emotional harassment.
3) Excessive anxiety
4) A work or volunteer position that would create #2 or #3.

I pray that I will never have to deal with such things again as I did before. And I'm so grateful that up to now, the results have been a positive and loving experience. Alhamdulillah (All praise belongs to God).

Thank YOU!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

6,602,224,175





The world population is 6,602,224,175 (July 2007 est.). As I stated in a previous post (Common Ground...) there are billions of people in the world. WOW. And though I share common ground with many of them, I am also different from many of them. Obviously, I know.
And...
I watch the local news.
I watch the national news.
Heck, I even watch BBC news.
I know a bit about what's happening to the people of the world.
All the seemingly endless suffering is incomprehensible.
I know that this "hijab blog" is just a speck of dust in the entire universe of things that matter. So that's why I feel silly for updating this blog when I do, as if this topic isn't settled yet. I hear a voice (or voices) saying, "Ok. Wear your headscarf. Cover up your body. Just stop yapping about it! There's a world with problems out there--Think about them!"

So, okay. I know. Just wanted you to know.

:-)

Saturday, July 28, 2007

At Face Value




I'd like to give a brief opinion on the practice of wearing Niqab or Burqah in Islam.
Niqab is the veil that covers a Muslim woman's face, usually leaving only her forehead and eyes visible. Burqah is an even more conservative type of veil, which has only a grid-like gauze for visibility.

I personally do not like this form of Islamic dress, the covering of the face. It is not an obligation in Islam, and I think it does more harm than good, especially in the West because it creates an image of Islam that is inaccurate and downright confusing to both non-Muslims and Muslims alike. Indeed, if I were to see a woman in Niqab, I would feel uncomfortable and shy away from her--this is despite the fact that I know at least two down-to-earth, funny, educated, Muslim women who have worn the Niqab in the USA of their own choice, and happily so. They want to do it. They think it will bring them protection in this life and a reward in the next. Still, I simply can not agree with them.

I mentioned in a very early post that I do not think that the purpose of external hijab is to A.) HIDE BEAUTY. I think that is impossible. I think it is to B.) PROTECT MODESTY / DEMONSTRATE PIETY & DIGNITY. To me, those are two very different concepts. Take a look at the third photo above of the woman who is showing only her eyes and hand---She is gorgeous, MashaaAllah (by God's Grace) and even the Niqab can not HIDE that. Yes, if you wear the more conservative Burqah, with just the gauze strip to see, you can hide your entire identity. But how does this fit in with Islam? And the face is the main source of human communication: emotion, age, gender, intention, etc...all come from the face.

If women choose to wear it, they probably do so based on their own conservative values and issues and statements and causes and culture and environment, not the Law of Islam. If they believe it is required, then they follow an interpretation of Islam that the vast majority of Muslim and Islamic scholars reject. If they are forced to wear it, then I completely understand their rebellion against it, if given a choice.

Here are some excerpts from articles and the links to their entire text:

"Niqab is different from hijab. Hijab refers to covering everything except the hands and face. Niqab is the term used to refer to the piece of cloth which covers the face and women who wear it usually cover their hands also...proponents of the niqab use this Qur'anic verse for evidence for the niqab.

...And when ye ask (the Prophet's wives) for anything ye want, ask them from before a screen: that makes for greater purity for your hearts and for theirs.
Qur'an 33:53

The wives of the Prophet were indeed required to wear the niqab by this Qur'anic verse. This is because the special status they had meant they had to be kept clear from all gossip and slander. Scholars say that if the wives of the Prophet, as the best of feminine examples, were required to wear niqab, then the ruling falls on all women.

However, earlier on in the same chapter, the Qur'an also very clearly states that the Prophet's wives were not similar to other women.

O Wives of the Prophet! You are not like any of the other women.
33:32

Most scholars are in agreement that the verse about the screen, or concealing of the face, is only obligatory on the wives of the Prophet. They say the verses are a clear indication that the wives of the Prophet are much more restricted in their movement due to their political position, and that their code of conduct does not constitute a code of conduct for women in general."
http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam/beliefs/niqab_2.shtml

"In my experience, whereas a growing number of westerners are coming to accept and even respect the simple hijab (headscarf/hair-covering) as a symbol of modesty and good character in Muslim women, almost universally westerners find niqaab (the face veil) and the head to toe black garb that usually accompanies it sinister, frightening and repulsive. It makes them recoil from Islam.

As a western convert to Islam, I see first hand only too well among my family, western colleagues and old circle of friends the extreme harm face veiling does to the image of Islam and to the efforts to spread Islam in the west. The tragedy is that this phenomenon is so unrepresentative of Islam. The vast majority of Muslims do not consider this form of attire compulsory. Most contend that face veiling was, in fact, exclusively the preserve of the wives of Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) who, we are told in the Quran 33:33, "are not like other women" in order to give them privacy and protection in Madinah where they lived at the main mosque, not in private compounds."
http://www.islamfortoday.com/niqaab.htm

Feel free to comment please.

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Wrong Impression

At yet another wedding, I met a couple of friends (that do not wear the headscarf) that I had not seen in many months. One of my mom's friends saw me and said with surprise, "You're wearing hijab!" I smiled but was flooded with a sudden self-consciousness and blurted out, "My husband made me do it." Then we all had a big laugh. Hahaha. Then I think there was some mention of hijab being a good thing, and how I have a good husband.

Later...I came home and was thinking, "Why oh why in the world did I say that?"

First of all, it's so not true. My husband just encouraged me and said I would not regret it if I tried wearing the headscarf--and he was right. But he did not force me or "make me" do it at all. And secondly, 'why oh why oh why' did I--someone who is supposed to be somewhat intelligent in her awareness of stereotypes and prejudice and who is adamantly against perpetuating such falsehoods--especially the one that women who wear the hijab/headscarf are submissive to and oppressed by their husbands blurt out such a silly comment? What was I thinking? And what was I not thinking?!

