In the past few years, a small piece of fabric has caused a stir. The headscarf or hijab that Muslim women wear on their heads is making headlines all over the world. Hijab is prohibited in French public schools and other European countries have adopted or are in the process of legislating similarly. In Australia, a radio announcer sparked both debate and outrage when he called for a ban on the face veil (niqab) in banks and the post office. Even in predominantly Muslim countries such as Turkey and Tunisia, hijab is prohibited in certain government buildings. If such a small piece of fabric caused such controversy and conflict, wouldn’t it be easier to remove it? Why do Muslim women wear headscarves under such circumstances?
There are countless reasons why, but the simple answer in one sentence is because they believe that God made it a duty for believing women. In the Quran, God tells believing men and women that they should put their eyes down and dress properly. He (God) especially speaks to women when he says they should not show off their jewelry other than what is obvious and they should put their shawls over their bodies. (Quran 24: 30-31)
These verses of the Quran are known as the verses of the hijab, and Islamic scholars agree that they make it obligatory to wear the hijab. Some countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, insist on a dress code. Women are expected to cover their hair and wear a loose, wide, floor-length overcoat over their clothing. For the majority of Muslim women around the world, however, it is up to them to decide whether to cover themselves or not. God requires Muslim women to dress properly and wear hijab in public and in the presence of men who are not close relatives.
Although the English word for headscarf and the Arabic term hijab have become interchangeable, it should be noted that hijab is more than just a headscarf. It is a term that encompasses a range of clothing including the headscarf, but also a lot of different clothing styles around the world. Many have a cultural aftertaste, such as Pakistan’s Shalwar khamis or Afghan Burqa, but whenever a Muslim woman covers “her jewelry”, she is said to wear hijab.
The literal meaning of hijab is to disguise, cover or shield. Islam is known as a religion that cares about community cohesion and moral boundaries, and therefore hijab is a way to ensure that the moral boundaries between unrelated men and women are respected. In this sense, the term hijab includes more than a headscarf and more than a dress code. It is a term that indicates decent clothing and behavior. For example, if a Muslim woman wears a headscarf but uses swear words at the same time, she does not meet the requirements of hijab.
The majority of Muslim women wear hijab to obey God and to be recognized as honorable women. (Quran 33:59) However, in the past 30 years, hijab has emerged as a sign of Islamic awareness. Many women see wearing the hijab as a sign of their desire to be part of an Islamic revival, particularly in countries where the practice of Islam is prevented or even prohibited.
While some try to prohibit hijab as a symbol of gender-specific oppression, women wear a headscarf or women wear hijab in the broadest sense of the word because they make the personal decision and choose it independently. They see it as a right and not as a burden. These women do not see hijab as a sign of oppression. Women who wear hijab often describe that they feel „liberated“ from the unrealistic fashion culture of society.
Hijab frees women from being viewed as sexual objects of desire, or judged by their appearance or body shape rather than their mind or spirit. Never again being a slave to consumption, the hijab frees women from the need to conform to unrealistic stereotypes and images dictated by the media. Women who wear hijab have found that dressing properly and covering their hair reduces sexual harassment at work. The aura of privacy created by hijab is a sign of the great value that Islam gives women.
It is true that in some families and cultures, women are forced to wear hijab, but this is not the norm. The Quran clearly states that there is no compulsion in faith (2: 256). Women who choose to wear hijab do not make this decision lightly. In fact, many women testify that they have had great hostility from their Muslim and non-Muslim families when they have decided to cover themselves. There have been examples all over the world of how women have defended their right to wear hijabs.
The hijab can be a symbol of piety and it can be a sign of great inner strength and strength. A woman wearing hijab becomes a very visible sign of Islam. While Muslim men can easily merge with any society, Muslim women are often placed on the front line and forced to defend not only their decision to cover themselves, but also their religion. Nevertheless, women who wear hijab insist that the benefits far outweigh any disadvantages caused by media bias or general ignorance.