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Hijabless on Hijab Day

| Monday, April 18, 2016

Hello, my name is Syazana Yazid, and I am a Muslim. If you met me, you would find out these facts in reverse order. This is because I wear the hijab: the symbol of expression of a faith and also a supposed oppression.

Coming from a country where wearing hijab is perfectly normal, I have never had to defend my choice of wearing one. I have never had to explain to someone why I wear it, why I started to wear it or why I “continue to wear it in the USA.” It seems that a lot of people are quite concerned for me and need these questions answered. I on the other hand, did not realize I had to be concerned. I did not realize that a piece of material on my head would trouble anyone but myself. It seems that a lot of the concerns people have with my hijab is that it links itself with oppression. The thought is that I was forced to wear this, or that I was brainwashed into thinking that I needed to wear this. Here is where I want to try and point out that this is not the case. No man, or woman for that matter, has ever forced me to put this on. As Hend Amry has put it nicely in her article on the hijab: “It implies that every single Muslim woman who wears hijab is lacking the necessary intelligence to choose how she wants to live her life. For those who critique hijab in the name of feminism, I find this underlying, selective misogyny very ironic, not to mention damaging.”

I do of course acknowledge there are certain countries in which the unethical and un-Islamic forced wearing of the hijab is an oppression of human rights. However, to extend that opinion of oppression to include when women actually choose to wear it in countries where it is not enforced is perplexing.

Notre Dame Hijab Day on April 20 invites people who usually do not wear the hijab, Muslim or non-Muslim, to experience wearing the hijab for a day. It serves to promote the choice of a woman to wear her hijab. You may choose to do so in solidarity, for experience, or for whatever reason you might come up with. It is a celebration of the choice a woman makes to wear hijab. I invite anyone who is interested to come by DeBartolo from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and to also stop by our Ask a Muslim booth.

I hope that it is clear that the conversation I want to start on this day is not on why I wear the hijab. The conversation I want to start is that wearing hijab is a choice. I am also fully aware that the alternative of not wearing the hijab is another choice I can make — one that I plan to make on the Notre Dame Hijab Day.

Syazana Yazid
April 18

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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  • Josephine Schmo

    Of those whom I’ve met who wear THE hijab, and do so as a matter of fact, I can tell by the other VERY expensive articles worn that do show: jewelry, manicures, makeup, shoes, clothes, jeans & the brand of each, that these women are not oppressed, but likely the opposite! The hijab truly is akin to Christians wearing a cross/crucifix about their neck: a statement of faith & not a sign of “holiness” or oppression. (plz explain why it’s not referred to as “A hijab.” TY)
    From what I observed, the hijab doesn’t indicate the heart within the wearer anymore than toting a bible or wearing priestly garb indicates the godliness of such people.
    In fact, one hijab donning dame tells jokes that make the non-Muslim male in team meetings blush to the degree he pretty much tells her to knock it off, or he simply leaves the room until the meeting has officially begun!
    In other words, one shouldn’t assume anything from those who wear the hijab other than that woman respects her faith and shows it.
    We here in America see it differently, and especially we in northern Indiana, because we only see nuns who have made a life-changing commitment/choice and don a habit or the Amish & Mennonite women who appear, to we “English,” to have zero choice as it’s worn well before the age when a little girl can dress herself/choose her own clothes.
    Hijab, no hijab. Crucifix, no crucifix, cross, no cross. Symbolic behavior, no matter how obvious, is simply a statement of how much one values faith. Whether one allows the heart to be impacted by said faith can only be known one-on-one, over a period of time.
    Remember the eyes & heart never lie, but the tongue is deceitful above ALL!

    • Brendan

      I hate it when people who would react harshly to similar criticisms against Christians and religious devotion unthinkingly attack Islam and support government initiatives that restrict Islam. I feel that an attack on one religion (whether by coordinated and massive popular sentiment or by the government) is an attack on all faiths. Catholic religious symbols (scapulars and crucifix hidden underneath the shirt) are usually more subtle, but I admire public statements of religious devotion like the hijab or the kippah. Let’s not be hypocrites. Religious people have more in common with each other than the nones.