So...
I think the reasons were, as I've mentioned in a previous post (re: I'm Nobody)...
1) some kind of resistance to wanting to seem self-righteous or 'better' than those who do not cover up. So I "blamed" it on my husband, something that in itself works for me with other Muslim people because then they get the (very true) impression that my husband is a religious man. And I think I want the world to know how devout he is, especially the Muslim world of my little community, because my husband is a convert/revert to Islam, and both my family and I want the community to know that yes, my husband is a true follower of Islam, which somehow validates my controversial, rare, and curious marriage to an American.
2) Part of it was my insecurity about choosing an "old-fashioned" (stereotype) and "unfashionable" (stereotype) way of dress and lifestyle amid a crowd of the glitz and glamour and pain-staking beauty that surrounded me. I think I felt plain and out-of-the-fashion-loop when I walked into the sea of lovely fabrics and glittering stones and iron-pressed, lovely hair.

Still, I regret saying what I did. And will try not to do that anymore. Because even though those people were Muslim, and even though they left with the good impression of my pious husband, somewhere in their minds is the idea that I, a Muslim woman, was forced to cover her hair by her husband--something that might possibly be a reason they do not want to cover up in hijab, as it was a reason for me--that association with being oppressed or dictated too. I regret saying it, even if it was a joke.

My husband didn't make me. He helped me. And I thank him for that. And I'm still surprised at how such a simple scarf can be attached to such complicated feelings.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Common Ground--Various (Non-Muslim) Religious Views on Modesty

I was intrigued by a religious, conservative, Pentecostal American family shown on a TV program. It was mentioned that the females followed a dress code, which really interested me. They described their modesty as dressing with feminity, meaning no pants and displaying long hair. This seemed different than the Islamic dress code, I thought to myself, since Muslim women are taught to cover their hair, not grow it long for all to see. And I think Muslim women can wear pants, although, some would disagree, still, the pants-vs-skirts issue is not so clear-cut in Islamic dress. It reminded me how the definition of modesty can vary not only from person to person, but from religion to religion. Still, I admired that family very much for their dedication to their religous values. I felt a common ground with them. I did a quick internet search on the internet and found:

1. "Our church teaches us the value of modest, appropriate dress. Men should dress like men and women must dress like women! The girls and I do not wear makeup, jewelry or nail polish. Pants are for men, so the girls and I only wear skirts to the knee and dresses. We wear our hair long and uncut because it represents modesty and shows our respect for both God and for Steve [the husband]. The rest of the world might call this strict or old-fashioned. To us, it is our way of life…Women should dress modestly! Girls must wear full length skirts and never pants. Shirts must cover the shoulder and not reveal their neckline. We never cut our hair because we believe that long hair for women shows respect for our husband and God." http://abc.go.com/primetime/wifeswap/episode/314/manual_hoover.html

2. "I cut my hair ! Big deal, it really is. In plain churches the Bible means what it says. Simple as that. And long hair is said to be a womans glory in 1 Cor.11:15. So in the world I walk in I just cut off my glory. It will grow and so its not the end of the world for me, but now my fickle mindedness will be remembered every time I look in the mirror. For those not walking in this "plain" world, this stuff must seem to silly and so strict. And there are things that when your heart is not right, and spoken about in a bad tone, seems so old fashioned and so old world. Dark ages type behavior, but it isn't...I am part of the United Pentecostal Church, so I also believe that your hair is your glory. I am 27 years old and have never cut my hair in my life. Believe it or not, I have never been tempted, but I know that others struggle with this."
http://morningramble.blogspot.com/2006/03/plain-life.html

3. "I live near the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Hanceville, Alabama. The Shrine is rightly strict about modesty in dress. But I see an unhealthy number even of elderly women who visit here wearing blue jeans and tennis shoes. As a young person I was exposed to this all my life. I thought nothing of it until I started reading books on femininity and masculinity and experienced what a good Catholic family should be. I married into such a Catholic family.
Not only women but children are dressing immodestly today, both in public and often at Mass where our Lord is present in the Holy Eucharist. It is difficult for a young man to stay focused and pure even at Mass when a young woman walks into church wearing immodest clothing. They have lost the sense of modesty. Both young and older parents need to monitor at all times what their children wear. Men and boys should also dress modestly when attending Mass. Sundays should reveal our best dress of the week. Dressing modestly and well for Mass reflects our faith that Jesus is present in the Eucharist and that He perpetuates His Sacrifice of the Cross.
If the President of the United States was coming to town and speaking at a convention dinner, to which you were invited, would you wear shorts, a T-shirt or a mini-skirt? I don't think so. Yet, in the house of God many ignore His Real Presence by the way they dress. Why do people act this way? It is because faith in the Real Presence of Jesus and the perpetuation of His Sacrifice of the Cross at every Holy Mass has been lost, or has been seriously weakened. G.K. Chesterton would say to this: "What's wrong with the world!"
http://www.fatimafamily.org/articles/husbandwife.html

4. "The 23-year-old author first heard of "modestyniks"--Orthodox Jewish women who withhold physical contact from men until marriage--while a freshman at Williams College. She was initially fascinated by the way in which they cleave to old ideals, especially amid a sexually saturated contemporary world. But more so, Wendy Shalit was aghast at how modestyniks are dismissed as sick, delusional, or repressed by the secular community. "Why," asks the author, "is sexual modesty so threatening to some that they can only respond to it with charges of abuse or delusion?"
In her thoughtful three-part essay, the author reveals an impressive reading list as she probes the cultural history of sexual modesty for women and considers whether this virtue may be beneficial in today's world--if not an antidote to misogyny. In an age when women are embarrassed by sexual inexperience, when sex education is introduced as early as primary school, and when women suffer more than ever from eating disorders, stalking, sexual harassment, and date rape, Shalit believes a return to modesty may place women on equal footing with men. She yearns for a time when conservatives can believe the claims of feminists and feminists can differentiate between patriarchy and misogyny and share in the dialectic of female sexuality."
http://www.amazon.com/RETURN-MODESTY-Discovering-Lost-Virtue/dp/0684863170

5. "Nancy Leigh DeMoss challenges Christians to ask themselves tough questions: Who decides what I will wear, and why? What message does my clothing communicate? And, how can I reflect the glory of God in my wardrobe?
Biblical, practical and motivating, "The Look" challenges women (young or older), parents, and teens to discover the Truth about clothing and modesty, and to make choices based on God's eternal perspective."
http://www.amazon.com/Look-Does-Really-Care-What/dp/0940110431/ref=pd_sim_b_1/105-9172474-6518015

