Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Lots of Thoughts

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.


KAV-Z said...

salamz sis...loving the blog!

HOw can i link myself to you?? Ive also got a blog that i wnat to promote among people

Anonymous said...

Assalamu 'Alaikum,

I was having similar thought while watching the Oprah show! Although, you make an excellent point about how clothing can be modest and still "fit in".

Lately, I have noticed more and more how the Western makeover shows focus on showing skin, and form-fitting clothing. It's amazing how 'beauty' is perceived differently depending on the contexts.

I have really been enjoying your blog. I hope you are well.

Scarf Ace said...

thanks so much for your comment. i really appreciate it! i've also noticed this about the make-over shows and wondered if they would ever consider making over a hijabi woman (giving her an updated style while keeping her fully covered/modest)! that would be interesting to see! thanks again

Alixianna said...

Hmmmmmm. I wear abayas all the time and manage to look a hundred percent modern. Sometimes I wear trousers and a coat too but loose clothing. I do this with my accessories---my bag, my shoes, my sunglasses. I make sure my abayas have modern detailings, and I think the girl in the long coat is dressed fine, but the second, with the skirt and the boots, is not in proper hijab at all. Midlength skirts and boots are like wearing see-through clothing---they show the shape of the legs so much that you mights as well show skin. Even an abaya, if it is skin tight, is not gonna count as hijab. I don't believe wearing abaya or even niqab is contrary to being Muslim in the West. I manage to do so every day and educate people about Islam at the same time. Some muslims use the same argument that hijab is a hindrance to Islam being spread. Hijab should be seen as a personal choice, not a rule. THAT is how we dispell stereo-types, not showing off our legs. The abaya on top I could make very modern with a big yellow glossy purse, a VERY sleek navy scarf, and some cool Angelina Jolie shades. I agree with most of your points (Western clothes can be very well adapted to modesty I don't want anyone to diss abayas cuz they are modern and I luv em! but the pic of the sis on the bottom in skirt is not good hijab. The only rules for hijab are: loose fitting (not to reveal the body's shape), not covered with expensive ornamentation to make a poor man feel ashamed or so ratty that a rich man despises you, not see-through, and hair and bossom covered (also clothes should not resemble a man's so that one might confuse you for a man). The skirt sort of breaks the loose fitting rule: but the girl in the pants (though I prefer looser trousers) is cool to me (I mean, it's hard to find modest clothes in the malls).

Scarf Ace said...

thanks for your comment, i appreciate your points! as for the pic of the girls in the modern style, i think their hijab is fine and their clothes are not too tight, but i can see why some would say their style is not proper. anyway,thanks for reading my blog :-)

Alixianna said...

Thanks for having one----LOL. It is great that there is such a sweet Muslimah community out on the web and in the blogosphere. I have a fashion blog too.... I will try and link you but I am absolutely horrible with computers.

Anonymous said...

Assalamou ‘Alaykum
I am a French Moroccan Muslim who ”wears the Islamic headscarf in middle France”.
I do agree with your view about abayas, even if I love wearing them for special occasions. However, I think that too modern hijab kills the meaning of it (discretion and modesty).
In France, the Muslim headscarf has a very negative connotation (modern or not), thanks to the mass media and to the behaviour of some Muslims .
The “secularity law” was promulgated in 2005 to ban external signs of religion (in fact only the Muslim headscarf, the Christian law is accepted and the number of Jewish in France is very small) from public schools and from any public structure (for the employees but not for the public). In fact the law is only for government institutions. But a lot of private firms doesn’t want to hire hijabee women and in the street with a abaya you are seen as an alien, imagine with a niquab…
I’ve been working in a public hospital (management department) since 1999.
Before the law, I was tolerated with my headscarf (even if I was the only one in all the structure to wear it). But when the law was promulgated, I was told to “change my look”. Thanks to the union, we find a compromise: outside the office I’m free, but inside I have to “shorten” my headscarf. So I wear a large headband that covers my ears and a large part of my hair. If you are in front of me you can’t see may hair, but in my back a part of it can be seen. Even if in the office there are only women, everyday men can enter. It’s difficult for me but ‘li darurati a’kam , Allahou a’lam”. For me it’s hypocrisy because I keep on having my “Muslim look” (dark, long, large clothes), even if I try to wear as modern as possible and as discreet as possible. In fact I want to be taken as a real French citizen and Muslim and not seen as an alien, an oppressed woman or any other stupid cliché.
Finally, I would like to congratulate you for your delightful blog. I admire your honesty and your strength to be able to write down your doubts.
Please keep on writing, and may Allah bless you and all your family.
Your sister from overseas, Iman.

Scarf Ace said...

waalaykum salam, iman! thank you so much for your comment, it was a breath of fresh air and very enlightening! i am so glad to have people like you reading my blog and sharing your thoughts.

Scarf Ace said...

Dear KAV-Z:
i just noticed your comment. i think you can link my blog simply by typing in the address in your blog. i tried to comment on your blog but could not find an option to comment. take care :-)

Muslima Maria said...


I understand your feeling about the abaya, the first time I tried one on I broke into tears I felt so uncomfortable. I think all things take time, and if you are being modest then your dres is fine. You know the requirements, and abaya is a suggestion not a requirement.
I know how you feel about being in public sometimes too, I had to take a break from hijab for a while because I couldn't take the stress, and interestingly enough, I would feel more stressed going to the mosque than being alone in public, I was really afraid of what people might say about me. I am feeling stronger now and I'm ready to start trying to wear it again. All things take time, and only Allah SWT can be the judge of our heart and our intentions.