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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

SCARF SURVEY

If you're reading this and you wear a Muslim headscarf, please take a minute to answer the survey questions. Just cut and paste the survey and add your answers under COMMENTS. My answers are at the bottom. And feel free to write an essay if you want, I made it multiple choice for those of you who don't have much time. Thanks!

Please specify in which part of the world you live: __________

1. What was the main influence on your decision to wear the scarf?

A. Religious obligation and/or identity
B. Cultural expectation/obligation
C. Family
D. Friends
E. Other:

2. What's the best thing about wearing the headscarf?

A. Fullfilling religious obligation
B. Belonging to a certain group
C. Being free of sexual harassment
D. Other:

3. What's the worst thing about wearing the headscarf?

A. Racism/Prejudice
B. Feeling different/strange/odd/out of place
C. Hot weather
D. Trying to be fasionable AND modest at the same time
E. Other:

4. Should a Muslim woman who wears the scarf be expected to be a role model of a "good Muslim?"

A. Yes
B. No
C. Depends
D. Other:

5. Is it ever OK for a Muslim who wears the headscarf to appear without it in public for any reason?

A. No, never
B. Yes, whenever
C. Depends
D. Other:

6. What is your usual scarf/hijab style? (Do you match your scarf with your outfit? Do you wear an abaya or niqaab? Do you wear only a certain color of scarf? Etc...)

7. Are you the type that is

A. OK with a little neck or ear or shoulder or hairline exposed
B. or are you the type that must cover every inch?


THANKS!

My Answers:
Please specify in which part of the world you live: _America_________

1. What was the main influence on your decision to wear the scarf?

A. Religious obligation and/or identity
B. Cultural expectation/obligation
C. Family
D. Friends
E. Other: Both A and C. My husband kept reminding me it was my religious duty

2. What's the best thing about wearing the headscarf?

A. Fullfilling religious obligation
B. Belonging to a certain group
C. Being free of sexual harassment
D. Other: B, I like being part of the hijabi group

3. What's the worst thing about wearing the headscarf?

A. Racism/Prejudice
B. Feeling different/strange/odd/out of place
C. Hot weather
D. Trying to be fasionable AND modest at the same time
E. Other: Mostly B, but also all the others

4. Should a Muslim woman who wears the scarf be expected to be a role model of a "good Muslim?"

A. Yes
B. No
C. Depends
D. Other/Please explain: No because just because she is following one rule of Islam, I don't expect her to follow all of the rules all of the time

5. Socially speaking, is it ever OK for a Muslim who wears the headscarf to appear without it in public for any reason?

A. No, never
B. Yes, whenever
C. Depends
D. Other: Yes, I think it's OK because just like a Muslim who skips his/her prayers on a random day or skip a fast, sometimes a Muslim can decide not to wear the scarf on a random day as well. It's only for GOD to judge, not anyone else's business

6. What is your usual scarf/hijab style? (Do you match your scarf with your outfit? Do you wear an abaya or niqaab? Do you wear only a certain color of scarf? Etc...)

Dark hijab with long shirt and pants.

7. Are you the type that is

A. OK with a little neck or ear or shoulder or hairline exposed
B. or are you the type that must cover every inch

I am A

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Where OH Wear...

Two of my friends wear a headscarf, but they live out of state. Still, I know at least a dozen other friends of friends who wear it that live in my same city. BUT I NEVER SEE THEM when I go out! WHERE ARE THEY? It would be so comforting to see another hijabi (especially one who wears the scarf/pant/long shirt style that I do) when I go out. It would make me so much less self-conscious about looking different/foreign. Now, granted, I only go out to 3 or 4 different places (Target, Wal-Mart, Ross, Barnes and Noble, Half Price Books, and Dollar General-- yes I'm not very wealthy). But still, you'd think I'd see another hijabi now and then! I can count on my fingers the number of hijabi's I've just randomly seen in a year. And most of them were wearing abayas and/or African styles--only one was a scarf/pants/long shirt hijabi. Where are you guys? Where do u hang out? Where do you go shopping? You're all too cool for Wal-Mart, right? (I don't blame you there). Maybe you're just at the cool university coffee shops? At the mall?