6. "HOW SHOULD I DRESS?
In a vast majority of Christian churches - Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox - common sense prevails. Something a little nicer than jeans and sneakers is the norm, and a nice suit for men or dress for women is quite tasteful, but even something a little more casual is perfectly fine. Some churches are intentional about "come as you are" worship, jeans, sneakers and all; some affluent congregations "dress to the nines." But otherwise, assume anything from casual dress to a suit or skirt is acceptable.
Having said that, however, there are some kinds of churches with a more stringent "dress code":
Men - In Conservative and Orthodox Jewish congregations, men are expected to wear a yarmulke (skullcap) and prayer shawl. These are often available for use in the synagogue itself.
- In United Pentecostal Churches, men are expected to wear long sleeves, and no jewelry - not even a wedding ring.
Women - In some very tradititional Catholic and Orthodox churches (these are few, outside the mainstream of their own tradition), women are expected to wear dresses with skirts below the knees; heads are to be veiled (hats can be worn instead; veils are sometimes available for use in the narthex, or entryway, of the church); shoulders are not to be bare. In Mormon churches, women are expected to wear very conservative dresses with ankle-length skirts.
Again, these stricter guidelines are exceptions. In the vast majority of Christian churches, common sense is the prevailing guideline. It is best not to look slovenly, and one should avoid clothing with offensive or suggestive messages; beyond that, don't sweat the dress code."
http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/51787/church_etiquette_and_dress_code.html

7. "The BYU Honor Code
Dress and Grooming Standards
The dress and grooming of both men and women should always be modest, neat, and clean consistent with the dignity adherent to representing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and any of its institutions of higher learning.
Modesty and cleanliness are important values that reflect personal dignity and integrity, through which students, staff, and faculty represent the principles and standards of the Church. Members of the BYU community commit themselves to observe the standards, which reflect the direction given by the Board of Trustees and the Church publication For the Strength of Youth. The BYU Dress and Grooming Standards are as follows:
Men
A clean and well-cared-for appearance should be maintained. Clothing is inappropriate when it is sleeveless, revealing, or form fitting. Shorts must be knee length or longer. Hairstyles should be clean and neat, avoiding extreme styles or colors, and trimmed above the collar leaving the ear uncovered. Sideburns should not extend below the earlobe or onto the cheek. If worn, moustaches should be neatly trimmed and may not extend beyond or below the corners of the mouth. Men are expected to be clean shaven; beards are not acceptable. Earrings and other body piercing are not acceptable. Shoes should be worn in all public campus areas.
Women
A clean and well-cared-for appearance should be maintained. Clothing is inappropriate when it is sleeveless, strapless, backless, or revealing; has slits above the knee; or is form fitting. Dresses, skirts, and shorts must be knee length or longer. Hairstyles should be clean and neat, avoiding extremes in styles and colors. Excessive ear piercing (more than two per ear) and all other body piercing are not acceptable. Shoes should be worn in all public campus areas.

by W. John Walsh
What is immodest attire? Immodest attire is that state of dress (or undress) which flaunts a person's body and sexuality. There are four questions one can ask to determine if a particular outfit is immodest:
(1) Does the outfit create greater interest in the wearer by potential sexual partners? Most of us know that girls in two piece swimming suits (i.e., "bikinis") are more interesting to men than girls wearing modest suits. (See footnote 1) If more potential sexual partners pay attention to you because of your dress or undress, then you know you are being immodest. No one except a spouse has the right to arouse sexual feelings in someone.
(2) Does the outfit make members of the same sex more conscious of their physical inadequacies? If your dress causes feelings of inadequacy in others, then you know you are being immodest. It is not Christian conduct to make other people feel bad because they were not blessed with your physical bounties.
(3) Why are you wearing or buying the outfit? In reality, most of us know what is immodest attire. When we choose a two piece swimming suit over a modest one piece, we know why we are doing it. We want attention and appreciation for our body.
(4) Would the outfit cover temple garments, if you wore them? One of the purposes of the temple garment is to protect our modesty. If your outfit would not cover a temple garment, it is by definition immodest. Sometimes, it may be appropriate to wear such an outfit in special circumstances. On the other hand, wearing the exact same outfit outside of those special circumstances would be imodest. For example, it may be acceptable to wear a modest swim suit to swim, even though the swim suit would not cover temple garments. But it would be immodest to wear your swimming suit to go shopping at the mall or to a party.
Notes:
(1) It should be noted that two piece swimming suits (i.e., "bikinis") are not allowed in the swimming areas of Church-sponsored colleges like Brigham Young University and Ricks College."
http://www.lightplanet.com/mormons/daily/modesty.htm

8. "Much is added to Redekop's analysis throughout the valuable essay by Marlene Epp, "Nonconformity and Nonresistance: What Did it Mean to Mennonite Women," in Changing Roles. Epp notes that women carried much of the burden of Mennonite separateness and nonconformity. She points out that the Mennonite doctrine of non-resistance affected women very differently than men. Mennonite women were not conscripted into alternate service during the Second World War; they were left on the farms and in the villages, where they often had the sole responsibility for their families. They were compelled to enter the work force. The war began a process that encouraged Mennonite women to break down the traditional barriers of separation and become more fully integrated into Canadian society. The most often cited symbol of this acculturation was the increasing use of English in the Mennonite community. An equally visible symbol for women, according to Epp, was the decline of Mennonite women's symbolic dress. Women were required to wear a bonnet and plain dress. The bonnet, in particular, was a symbol of separation from the dominant culture. No such dress code was imposed on men. Resistance to traditional dress began in the 1950s. By the 1960s traditional dress was in decline. Epp links this rebellion from traditional Mennonite culture to the "gradual secularization," or acculturation, of Mennonite society after the war." http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3683/is_200010/ai_n8919848/pg_8

9. "Other scholars in this section examine women's resistance to patriarchy and the impact of shifting gender roles on Anabaptist communities. Taking restrictive dress codes as their focus (as many of the contributors do), these authors note that dress codes frequently serve as a source of conflict. Steven Reschly argues that anxiety about the "flood tide of American individualism" in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries led male community leaders to tighten dress codes and familial roles for women, establishing what he calls "preservationist patriarchy." Kimberly Schmidt's study of a conservative Mennonite community in the 1930s and 1980s reveals how social anxiety over the Great Depression and Reagan-era farm crises challenged the community. While the economic hardship pushed Mennonite women into the public workforce, the move often led to an abandonment of the traditional cape dress and prayer covering. Women who worked "off-farm" found themselves at the center of a struggle between economic necessity and religious tradition and were often scapegoated as troublemakers. Both essays emphasize how communities invest their cultural identity and security in the plain dress of women." http://raven.bethelks.edu/mennonitelife/2002sept/reviews.php

So there you have a brief look into the religous views on dress from a few Non-Muslim individuals and groups. I'd welcome any comments from members of such religions.