      • Jonestown

        Why bother attacking the “nones”? You likely have a lot in common with them too. I hate it when people who react harshly to criticisms against Christianity and religious devotion unthinkingly attack those without religion without knowing anything else about that person or what they value.

        • Brendan

          (If you’re still at Notre Dame, I’ve been logged out for months) I was just summarizing my experience with people who criticize my large family for abetting overpopulation, make unfunny jokes about how we should have prevented my younger siblings from existing, and campaigning for the persecution of Christian, Mormon, and Jewish institutions across the country, in some cases causing them to close rather than violate their beliefs (http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/discrimination-against-catholic-adoption-services.cfm). I was criticizing them not for being atheists, agnostics, moralistic therapeutic deists, or Unitarians, but for the same discrimination, mockery, and proposed uses of government force (save, obviously, Trump’s blanket deportation threat), that I criticize Islamaphobes for.

          Based on this, I was asking religious conservatives who should know better to respect the religious devotion of Muslims and remember that any action against one faith can become an action against another faith or all faiths.

      • Josephine Schmo

        So, commenting on a person I’ve met who wears religious garb for appearances only & doesn’t back it up is attacking?
        I was commenting based upon THE TOPIC AT HAND! You know, staying on point?
        The topic wasn’t about religions but about wearing the hijab and what it means and to feel sorry for those wearing them when mistreated. ….
        I used my example to point out that it matters NOT what covers the head for the mouth reveals the heart! That was the case with the crass speaking, hijab-wearing individual I KNOW who now works with kids at the mosque in the south bend area. Let’s hope she’s learned to zip it!

        • Brendan

          This is embarrassing. I haven’t been logged in for months and you could have graduated for all I know. I hope this wasn’t upsetting, especially since I wrote that post because I agreed with you. I think it says something about how adversarial these comments can be that a reply is so easily understand as a criticism.

          I’m criticizing both the most Islamophobic supporters of Trump and religious conservatives who should know better, based on their own experiences. I have no objections to your comment.

          • Josephine Schmo

            Wow! Truly a blast from the past! Given all the recent terrorist attacks and that no mass outrage from Imams IN the US, as opposed to all in the federal govt who have either proposed hate crime laws if anyone expresses the most basic of concerns about how one might go from basic mosque attendee to radical Islamic follower, or, even after attempts to assassinate police officers and others says their main concern is care of those within the faith vs., due to the “success” of the various attacks more would be coming, I’d say my concern about assuming ones who don a hijab are akin to a nun wearing a habit is nonsensical.
            The wearing of the hijab is simply one following religious rules much as the way the Amish/Mennonites dress. It’s NOT an indicator of self – control or holiness within.
            THAT’S my point.

            Christians wear crosses and that doesn’t make them holy. It’s simply an outward testament of the faith embraced but not an indicator of how well the faith is followed. Ditto for the wearer of the hijab.

          • Brendan

            Naturally, it is often a sign of greater attachment to the faith (as the crucifix would be), but there is no way of knowing what is in someone’s heart or if they have a cultural or opportunistic motive (or simply if their family preferred that they wore it). I don’t believe I completely understand your entire comment, but I am aware that almost all types of religious clothing or accessories are frequently used by those who are not sincere in their faith or use them for purposes like fashion, fitting in, etc.

          • Josephine Schmo

            My point, in part, which I guess was a little bit TOO much between the lines, is that no one politicizes the wearing of “religious” items as much as the wearing of the hijab.

            A national wear a crucifix/cross day has NEVER been promoted nor do Catholics invite the world to dot foreheads with ashes to understand what it feels like to walk about with a dark dot on the forehead. Heck, even eastern Indians who don a colored dot on their forehead don’t ask for everyone to do likewise to “see” what that’s like.
            Also, mainly it’s those donning a hijab that make getting a driver’s license photo an issue. Everyone else must take off hats and glasses, but I’m pretty sure those wearing a hijab get a pass due to the ruckus caused when asked to remove it.

            Finally, the national hijab day is less about walking about in another’s shoes, being religious, etc., and more about something else.
            I’ll leave the speculation to others to decide the motive there.