Anyway, I've started wearing a large headband that goes from my hairline to the middle of my head, and then wrapping a long scarf loosely on top of the head, which covers the rest of my head, then bringing both ends in the front and then placing the ends around my neck. I like it looser since it is hot these days and also, it gives a different look I think, something more stylish...something more Western looking (I think, but I could be wrong). Well, this way, if it is windy, then the scarf part will slip off, which actually doesn't bother me except for me having to adjust it. But I know some pro-hijabi's would say that it doesn't count as hijab if it slips off even for a second. And they would say the same thing if a bit of neck, or ears, or arm, etc. shows too. My husband nags me when things are not completely covered up too, but to me, in general, I don't think it has to be all or nothing.

Anyway, it was this style that I was wearing (a black headband with white polka dots and a black scarf) while at Wal-Mart (I wish I didn't have to go there, but it's so convenient), both an African American man and a Caucasian man were staring at me. The AA man worked there and was stocking items, he was young, and it didn't bother me that he was staring. The Caucasian man was an elderly customer, and it DID bother me, enough so that I slightly turned my head and said, "What?!" When the AA man was looking, I thought to myself that maybe he thought my scarf looked cool and hip. When the older man was looking, I thought that he was hateful/racist. I don't know why I had these thoughts, I had no proof. It was just my thoughts and feelings. I could I have been wrong about both. Hmm... why did one bother me and not the other? Why did I assume one was admiring me and the other was judging me? Was it their race? Was it their age? Was it their behavior?

I was also wearing loose jeans, a long pink t-shirt that said TEXAS LONGHORNS in white letters on the front, and white arm covers. I really like that look because it was comfortable as well as looking cute and it covered everything. The pink and white were cool spring/summer colors and the TEXAS LONGHORNS made me feel part of the local culture.

Anyway, here is an article about the way the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints women dress, I found it interesting:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/24245576/?GT1=43001
For a society accustomed to the likes of Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, the images of the women from the polygamist compound in Texas are almost shocking in their understatement: Ankle-length dresses, makeup-less faces, hauntingly uniform hair.

And while no one would accuse the women of making a fashion statement, the pioneer-style outfits are a rare example of how in an age of overexposure, modesty, too, can give pause.

The puff-sleeved, pastel dresses worn by the women in the sect are a combination of original 19th-century wear and 1950s clothing that was adopted when the church took a conservative turn, according to Janet Bennion, an anthropologist who studies polygamist women.

The dresses are meant to show modesty and conformity: They go down to the ankles and wrists, and are often worn over garments or pants, making sure every possibly provocative inch of skin is covered.em>

John Llewellyn, a polygamy expert and retired Salt Lake County sheriff's lieutenant, says the women cover themselves "so that they're unattractive to the outside world or other men."

The appearance of unity through uniform dress, however, can belie the jealousy that often arises when the women — who might all look alike to an outsider — find themselves in competition with one another over the affections of the same man, Llewellyn says.

Special stitchings detail commitment
The clothing is also stitched with special markings "to protect the body and to remind you of your commitment," Bennion says. She declined to go into detail about the stitchings because she said it would be an infraction against the fundamentalist Mormon community to talk about their sacred symbols.

Pastel colors evoke femininity and don't come across as bold or strong, says Bennion, a professor at Lyndon State College in Vermont.

Then there's the question of the elaborate hairdos.

The women never cut their hair because they believe they will use it to wash Christ's feet during the Second Coming, Bennion says. A Biblical quote says a woman's hair should be her crowning glory.

The bangs are grown out and rolled (but usually not using a curling iron, because that would be too modern). There are sausage curls on the sides and often braids down the back.

The exact history of the hairstyle is unclear, but it is reminiscent of the Gibson Girl image of the 1800s. It's a pre-World War II look, exaggerated with the pompadour, Llewellyn says. Chloe Sevigny's character in the HBO show "Big Love," about modern polygamist Mormons, has mastered the 'do.

Celebrity stylist and salon owner Ted Gibson thinks it gives off a "homely" impression.

"It says 'I don't really care very much. I really don't have time to worry about the way that I look, because I have 20 children,'" Gibson said. "He's going from wife to wife to wife, so why should I look any better than the other ones?"
The article starts off well, explaining the difference in dress, showing appreciation for a modest style. But what's with Ted Gibson's last remark? It seems rather rude and judgemental and demeaning! Now, I don't agree with the polygamy lifestyle in any way, but still, that was a rude remark. Here's the rest of the article:

It's not outlandish to imagine the prairie look influencing today's styles, given that trends can come from unexpected places, and Sevigny is known as a style-setter. You can already find blouses with high necks and ruffles in stores, and puffed shoulders on short and long-sleeved shirts.