And again, although our definitions and applications of modesty of dress differ for various reasons, I admire those groups that advocate modesty of dress, and I wish we could all see the common ground we stand on, instead of viewing each other as strange and alien and misguided. It's a big world full of billions of people. WOW.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Buckle Up, It's the Law

My husband and I were at a beach resort last year for his business trip. I walked around in jeans, sandals, and a long-sleeve white dress shirt (at the time, no headscarf). Still, I was self-conscious of the fact that most everyone else at the resort was in full summert-time-on-the-beach gear (e.g. shorts, tanks, bathing suits). But whenever me and my husband (who was also in jeans and dress shirt) spotted someone else with pants on, especially on the beach itself--we remarked: "Look, they're wearing pants too!" And it made me feel better. I am assuming that none of those people were Muslim, and I can not know if they were religious. All I know is that they chose to wear pants when they could have worn shorts like everyone else on the beach. For some reason, they were more modest than others.

Now, here are other examples of non-religious folks practicing modesty of dress:
1) A woman who loses a lot of weight but is still insecure about her body, so she covers up and dresses down by wearing loose, long, plain clothes.
2) A woman is against consumerism and the exploitation of women in society, so she covers up and dresses down by wearing loose, long, plain clothes.
3) A woman works in a male-dominated profession, so she chooses to wear conservative clothing to reduce any sexual discrimination or harrassment.

Ok, so...now the question is...

Do you need a religion or God to dress modestly, i.e. to have values that dictate your choices in life? From the above examples, the answer is NO. I once heard an atheist say "Just because I don't believe in God doesn't mean I don't have any morals." I'm sure a lot of people feel that way. They don't need a religion, a god, or a set of rules to be "good, decent, moralistic, polite, law-abiding citizens." They believe human nature is pure/good and does not need an organized religion to dictate and monitor and supervise their choices in life--including dress. They don't need a book of God's Laws to tell them how to make good choices and practice good behavior--because being good is its own reward.

...But laws and codes are meant to keep the bad seed from ruining it for everyone, aren't they? For the flawed ones...and aren't we all a bit flawed? Easily tempted? Easily distracted and curious?

What if there were no speeding laws? Some of us would drive slowly because we are "naturally" cautious, still most of us would get caught up in the power, freedom, thrill, independence, and the impatience to get where we want to go--or just go faster than the next guy--so we would go without care--without a seatbelt...And eventually hurt ourselves and others as we zip along and eventually meet disaster.

So yes, there are A LOT of people without a religion who practice excellent and productive human behavior. And I respect them for that.

Then there are those people who need a structured or organized religion to keep themselves "in check," because perhaps they're not so excellent or productive or decent in their "natural" state. And I respect their struggle.

I think all that is good comes from God. God is Good. And religion allows us to understand why and how that is.

So who decides what is "Good"? Is it just common sense? What is common sense?

**Common Sense
–noun sound practical judgment that is independent of specialized knowledge, training, or the like; normal native intelligence.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
[Origin: 1525–35; trans. of L sénsus commūnis, itself trans. of Gk koin aísthésis]**


I think most of us would agree, it's "common sense" to follow the rules that most religions and civilizations follow (No killing, No prostituting, No stealing, No cheating, etc). But how does common sense turn into that "specialized knowledge or training"? I think it comes from understanding God. And religion can help you gain the knowledge and training to begin to attempt to do that. Of course, I personally believe that Islam, and Shia Islam specifically, is the best way.

What do you believe? How do you decide what is good? What is common sense?

I know a Muslim woman who wears a headscarf. A stranger approached her in a public mall and after some trivial dispute on proper play-area behavior for children, the stranger pointed at the Muslim woman's headscarf and said,
"You have no common sense."

I would ask that stranger woman why wearing a headscarf is against common sense. I would love to know what makes her believe that, and what makes her believe it was necessary to tell the Muslim woman that. The stranger woman claimed she was not being prejudice. I would love to know what makes her believe that, indeed.

I look in the mirror and say:
Be Good.
Know that all Good comes from God.
Keep learning.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

I'm Nobody

At one of the wedding festivities I recently attended, a female Muslim friend of mine who had not seen me in a long time (and does not wear a headscarf) asked me when I had started wearing the scarf. I was surprised that she asked because I forget that it wasn't long ago that I did not wear it. Anyway, I said, "About two months." And then I went on to tell her how religous my husband is and how he encouraged me to wear it, and how some other girls in the community wear it so that encouraged me as well, and how my husband is getting more involved in our local Muslim community, so I figured it was a good time to start wearing the scarf. As she answered me with phrases like, "Oh, yeah, we try to be more involved too, my husband..." I became aware that I might come across as "bragging" about my religiousness, or making her feel self-conscious---afterall, her hair was styled--no scarf. And I was surrounded by other Muslim-borm females in beautiful, flowing, curly, straight, colored, long, and short hair...in eye catching form figuring clothes. So I tried to regroup and say, "but it is very difficult...". And when she finally graciously ended the conversation by saying, "yea, it's a good thing," I felt aware that I need to be careful as to not come across as "holier than thou," because I am far far far from perfectly religious. This headscarf is sending a message, yet the message is received differently by each receiver.

Hmm...

Now that I wear the headscarf and now that I've attended a few parties where born-Muslims ladies are all dressed-up and have began to notice their attire in contrast to my new wardrobe, I sometimes feel embarassed for my old pre-headscarf self. And even though I have always been lazy about all that girly stuff (hair styles, make-up types, clothing trends, manicures, etc.)...I was still totally oblivious to the comformity of dressing-up for parties--totally wanting to look young and perky and beautiful (tight clothes usually did the trick). So now when I see those dolled-up girls...I see them as being foolish. So then I feel relieved and proud that I'm no longer a part of that "flaunt it" group. But then it does not add up...why should I feel proud? Afterall, I still desire to look pretty and put-together through my clothing...I still wear make-up to beautify my face...I am still them...I am still me...I am still vain.

