Day 109: Self-Education: Women and the Hijab… I still don’t feel educated.

I’ve been told numerous times that I should spend time educating myself on a particular topic that I really know nothing about. Learning about something you don’t know anything about, is pretty much the same things as learning a new activity. It is an activity for the mind.

So anyways, I have always been curious (and maybe somewhat uncomfortable) with the idea of some women wearing body, head and or face coverings. I would hear bits and pieces about the reasons behind the coverings and the feelings towards them, but never came to a full understanding (if any) on the subject. Today, I decided I would educate myself on the topic. My goal was to be able to understand what the hijab symbolized, what the women felt about them, and what their overall culture said regarding them. Don’t worry- I’m not going to relay all the information to you. No one wants to read a book report unless it’s counting for educational credit. I will, however give you some simple facts and share my journey of feelings and realizations.

A half hour into my research, I realized that my goal needed to be more specific, as I was making no progress. It seems that every middle-eastern country has a different variance of this covering. I also came to realize that it usually doesn’t have to do with cultural beliefs and practices as much as it has to do with religious beliefs and practices. I know now that I could study this for a week and still not be able to understand it all.

First off, I found out that ‘hijab’ means ‘veil’, and that it is interpreted differently (and called by different names) depending on the country. In some countries it is a full body and head covering, some leaving the face exposed, some only the eyes. In others, it could just be the head.

Now onto the reasons and opinions behind them. Like I said above, it is common for women to wear a form of a hijab for religious reasons. Islamic and Muslim women believe that this helps them grow in their faith, as it keeps them pure in spirit and modest in public. Other reasons for the garments are privacy and acceptance for their personality and intelligence over their sex and appearance.

I will admit that when I started researching this topic, I was all ready to write a response about how fortunate I felt that I was free from a cruel and oppressive government, thinking that surely women would only wear these coverings because their government and families made them.

Now, I’m not saying that this isn’t the case. There are women who are forced to wear undesirable coverings and who are placed at a lower social standing then men. I am not dismissing this problem as non-existent or not important. I am only realizing that, in my naivety, I didn’t consider the thought that some women truly believe that this is what their god has called them to do, and that they are happy to do it!

It is crazy for me to think about only going out in public with my face exposed. It’s crazy! And part of me thinks that me thinking it is crazy is not good. I am so caught up in the modern-day American culture and society (and rightfully so, seeing as how this culture and its practices are all I’ve really known), that the thought of not having “pretty” and “flattering” and “individualistic” clothes is appalling to me!

Don’t get me wrong- I am not going to start wearing a hijab every day for the rest of my life. But, I do realize my lack of incorporating my faith into my dress and behavior. Serving and glorifying God does not stop at my thoughts and actions. I should be holding myself to a higher standard, and like these women, taking drastic measures in my daily life to keep myself pure and holy. Even if it means looking silly to the world.

So after my research, I am definitely more knowledgeable on the topic of middle-eastern women and the hijab (and the burqah, chador, and niqab to name a few more), and I think I might even be able to carry on a conversation about it without looking stupid.

It’s a powerful thing, the internet. With a click of a button, you can know anything you want; the world is at your fingertips. Go, educate yourself!

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2 Comments on “Day 109: Self-Education: Women and the Hijab… I still don’t feel educated.”

  1. Marie Says:

    Good for you, Sarah! This is a really news-hungry topic that most Americans know so little about. Just a thought: even though American women aren’t required to wear the hijab, most of us still feel like slaves to make-up. The expectations of women in this country may be different than those in predominantly Muslim countries, but women are still expected to do certain things that are considered “routine” (perhaps that’s why cosmetics company stock never goes down). Also, what are your thoughts about the hijab legal scandal in France?

    • Sarah Sullivan Says:

      I hadn’t read anything on the scandal in France, so I’ll have to do that and get back to you. But yes, your point is totally legitimate… one I wouldn’t have thought of. Although, some of these women are doing it because of insecurity or society’s standards. They choose to do it completely out of their heart for their god. It’s interesting. But I still feel like I don’t know anything about it even after spending time on it! It’s such a historical issue that I think to understand it and all the differences in each country would require serious book time!


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