Influencing this season's fashions?
Prairie skirts are in fashion this season, while dusty pastels and neutrals are being introduced to offset trendy bold colors and patterns.

Long hair is also on its way back in, preparing to replace the currently fashionable bobs, Gibson says. Buns never go completely out of style, according to Gibson — he often gives celebrities a half-up-half-down 'do, essentially what we're seeing in the photographs coming out of Texas.

But for the most part, the looks that arise from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints are likely to stay there.

On her blog, the fashion editor of glam.com wondered if the spotlight on the Texas raid would make otherwise innocuous pastels unsavory, given their dubious association with polygamists.

"Unexpected perversion? Right-wing fads?" Susan Cernek wrote. "Sounds like a good Halloween costume ... or Marc Jacobs Spring '09."

Allison Berlin, founder of Style Made Simple, doesn't expect Mormon-inspired fashion to go mainstream.

"Women don't actually want to look like that," she says. "I can see the Brooklyn hipsters rocking a French braid, but not in a serious way. Maybe ironically."


Anyway, that's it for now.

What Would You Do?

The following segment was on The Oprah Show, orginally from PRIMETIME ABC.

http://www.oprah.com/tows/slide/200804/20080423/slide_20080423_284_105.jhtml

I got tears in my eyes as I watched, especially the part when the people are helping the victim:

"What would you do if an act of racism took place in front of you?



For the next scenario, the What Would You Do? crew heads to a roadside bakery in Texas for an experiment on prejudice and patriotism. Both workers behind the counter are actors. When a Muslim actress comes into the store, the male clerk verbally assaults her. "You've got to take your business elsewhere. We don't serve your kind here," he says. "Get back on the camel and go back wherever you came from." While the Muslim woman continues to be assaulted with blatant bigotry, several customers in the bakery barely look up.

When no one will speak up for her, the Muslim woman asks another customer if he will order an apple strudel for her. The man stumbles over his words, reluctant to help. After leaving the bakery, John approaches the customer to see why he wouldn't step in. "Me, speak up for her?" he says. "Well, if he would try to do some harm to her or something, then I would have."

Other customers in the bakery not only ignore the Muslim woman, but they actually applaud the racist clerk. "Hooray for you," one man says. "I think that's the first time I've ever seen that. Good job. Appreciate it."

The experiment continues over the next five hours, and many other customers ignore the racism going on in front of them—but a few refuse to stay silent. When one offended man threatens to leave the store, the actor behind the counter tells him he's a bad American. "I believe I am a good American," he says. "My son just came back from serving in the army for over a year in Iraq, and that has nothing to do with her rights."

Of all of the customers who speak up, the most persistent are two women named Alison and Jasmeen. "You're really offensive and disgusting," Alison says. Jasmeen is not dressed in traditional clothes but points out that she is also Muslim. "She is my culture," she says. "So you're ready to serve me, but you're not ready to serve her?" Instead of leaving in anger, the women stand their ground and ask to speak with a manager.



By the end of this experiment, six people side with the bigoted clerk and 13 people stand up for the Muslim woman. The other 22 bystanders say absolutely nothing.

Although Alison wasn't afraid to speak up, she's shocked that other customers refused to come to the woman's aid. "Some of my closest friends are Middle Eastern, and it's horrible to see the kind of discrimination they experience on a regular basis," she says. "I think this country can do better than that."



John says this experiment also struck a nerve with him. After approaching one of the men who supported the racist clerk, John says the man told him, "John QuiƱones, you are not an American."

"My family's been in Texas for six generations, and it reminded me of what my Mexican father used to tell me," John says. "He used to pick cotton in South Texas. He said there used to be signs in some of the restaurants [saying,] 'No Mexicans or dogs allowed inside.' Unfortunately, some of those remnants are still there."