"Pride defeats its own end, by bringing the man who seeks esteem and reverence into contempt."
Henry Bolingbroke

There were a few Muslim ladies at the wedding parties wearing headscaves and long, loose, plain-colored abayas/jackets/jilbabs....one lady wearing all black...and none of them wearing make-up. It's not like they were completely drab. Their fabrics might have been expensive, the jackets tailored well, the headscarf perfectly matching the rest of the outfit.

Hmm...

So I think there is something dignified in dressing-up...nicely...but who am I to judge what's naughty or nice? I'm nobody.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Bursting at the "Seems"






The other day, it seemed that a lady in a passing car was yelling something at me and my husband and it seemed to me it was something hateful and could only be because of our headgear. Now, my husband says he didn't notice anyone yelling. And I'm not even sure what she was saying or who she was yelling at. Still, just the fleeting thought that she was bashing us made my heart sink. I felt misunderstood, victimized, and scared. Thankfully, it seems that yelling lady incident was not about what was on our heads, but it was probably just in my head.

Then later...

We got to the store. We saw a Muslim lady and her husband getting into their car. My husband said "As-salam-o-alaykum" to the man, and he seemed to responded hesitantly while the wife did not turn around. Then we saw some other hijabis but they didn't seem to notice us...

Now, it's not uncommon for us to greet other Muslims based on our headgear/hijab identification as Muslims. It's nice. But sometimes it can be strained and akward also. When the other Muslim seems to look away or ignore me, it makes me wonder...why? In a way, I understand it. Sometimes we just want to go about our business, not bother with being friendly, especially if we are not of the habit of doing so. Sometimes we're just not expecting so see another Muslim, so we just look away, not knowing what to do exactly.

Anyway...that's that.

Now I'm thinking about this other "issue" which seems to be part of the headscarf experience. So, of course, "hijab" is not just a headscarf, it means acting and thinking and dressing overall with modesty. And I've been reminded that among the Muslim women who cover, it seems there is some judgement-like thinking and chatter going on...

For example, in addition to my scarf, I have usually been wearing loose pants and a long sleeve shirt that hits me just at hip level....Some Muslims will say proper hijab should include the shirt covering your entire backside when worn with pants or skirt. Still, some Muslims will say, proper hijab means wearing the long, loose, jacket-dress called an abaya or jilbab. Some will say, proper hijab includes covering the feet, or just the top of the foot. Some will say there is no place for "fashion" in proper hijab. Still others will say proper hijab means nothing tight fitting, especially at the backside or the bust, you know... BUSTing at the seams... ;-) The photos above illustrate my examples.

Many Muslim women do not wear make-up as part of proper hijab. Some do not wear jewelry. And some believe that plucking/waxing/shaving body hair such as eyebrows is anti-hijab.

A lot of these differences depend on the type of sect one belongs to. Shia and Sunni scholars/schools of thougts may differ on what exactly proper hijab is. Still, some of the differences are cultural and personal and circumstantial. The details may seem silly. Some details are silly. But that's the fun of believing in things, in laws, in codes. Fun Fun.

I fit in somewhere in there somewhere sometimes sort of. I will wear brown lipstick when I go out to the store. I will wear make-up if I go to a formal party. I will wear a long necklace and bracelets. I was wearing flip flops until last week when I was told that my particular sect of Islam considers covering the top of the foot as part of proper hijab. I thought the whole foot could hang on out there. And maybe it still can. I haven't done my proper research into the matter just yet. I know I don't have it completely covered yet.

So I hope no other hijabi seems me and thinks, "she's not wearing proper hijab," but I'm sure they are. Seems like they just might...

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

It's Hot, but Still Cool.

So when my brother=in-law and his wife came over, we talked about the headscarf a bit. And we talked about my husband's kufi a bit as well. Then after that, we were just chatting and laughing as usual about the kids and work.

And a few days ago, my husband and I went shopping at a store. A man walked up and said "As-salam-o-alaykum," which means peace be unto you and is the usual way for Muslims to greet each other. Then a minute later, a Muslim lady (all covered up) smiled at us and we all said As-salm-o-alaykum to each other. It was a nice, warm, friendly, and comforting few moments.

Today we took the kids to the park. It was hot. I was all covered up except for face and hands. Last year at this time, I would have been all covered up except for arms and hair and neck and ears. I'm sure I would still have felt hot. But I do indeed think...it was more hot this time. Still, a good thing was that I felt more protected against flying insects and bugs, which was nice because I dislike them a lot. And my mother-in-law was with us and she finally asked (after not asking a few time before) why I wear the headscarf. I think she finally did because, well, it was hot, we were at the park, and I was all covered up. I had told my hubby to explain the headscarf to her before, but he hadn't. So today was the day. She was cool with it. Except she said it must be very hot. ... When we were getting ready to go the park, I had the thought of course that other park-goers would think I was outta my mind being all covered up in the hot park. I'm sure some folks think it looks quite ridiculous. I used an example in a previous post of a man being in a business suit. In that context, in an office, the less skin is shown, the more one is covered up, the more dignified and professional they appear. But imagine a man in a park, during summer, chasing after his kids---in his business suit--one would wonder--why doesn't he change his clothes?! Anyhow, that's how I must appear to some people...but it's okay, it's cool.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Head Inside

My kids often play on the back balcony of our apartment from which the windows and balconies of many other residents are in view. So I have to cover my head-and-all even to step out on the balcony for a few seconds just in case some male is out there.

My brother-in-law (my husband's brother) and his wife are coming to visit our apartment. So I'll cover my head-and-all in front of him.

A big part of my brain is saying, "come on, what's the big deal, here? why do I have to cover my head and all in these two situations?" Before I wore the headscarf, I never would have thought twice about showing my hair/neck/ears in those situations. But now, I turn to this verse in the Holy Quran: 024.031

"And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils
over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband's fathers, their sons, their husbands' sons, their brothers or their brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O ye Believers! turn ye all together towards God, that ye may attain Bliss."

