Here's a quick and random trip through some thoughts and feelings I've recently had.
1. I went to a university rally in support of the Palestinians. I knew it was organized by my Islamic center and the religious leader would be there, along with other active members of the center. I wanted to make sure I dressed on the more conservative side, so I wore an extra-long brown shirt dress that went to my mid-calf, black pants, black socks, black shoes, and a brown headscarf. So, I fit in with the Islamic crowd, and I wasn't worried that I would appear immodest in any way. But when I had the chance to walk around campus alone, I completely withdrew. I didn't want to be seen. This was the same campus that I had trekked around upon before I wore the headscarf, feeling perfectly part of the student body. But it was the extra-long top that made me feel not myself. It resembled an abaya. It made me feel foreign. And I didn't have a backpack either. And I was self-conscious also from the rally. There had been a heated debate between the Muslim speaker and some Jewish students. After the rally, me and my hubby were going to go out to eat. But I insisted I go home and put on a different shirt before I would feel comfortable going out. So I put on a long sleeve, baggy shirt, but it was shorter--still covering my backside, but more tailored, and with a pretty swirly beige and white pattern. I felt A LOT more comfortable in it. So just one little change can make a difference in how I feel. The second shirt just felt more like ME.
2. I saw this program on a Christian channel in which a man and woman were discussing religion. The lady said, "What about those women in Afghanistan who wear those burkas (the one that covers head to toe in one piece, with only eyes showing)?" The man replied with something like this: The thing is that these women want to dress modestly, but the men say that they need to cover everything to keep them (the men) from lusting. But the truth is that men will lust after women even if the women are wrapped in concrete. So it's sad that these men use it (the burka) to control the women." "That's so evil," the woman said. "It's not how you dress on the outside that matters. It's what's inside those men's hearts that is not right." SOOOOOOO GEEZE. OKAY. WOW. I think that exchange must represent what a lot of people, Christian or not, think when they see a Muslim woman covered up. First of all, it makes me wish those Taliban people did not represent Islam or religion at all because their view on Islam and religion is not representative of the actual truth. The thing is, what the man said is true to some extent, I think. But I just hate the association that implies that all Muslim men control women by forcing them to wear a burka. And I dislike how the burka may be seen as the same thing as a headscarf. AND I dislike how it's all about "preventing men from lusting after women," because that is NOT the only and not even the MAIN reason for hijab. It's to protect women in every sense--NOT to help the men to control themselves. Men are responsible for themselves, who they stare at, and the lust in their hearts--just like women.
3. On ABC News, there was a so-called "report" on Iraq, 5 years later. They "interviewed" one woman, a teacher. She mentioned that the situation in Iraq is bad these days because, for example, a lot of Iraqi women go out in public with a headscarf just to be protected from the "conservatives." That was quite annoying to me. Basically it left the impression that women in Iraq do not really want to wear the scarf, but only do so because they are afraid of being targeted/hurt by people who will force their beliefs onto them in an aggressive way. It's annoying because it's just one aspect of the whole situation. I can't even explain it. The problem is the simplistic, one-sided view that this kind of "story" represents to the West making it seem like scarf-wearing women are once again oppressed by controlling men.
4. This is from an Oprah show: Carolyn says the polygamist community that she was in was very isolated—there was no television, Internet, radios or newspapers. "Warren Jeffs locked this community down," she says. "They imposed, essentially, a morality police force that would rat on women if they weren't adhering to the proper dress code and have their hair a certain way." "When I left [Colorado City], it was like landing on another planet," Carolyn says. "I didn't even understand that there were basic human rights that I actually possessed as a woman. I was used to doing what I was told to do and you do not question." OKAY...SO...the reason I'm bringing this up is because to me it represents a view of religion that many people might even associate Islam with, even though the show was about Christians (specifically the largest and most secretive polygamist sect, known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or FLDS). And the majority of Muslims are not like that. Not all religions are like that.
Also, at the end of the show, Carolyn said she was surprised that no one stared at her anymore. And Oprah said, "that's because you're not dressed like you're straight out of the 1800's anymore!" "Right! I fit in." And I thought that was interesting because it made me think about how alot of Muslim women DO look like they are straight out of ancient times and people can say, "Why don't they just get with the times?!" And the answer may be that those people do not like the times they are in and think that the modern world is corrupt, so why should they in any way look like they are part of modern society? The thing is, that answer is somewhat ANTI-social I think. And I don't want to be anti-social. And so that goes back to why I feel more comfortable wearing jeans and a long shirt as opposed to a long abaya/burka type garment. I want to feel like I AM part of the times and part of the culture I live in! I think we CAN (and probably SHOULD) be Muslim and be part of those things at
the same time without any loss of integrity and faith.
Here is an abaya. I think this type of outfit is "straight out of the 1800's, ancient times." I know a lot of Muslim women dress like this, especially in other countries. I think the look is fine, but in America, this kind of look would draw more stares, more assumption of being foreign:
This is a version of the hijab which I feel is more "with the times and part of the culture," a look which I like better than the above abaya look.
Of course the difference between the abaya look and the second photo might also be a generational thing, of course the girls in the second photo are younger, hipper, teenagers, but I think it conveys my point about looking "ancient" and "fitting in" while still wearing hijab.