Sunday, November 23, 2008


Well folks, I've been to hell and back. Well, maybe. Long story. Depression. Anxiety. Hormones. NO sleep. Bad stuff. Anyway, back to the blog. Oh, and thanks to all of you who have left comments while I've been "gone." I'm sorry I have not yet had a chance to reply to them yet.

Recently, I've come to wear the scarf loosey goosey style. The kind of oblong on top of head, wrapped around neck, maybe neck or "bangs" showing. And one day I went to the mall without it on at all. I felt more at ease, confident, and friendly. Still, for the most part, I feel comfortable with a scarf on my head, "Benazir Bhutto Style," as my husband calls it. It's the the kind of scarf wearing that would lead the UMMAH FILMS guy to get up in my face and say, "Um...That's not hijab." And then that would lead me to punch him in the chest. Just kidding. I'd say, "please move out of my way." And that would mean all sorts of things.

Anyhoo...I saw this episode of the Oprah show which "discussed" in general, what BEAUTY means across the world. Here are some highlights:

In the Middle Eastern country Oman, women turn to nature as their source of beauty. Hashima, an Omani, says women like to put dried rose petals into boiling water and rinse their hair with it. "This gives the hair a very fine smell of a rose," she says.

Omanis even have an all-natural approach to dental hygiene. "The miswak stick is brushed on the teeth like a toothbrush," Hashima says. "It reacts with the human spit and gives an orange color to the lips."

Hashima says the more color a fabric or piece of jewelry has, the more beautiful it is. However, the brightly colored dresses are often covered by a cloak like wrap called an abaya. "This is to cover up the woman's body, and it covers also if you had a bad hair day," she says.

While it's not mandatory in Oman, some women also wear a burqa, which veils the face. "It's used as a sign of beauty," she says. "It's supposed to make your eyes look really sexy."

Can you guess which country has been dubbed "the nose job capital of the world"? It's not image-conscious Brazil or even the United States. It's Iran—the conservative Muslim country with seemingly endless contradictions. In a place where women cover most of their bodies, business is booming for plastic surgeons—they're performing an estimated 60,000 nose jobs a year.

While plastic surgery is kept hush-hush in many places, Iranian women like Naeimeh and Sahar are eager to talk openly about the procedure. "Here in Iran, women do have to cover their hair and the most beautiful part of their body," Naeimeh says. "They have to reveal their beauty out from a place which everybody can observe, which is the face."

After surgery, nose bandages are worn openly like badges of honor. Sahar says the surgery is so expensive in Iran, women see the bandage as a status symbol. "I had a friend who had a nose job, and she kept the bandage, if I'm not wrong, after two years on her nose just to show everybody that she had nose job," Sahar says. Pharmacists in Iran say nose jobs are so desirable, people who haven't had the operation still buy tape for their noses.

In the United States and many countries around the world, thin is the standard when it comes to beauty. But in a West African country halfway around the world, bigger is definitely better. Mauritania is a desert oasis that sits on the northwest coast of Africa. Here, a woman's beauty is revered—but thin isn't in. In Mauritania, plump is sexy!

While it might sound nice to throw dieting out the window, it's not all pleasant. For generations, young girls were subjected to the practice of gavage—or force feeding—in order to fatten them up and make them more desirable. In Mauritania, many say the more you weigh, the better chances of you have of finding a husband.

Although force feeding is now frowned upon by the government, old habits die hard in remote areas of the country. Some young girls spend hours each day in the stifling heat, forced to stuff themselves with couscous and high-fat camel's milk. Vomiting only leads to another helping of food.

Even in Mauritania's more progressive cities, some women are willing to do anything for a fuller figure, including buying black-market drugs meant for animals.

Interesting. All I know is I never have and never will go through all that trouble to "look beautiful." You should read and/or watch the episode here to see what CRAZY stuff they do in other countries such as drink/eat collagen for clear skin in Japan or undergo plastic surgery in the slums of Brazil. What price oh beauty?


Baba Ali said...

Assalammu Alaikum,

Don't worry sis. Although some hijab attempts are not hijab, I don't confront people in person. As crazy as it may sound, the reason I do things in a comical way is so that people will remember it (since we are more likely to remember something funny) but by no means is it meant to insulting.

As you may know, many people (both men and women) do things out of culture instead of Islam. We can stay quiet but if I really love my Muslim bro & sis, I really can't. I have to say something but at the same time I don't want to be offensive so I don't say anything in person (that way its not taken personally). Instead, I sit in my chair and say it to everyone. Those who will take it personal either way, I have no control over but those who just need to hear it from someone because no one has the courage to say anything are usually happy someone loves them enough to correct them.

A long time ago, I started hanging out with a bad crowd after I became Muslim. It took a good friend to sit me down and tell me what I was doing wrong. Did I take it personal? Yeah, you better believe it. I think he kinda knew I was going to take it personal too but he cared too much to stay quiet. Alhamdulillah, I love him for the sake of Allah (swt) and although I took it personal at that moment. When the smoke cleared and I got some alone time, I realized what I was doing wrong. Alhamdulillah for brothers like that.