So there it is, very clear. Husband's brothers and neighbors-passing-by are not on that list, and I understand the reasoning behind it--but that is not the point of this entry. The point is that I'm still experiencing new things on this "scarf team" as I called it on the first day back ;-) So that's that. Let's see what's next...

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Colorful Pictures


Pangs and Bangs

Most of us women get pangs of nostalgia, right? About the way it used to be...even (especially?) about our appearance. As we get older, we remember our bodies being thinner and tighter--then we feel that pang. After we have children, we remember our chest and our ab muscles from pre-pregnancy days--then we feel that pang. For a lot of women, that pang turns into a sadness or an obsession--but I'm not talking about that kind of pang. I'm just talking about a simple, little, pang of nostalgia. I felt that about my hair the other day. I was looking in a mirror at home and thought, "wow, I'm having a good hair day, it's falling in curls here and there...it looks cute!" Then I felt that excitement we feel when we feel good about our appearance, that excitement that somehow tells us to show it off...like..."look at me...see me...notice this cute hair!" and then PANG! i realized...DUH...headscarf...no one is gonna see this cute hair day today or any other day for a long time (except my family). But it's still cute. Isn't it? If a tree falls in the woods but no one is around...does it really make a sound? :-)

The experience of that pang for my cute hair days felt a bit like a "before headscarf" and "after headscarf" moment. A moment of nostalgia of those carefree days of letting it all hang loose. But I got over it quickly. This time. I think it was harder to let go of those pangs when I was in high school. High school is about YOUTH..and youth is about beauty and shining and flaunting, at least in our society.

And that reminds me of something else. Someone I know mentioned that when she first started wearing the headscarf, the first 3 to 6 months were OK, but then things started getting more difficult and harder to deal with, in terms of how others treated her. That's also sort of like me in high school. The first few months with the scarf were OK...but after awhile, the negativity starts building up. The longing for acceptance and belonging grows...and lonliness and depression can set in. That's what happened in high school.

I hope that doesn't happen to me this time. It's only been a month, and so far so good. I feel good about doing this, I believe in this. And except for some pangs about my bangs...

It's still worth it.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Here I Am!



I finally got around to taking a few snaps of myself with the headscarf...

And I want to give a shout out to all the folks who I know for sure have been reading my blog, specifically, Kathleen, Jon Yusuf, Amir, Leslie, and Amber. Thank you all for your kindness and support!

Thankfully, I'm really feeling good about wearing it, and it seems I have nothing more to say about it! But perhaps there's still more to come. I'm surprised I had this much to say already. So stay tuned.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Back in the Day

I found an article I wrote for my high school magazine. The date on the front of the magazine is May 1993, exactly 15 years ago. And I was 15 when I wrote it. I was writing about wearing the headscarf, explaining it. Reading it now, with a new perspective, I would say I was a little self-righteous, judgemental, in denial, and overly sentimental. But I was also very mature, if I do say so myself ;-) If I have time, I'll be able to present the exact text here on the blog.

I also remember back then being part of a girl's youth group in which I gave a presentation on the importance and significane of hijab/headscarf. I also remember being told by one of the other members that if a man sees just one hair on your head, then that's very very bad. And I remember telling my friend that I did not want to go to the ice cream place with the group because it would bother me when the girls who did not always wear the headscarf would take theirs off in the store.

And I rememeber going to school every day and being laughed at, talked down to, and even physically harassed (objects thrown at me, people literally breathing down my neck).

But I also remember carrying "The Autobiography of Malcolm X" in my pocket and someone telling me I was cool. And several of the African American kids would say "As-salam-o-alaykum" to me in the hall. And one of the African American teachers was extra nice to me, even hugging me once.

My friend and I had both started wearing the headscarf at the same time at the same school. I remember starting to cry when I told her I could not bear to wear the scarf anymore. She put her arm around me and said it was okay. She kept on wearing the scarf at school. She was a lot stronger than me, the type that flipped off the big dudes who yelled at us as we drove home from school. Funny thing, she currently doesn't wear the headscarf, but she says maybe someday soon she'll wear it again.

Well it's wedding season nowadays. I'm looking forward to trying out my new headscarves at the dress-up parties. As a side note, in some cultures like mine (Pakistani) there is sometimes an "issue" with a single woman wearing a headscarf. Families with sons looking for wives sometimes frown on the idea of the headscarf, so the girls do not get as many "proposals." It's not always the case, in fact, sometimes it's the opposite with families wanting a hijabi girl only for their son. It's not a big deal. Just thought I'd mention it.

Ok, anyway, be back later. InshaaAllah (If God wills it).

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

What Are You Lookin' At?

the cashier at target did not say hi to me. usually they say hi to me. the cashier at albertson's didn't turn around when i asked her if her aisle was open. did she hear me or not? the first thought that comes to mind is, they're acting this way because of my headscarf. before the headscarf i'd probably think they were having a bad day or just jerks in general. but now it's always gotta be about the headscarf. okay, it's not that serious. as long as i remind myself to stay cool and not paranoid, it's better if i just go ahead and keep thinkin' they're just jerks having bad days. anyhow, when someone is friendly to me or smiles at me now, i get a bigger amount of joy from it. it's like, "wow, this person is nice. this person is not disturbed that i look different from the norm," or even better, "this person knows i'm different, and therefore is trying to make me feel welcome regardless."

anyhoo...i'm glad i am a married stay at home mother. if i was in high school or had a out-of-the-home job where i had to see many many people every day, i'm sure my experience would be a lot more difficult. as a stay at home mother, i can choose where i go, how i often i go, and if i go. that helps when i'm having a "don't look at me cuz i know you're looking at me day--a bad day."

a good day is just going about my business with good intentions and thinking everybody else is doing the same.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Shopping


i went shopping alone the other day. i saw 2 other ladies with full head covers. i tried to make eye contact with the first one, but she wasn't looking my way. then, through the corner of my eye i noticed her notice me as i walked by. the second lady was busy with her son so she didn't notice me either. anyway, it was a nice feeling to not be the only one with the headscarf. it would have been an even nicer feeling if we had made eye contact and smiled, but better luck next time.