The hateful words were so hurtful, as if the person was saying it to me. And it reminded me of when I wore the scarf in high school and people were so rude to me. And then when the people were telling off the racist guy, it was really touching to see them being so honorable and kind and intelligent.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Little House All Over the World



I enjoy watching re-runs of "Little House on the Prairie." The average person always dressed modestly, and most people were of faith and family. Anyway, the other day, there was a scene in which someone said that the Greeks invented Algebra. That was odd because I thought Muslims did. So here's some info from the net: The word 'algebra' itself comes from a book called Kitab al-Jabr wa-l-Muqabala (translated: Calculation by Way of Restoration and Confrontation or Calculation by Completion and Balance) written by Persian mathematician Muhammad ibn Mosa al-Khwarizmi (approximately) in the year 820 AD. However, this was not the first written record of algebraic concepts or manipulation. Ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Indians, Chinese, among others have written records further developing the basic human reasoning skill into a structured, yet creative art form. http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Who_invented_algebra
And then, in the same scene, the character said, "If Mohammad won't go to the mountain, then bring the mountain to Mohammad." Ok...so that was annoying to me. First they don't give proper credit to the Muslim man who wrote the book on Algebra, and then they use some archaic phrase using the name of Islam's Prophet in some odd expression. Anyway, my positive view of the show decreased then. But I still like it in general. That's just life. You admire something and then end up getting disappointed that the thing you like doesn't really know who you are. (That will only make sense if you can relate to what I'm saying...Ha Ha Ha :-)

Here are some more pics that I have copied from the net, some from these other hijabi blogs:
http://hijabstyle.blogspot.com/
http://beautifulmuslimah.blogspot.com/

http://www.hijabifashionista.blogspot.com/
And my apologies to anyone who doesn't get proper credit for the photographs. Please comment me to correct.

I like the artistic aspect of these pics of hijabi style. I would not likely wear most of them mostly because they would require too much effort to pull off, and I am a bit hesitant to say that one should devote soooooo much energy to fashion in the first place. Still, I like to include these photos mainly for any non-Muslim reader of my blog to show him or her that Muslim modesty doesn't have to be dark and mysterious. It can be fun and fashionable...friendly and fierce. Just like Muslim women in general, all over the world...





Monday, April 7, 2008

And And

More random thoughts, some that I might be repeating...

Well, it's been almost a year since I started the scarf. It's still a part of my day to day wardrobe, which is a good sign. The main question that still gets to me is: WHY AM I STILL STRUGGLING WITH IT AT TIMES? I have heard from other Muslim women who wear the scarf that it is "a part of them," and they could not imagine going out without it. But for me, I often imagine going out without it and feel irritated that I have to put it on. Most the times that I feel irritated have to do with the weather. If it is really warm/hot outside, then I feel more negative about it. And also on days when I feel just grubby and tired and do not want any attention, I wish I did not have to wear the scarf. And there are still times when I try to figure out how I can do hijab without looking different, e.g. trying to wear a hat and a neck scarf. And there are lots of days where I feel like I don't want to deal with being seen with the scarf that I just do not go out (to the store/post office/apartment complex area/parks/etc). But it's not too bad.

One thing that helps me answer the question about why I'm still struggling is remembering that I am coming from a perspective where my family and my culture say that wearing the scarf is not really mandatory. And my culture includes BOTH Pakistani and American cultures.

Another thought I had...
Using the reasoning that women should wear the scarf/do hijab to "hide their beauty," works well when the women is young and attractive. But what about the other women who do not fit into the definition of beautiful? Should they skip the scarf? What about girls with low self-esteem who think that covering up will make them look even more unattractive than they already feel? I think the best way to deal with this is to use the reasoning that the scarf/hijab is to PREVENT VANITY. That way, the reason works for all types of women of all shapes, sizes, skin-types, and ages. And the reason helps men also be modest in their dress as well. It's vanity that will get us all in trouble. It is really difficult not to be vain, and observing hijab can be a way to help us out with that?

Another thought I had...
I wonder, with younger girls who have reached the age when wearing the scarf is required/recommended/suggested (usually age 9 in the Shia-Muslim community and at the start of menstruation in the Sunni-Muslim community), is it best that they are TOLD to do it or just encouraged gently? Or should the decision be left totally up to them? I guess the greater question is, how do parents teach religion and religious customs to children in the most fair way?

And...
in a previous post I mentioned that wearing an abaya is foreign looking and can seem ancient. I got many comments about that. Of course it is possible to look modern even while wearing an abaya, and of course it is possible by being totally covered up and yet being immodest. Here are some pictures where wearing an abaya does look stylish:





The above pictures are not entirely hijab, being that the sleeves are sheer and the hair is showing in the last photo, but the abaya style is there. It still looks good, but to me, it still looks Middle Eastern in style, which might draw more stares than wearing pants and a long shirt, or a skirt and a shirt with hijab. Anyhoo...that's it for now.