Anyways, Hijab is not something easy but if one is going to go do it, one should try to do it based on the way that Islam explains it. If one wants to do it for what they "feel" is right or do it the way their culture teaches, then they really aren't doing it for Allah (swt). If we don't do things for the sake of Allah (swt) and His way, then our reward is with the people and that reward is worthless.

This is Ali reminding you just in case you forgot.

M.J. said...

Sad that she's demeaning the hijab and niqab as ways to look beautiful for men amd cover up bad hair days instead of obey Allah SWT.

Qathrin Jean Gallaher Hart said...

The Oprah link lead to a Dove self confidence campaign, which had some neat quizzes to run through.

That UMMAH FILMS guy should mind his own business - stick to telling the guys how to dress.

Hijabi Apprentice said...

LOL @ And then that would lead me to punch him in the chest.

I'm moving to Mauritania!

Francesca Najea Lujan said...

As-Salaamu-Alaikum Sis. Scarf Ace,
I am a fan of yours and have been missing your blog. So, welcome back! I am also sad to hearing that you have been "going through it." May Allah make it easy on you.
Thanks for the Oprah "Standards of Beauty" post - it's eye-opening.
Fi Iman Ilah,

Ayanna said...


Glad to see you're back. I didn't see that episode of Oprah, but my sister told me about it since my husband is from Mauritania. I sent him the link from that show and for the most part he said that's the old way of thinking in terms of bigger is better, but he did say over there the more times you are married the more desired you are.

Faith Confusion said...

I saw that on Oprah too, and I was puzzled... I've always thought hijab was to HIDE your beauty, especially something like niqaab. ?/? I guess that's why that's one of the reasons I get so confused about Islam all the time -because there are so many takes on it.
Ps: I love the loose style Hijab. When I was in Petra I wore it like that around the other tourists, but in the rest of Jordan my husband made me wear it tighter :( I love the loose style!!

Katie said...


I thought I was the only one who wanted to punch the guy! Sorry, Ali, but not everyone agrees with you. :)

Oh, and my husband and I call that style the Khaleda Zia (Bangladeshi equivalent).

I really admire your bravery in talking about hijab in such an honest way.

I wore hijab for about a year, but I've never been convinced that it was required (waiting for the collective rage of comments coming my way). That's the conclusion I've come to for now after studying the issue and desperately wanting to be convinced--not because I want to avoid wearing it. I stopped wearing it full-time (I still wear it sometimes) and am also more friendly, confident, cool (in temperature), and my focus is more on God than on what I'm wearing. I still wear mostly long pants/skirts and sleeves.

When people tell me that I should accept the headscarf as a matter of faith, it gives me a sick feeling in my stomach like when I was a Christian and I was told to accept Jesus's divinity on faith.

I totally respect women who believe that hijab is required, but I just can't force myself to do something that I don't believe in. After much prayer on the subject, the message I got was that covering the head is not the most important thing! How many hours have I wasted agonizing over hijab styles and colors and whether to wear it or not when I could have been praying or remembering God?

God bless.


Faith Confusion said...

Katie, those are my thoughts exactly!!! and i think sometimes a woman wears it (ok, not sometimes but A LOT) because it is from the culture she grew up in and not necessarily just the religious point. We can see this from the variety of styles worn and the degree of covering each culture thinks is required (ie: the common iranian hair showing style vs the Jordanian no hair showing style, to the "rebellious" girls who don't cover at all even in the Muslim countries and areas. I mean, I can't imagine my husband's sisters coming to Australia and not wearing hijab, but that is because they have worn it all their adult lives and they are rleigious. I've grown up not wearing it and so found it really hard to wear it, even in Muslim countries, and I have never been able to be completely convinced of it being mandatory, but i'm sure if I'd grown up with it I would see it differently, because of cultural expectations. It really does cause me a lot of wondering about how girls of my own culture so easily take up hijab. For me it was VERY hard.

Anonymous said...

I'm also struggling with hijab ... I can see the argument for all sides - niqab, hijab & no hijab. I would like to wear a hijab to be identified as Muslim, but when I've worn it around doing errands and stuff I get stared at and I feel very uncomfortable. I'm sure if I would've grown up wearing it I wouldn't probably notice. I know someone from Ethiopia who lives in Canada who said people have asked her why doesn't she just take it off - but she said that why would she take it off when she's been wearing it since she was little?

Anonymous said...

I saw this show on Oprah and it was very interesting. I also agree that I don't think I'd ever go to the extremes that some women in the world do in order to be seen as beautiful. I found it funny that in Japan they actually bleach their skin because they want to look "whiter". Most people in the world want to look "darker" in order to have a nice tanned-skin-tone. I found it funny because I'm about as white at they come and I don't know why anyone would want to be as white as me! For me, there is no such thing as a tan....I go from white to red! But anyway, very interesting topic.