shopping is a bit more fun now for me. now i know i can just focus on long-sleeved shirts that cover (not sheer), so it's fun to hunt and actually find something that works and fits.

then yesterday my husband and i went shopping with the kids. my husband recently started wearing a "kufi" which is a crocheted-knit cap (photo)that some muslims wear out of tradition (not out of religious duty). but he wanted to wear it to show support to me, as he would stand out like i would as looking different. that was nice of him. he said he was self-conscious of being mistaken for a foreigner too, even though he looks like a white guy in general. so that helps him to understand my experience a bit. when he went to the islamic center with his kufi on, the islamic leader (imam) made sure to tell him that it wasn't a requirement of men to wear it. so now my husband doesn't want to be mistaken for an over-zealous convert. ha.

and just to qualify, of course i know, there's nothing wrong with being a foreigner or immigrant...the point is that we don't want to be mistaken for something we're not, right?

it's all good. no big deals.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

New Perspectives


I've been reading a book about women's issues in Islam. I've learned much from it. It's written in Q & A format and often asks the questions that I have had. While I read it, I feel more secure in committing to the headscarf and praying on time and learning more about my religion.

http://www.amazon.com/New-Perspective-Women-Islam/dp/0971042004/ref=sr_1_2/102-5487803-6844911?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1178745663&sr=1-2

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Chin Pin



So I've been wearing a triangle shaped scarf, pinned under my chin with the loose ends tied behind my head. It's been fine, I'm getting used to it (again). It's all good in the hood. Ha Hee. Ok, so the main thought of I've had is, "boy, I sure look different than everyone else," but then I recover by realizing, "well, I am different in a lot of ways than (most) everyone else," in terms of my current beliefs (a shia muslim), values (e.g. don't focus on looking attractive/sexy/staying young), and actions (muslim prayer, fasting, no drinking alcohol [never have], only eating halal foods [no pork, only islamically killed meat called zabiha meat], no naughty TV or movies, and even not listening to music on a regular basis]. So I'm different, right? It's okay. It's difficult, but okay :=) And yes, there are some shia muslims who are very similar to me, yet do not wear a headscarf. And yes, there are some other religious and non-religious people who share the same values as me. But if you put it all together, my identity is muslim and the headscarf just tops it all off.

I've also noticed that covering up completely--even in summer heat--somehow feels more dignified, more elegant. It's not easy to explain the feeling, but I get the image of those proper English ladies, with their big dresses, bonnets, and gloves...you know what I mean? It's not a good enough explanation, but the point it...more clothes mean more dignity and elegance...just think about those men in their high power suits...the only things they show are their head and arms, the less skin...the more professional. you know?

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Mummy Dearest




I think I may have mentioned before that the thing I find the hardest to get used to in wearing the scarf is how it must cover the neck...that fabric around the neck can feel odd until one gets used to it. It sometimes reminds me of a mummy or a large bandage. I can laugh about that now. Ha Ha Ha Hee Hee Hee :-)

Anyhoo...I am getting more accustomed to it. My parents know I'm wearing it now, and they like it! so that's one less thing to think about :-)

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Online Comments

ugh. i've been reading too many of those comments that people write online after viewing (or not viewing) items on YOUTUBE about Islam, Muslims, and/or hijab. ugh. some people are so ugly with their bigotry and hateful insults. it disturbs and disheartens me that they are in the world walking around or typing things on their computers. enough of that. maybe i'll never open this blog up to comments. i do want it to be open to whoever has the inclination to read it because i think it has the chance to broaden some people's view of certain things, but i do not want to open myself up to hear the hate. still, i wish there was a way i could know how many times my blog has been viewed, like a counting ticker. there probably is a way, but i'm too discomblogulated to figure it out. (i know discomblogulated is not a real word...:-)

Beauty, Modesty, Dignity, Piety








i've seen several PRO-Hijab videos online which intend to educate and spread the message of hijab/headscarf. one thing i've noticed is that i don't like that whole "i wear it so you won't judge me by my beauty" thing cuz that seems sort of...vain...and plus...there are plenty of all-covered-up beautiful/attractive women out there (photo). and i'm not too enthusiastic about the "it preserves my dignity/modesty" thing either. i think it is possible to do that without having to cover you head, ears, and neck (emily dickinson's portrait is very dignified and modest--don't you think?). and many women of other religions (photos) dress modestly and with dignity as well, so the muslim dress doesn't own those two concepts. and to focus only on the modest/dignity aspect of the headscarf/hijab implies that those women in today's world who show their hair, neck, and ears (photo) are not modest/dignified...which seems judgemental to me.

so to focus mainly on "do it to stop sexual harassment" takes the emphasis off the simplicity of the idea that it is (most likely) part of the CODE of God. and if means following God's Code...i want that one to apply to me too. i say "most likely" because there's still a percentage of me that doesn't fully accept the perfection of anything, other than the true existence and nature of God. and anyway, let's assume that covering everything except face, hands, and feet--IS the PERFECT dress code for women prescribed by God--that doesn't mean that we has humans can understand and know the exact reason for it. we just need faith that it's a perfect prescription...the idea i do like is the "mark of piety" one. i think that works for me. i understand that one, and i want that one to apply to me. hmm...so that means i need to start working on being more pious instead of letting my other thoughts bog me down. i should just call this my bog blog and let it all go on here. send it all out into cyberspace...

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Little Mosque on the Prairie




"LITTLE MOSQUE ON THE PRAIRIE is a new comedy from CBC Television about a small Muslim community in the prairie town of Mercy, many of whose residents are wary of their new, more “exotic” neighbors. The series takes an unabashedly funny look at the congregation of a rural mosque and their attempt to live in harmony with the often skeptical, even down right suspicious, residents of their little prairie town. The sitcom reveals that, although different, we are all surprisingly similar when it comes to family, love, the generation gap and our attempts to balance our secular and religious lives."

There are some Muslims who are against this show. They say that it is a show "against" Muslims and Islam because it takes some aspects of Islamic living "lightly" [and depicts Muslims and Islam as something other than perfect].

Other Muslims appreciate this show. They think that it is refreshing to see Muslim characters (including an outspoken and intelligent--albiet often rude--Canadian Muslim woman wearing a headscarf!) discuss and "act out" Islamic anecdotes. Of course the show is not perfect (there is often dialogue and plots that makes me squirm, and I wish it wasn't so over-the-top), but in general, I am glad it's on the air somewhere.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

It's Lonely at the Top (of my head).






