Every so often we have Burqa/Hijab/Veil comments quoted in the newspaper or one of those today tonight a current affair shows. They do the social media rounds, attracting comments amongst Muslims, supporters and detractors alike. Everyone is of course entitled to their opinions and feelings, especially since these things are often emotional and not entirely voluntary, at least at the outset.
So I offer this piece in peace, for the non Muslim anti Burqa reader
“The Islamic Veil”
I understand how you could conceive an attire your eyes are not accustomed to seeing day-in day-out as confronting, and how, in the free and open society we live in your initial impression would be to conclude this dress code oppressive. But as a very happy, proud and content Muslim woman, I would like to invite you to a little deeper reflection.
To set the framework of the mindset of the wearer of a burqa, or hijab, or veil, you should first understand a little bit about Islam. Islam is the belief in One God, One Almighty unique creator to whom we shall all return. This God, Allah (literally, “The God”) is the same God worshipped by all the Prophets sent to mankind, including, but not limited to, Adam, Moses, Noah, Abraham, Jesus, Muhammad, peace be upon them. All great men in history to whom no other man in our modern times could ever hope to match.
Muslims believe this God has set down a handful of commands for those amongst mankind who wish to worship Him. Being from God, these commands are superior than anything we could put together for ourselves. They serve to establish just, peaceful, tolerant, respectful, safe, nurturing and happy societies and to deter crime and oppression.
I should note at this point that adhering to the this religion is a personal choice, as stated by the religion itself – “Let there be no compulsion in religion.” (Quran 2:256)
So for the half a billion or so Muslim women worldwide, wearing hijab or burqa or whatever name you choose to apply to a loose fitting garment & head covering that conceals ones shape and beauty from the view of the general public, is simply the fulfilment of one of those few commands, obedience to the One who created the universe and all that it contains. Obviously I don’t know your religious beliefs, if any. I invite you to read an English translation of the Holy Quran one day and maybe find out a little more about Islam.
To the wearer of a piece of flimsy fabric draped over her head, this is a blessing from God, a great freedom. Us Muslim women are free to go about out business everyday; without being ogled, judged, compared or wolf whistled at (well… hey with the exception of a bit of unfortunate racism that may on occasion be encountered).
Contrast this with modern western woman, and the constant pressure she has to look good, the discomfort many feel of wearing the equivalent of underwear in front of complete strangers (swimwear) which society forces upon us from a young age, our innate modesty now deemed prude, the need for her to “dress sexy” and compete with other women in the genuine human search for a mate, to be judged on appearance more than ability, to the Muslim woman – this is the real oppression.
We only need to see the great increase in ‘diseases’ that afflict some – anorexia and bulimia – that destroy lives and even cause death – diseases that were much less heard of when society held to more conservative dress codes. We also see and hear of many teenagers and young women nowadays suffering low self esteem, comparing themselves to the airbrushed women fronting the endless glossies and images of barely dressed females at every turn. And consider the case of those who have become so dissatisfied with their physique that they are willing to part with great sums of money to have themselves surgically “enhanced”. The beauty of women is a potent force and when set rampant upon society has not yet proved to bring great peace and harmony to our hearts and minds.
You may also wish to place your thoughts of the Burqa against the backdrop of history and of other women whom you will be more accustomed to seeing veiled. Let’s consider – was Mary the mother of Jesus oppressed? Do you consider Mother Theresa was oppressed? Are all Nuns oppressed too? Is a society filled with miniskirts and cleavage really a great freedom we should all be proud of?
At a time when rape is a daily occurrence, the hijab says ‘don’t even think about it’.
At a time when every one knows of someone who has cheated on their spouse, the hijab says ‘not with me’.
At a time when 12 year olds are starving themselves, the hijab says ‘my weight is none of your business’
At a time when women compete ardently with each other to shock and expose, the hijab says “I won’t be compared”
At time when many girls long to “be famous/a model”, the hijab says ‘l use my brain, not my body’.
At a time where society is reaching new lows of morality, the hijab says “I still believe in God”.
Beautiful, precious things in this world are concealed. Diamonds lay hidden deep within the earth, pearls in guarded shells at the bottom of the sea, we keep our valuables in safes, life giving fruits are protected in their skins.
All women in all societies should be respected, treasured and protected (regardless of their faith). The garments ordained by the One who created us serves this purpose so beautifully in an way that no bikini ever could.
So I invite you to contemplate the dress of the Muslim women, I hope you can see just a little of its light.