I have been wearing a big floppy hat and a scarf around my head, ears, and neck. I think I look like a slightly odd version of those sophisticated women at the Kentucky Derby. I know it may even look stranger than a typical pinned or (amira type) scarf, but I just feel more comfy with my hatscarf.

When I went to Wal-mart the greeting guy said "welcome. welcome to our store" as if I was an immigrant and he was saying, "welcome to our country." Hmm...ok, ok, I'll admit it might have been my imagination. But I've noticed some stares and glances at my headgear.

The more I look at myself the way that (I assume) other non-Muslim people look at me when they see a typical amira style or pin under chin triangle shaped headscarf, the more lonely I feel.

I was watching my favorite show, "Everybody Loves Raymond," and imagining the wife character wearing a scarf on her head. It seemed impossible and down right uneccessary (from their view).

And of course there are NO headscarf wearing women seen regularly on American TV at all. The Oprah Winfrey show has had 2 or 3 shows featuring a headscarf wearing woman, but even then Oprah seemed mystified by the concept. And The Tyra Banks show has had 2 or 3 shows featuring the headscarf issue, one in particular included a Muslim teen explaining why she does NOT wear it, and a Muslim teen explaining why she DOES wear it-- that was cool. "Sesame Street" has a girl with a headscarf run across the screen with other children in its opening credits. I like that. And there was one episode of "Seventh Heaven," about a Muslim girl in a headscarf being bullied at school--another good one. And there is a Canadian television show called "Little Mosque on the Prairie," which features life-like, funny, flawed, and intelligent Muslim characters--but that's way up in Canada.

And still, the lack of headscarves on American TV and in its culture reminds me of how different Muslims are from mainstream America...just in terms of values. The dress code value is a BIG one, I think. Then there's the praying 5 times a day, no alcohol or pork consumption, and the no dating thing. Muslim Americans are Americans, but our daily lives are quite different in their emphasis and priorities. Of course, that is a good thing, it's a diverse thing, it's a true thing. But I think it's a lonely thing too, which makes it difficult and explains why many born-Muslims have stopped valuing those things as well.

Oh, and it'd be great if some female celebrity became a Muslim and started wearing the headscarf. I mean, the guys have boxer Mohammad Ali, and basketball greats Kareem Abdul Jabar and Hakeem Olijawon. But just think of all the cool publicity Muslims would get if Julia Roberts or Gwenyth Paltrow became Muslims. Ok, Ok, I'll admit I waste a lot of time with my imagination.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Another Day, Another Bother

A few phrases have swirled around in my conversations and thoughts the past few days. "Fear of God," "Fear of other people," "Faith in Islam," "Obedience to God," "Obedience to husband," and "Proper hijab," just to name a few.

And I've discovered another bother that I have in regards to the headscarf. I discovered (again) that I have a big fear of what my own family, immediate and extended, would think about the style of headscarf I wear and even my reasons for doing so. It's interesting to note that hardly anyone in my own Muslim family does wear it. In fact it's interesting to note that hardly (relative to the entire population of identified Muslims) many Muslims in America wear it.

Anyhow, I've been wearing a Pakistani dupatta wrapped around my head, ears, and neck. It does require some re-adjusting when I move out and about, which is a place I don't go very often--out and about.

I suppose the next posts I have will involve encounters, discussions, and other moments in regards to the good and bad experience of wearing the Muslim headscarf.

Here's hoping for more good than bad! :-)

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Baby Steps

Day 3.
I know now that doing this full-on is going to be very difficult for me. My two main limitations are my own view of the headscarf and my anxiety issues. I'm not just concerned that others will see me and think, "she is odd," I myself think IT IS ODD! And my way of dealing with this idea is to be very self-conscious and feel very trapped.

No one in my immediate family wears it. Only one or two of my friends do. And I am an extremely shy person (I don't talk very much, especially in groups of 3 or more). And I am SO NOT the life of a party. I'm a wallflower.

So there it is. I think the headscarf is odd. And I'm embarassed by it. That's just me. Those are my faults.

If I'm going to continue this without chucking the whole thing, I've got to start further away from the full-on pin it under your chin style. My style might not meet all the requirements of the hijab, but I have to start somewhere. A loose scarf over my head. A large hat with maybe a scarf around my neck or one of those fake turtle neck things. I'm making it complicated. But unfortunately, for me, it is.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Foreigner



When I wore the headscarf in high school, someone asked me sincerely and without insult, "Do you wear that to keep bad spirits from getting into your head?" Um...no. Where the heck did that come from?

...I may have said this before, but I wanted to discuss what I meant by feeling "too foreign" in regards to the scarf. I think to most Americans, many Muslims included, the headscarf is a totally FOREIGN concept. It's totally irrelavant to their daily and lifelong concerns and priorities; it serves no significant purpose to anyone, to society; and is associated with negative stereotypes. And it's associated with a CULTURAL identity of people from other countries, foreigners. So it's a foreign concept reserved for foreigners. And when I put on that scarf, that's what makes me cringe.

And even if we could explain to America the reasons for wearing it, it still seems strange. Reasons like, "God commands it," "to preserve my dignity," "to protect myself from sexual harrassment," stand out as way over the top to them, and I think...even to me.

I have to break it down like this. I am a Muslim. I believe in Islam. I am a Shia Muslim. And I NEED TO TRUST in Islamic scholars to interpret the specifics of the laws of prayer, diet, relationships, and DRESS CODE. The majority scholarly interpretation of the Holy Quran and hadith (sayings of the Prophet (pbuh and his family) agree that only the face and hands of Muslims women should be shown. It's that need to trust their interpretations that keeps tripping me up. Part of me doubts that they are absolutely right. But do I listen to my doubts? Or do I trust their interpretations and trust the hadiths and follow their answers? Isn't that blind faith? Or maybe it's just faith. Gotta have faith. And it's better to be safe than sorry, right? So it's gotta end up being about my Islamic Identity. But what about those other Muslims that say Islamic identity is evolving and adapting and changing? Who do I trust here? Oh, my head. Scarf.