A blogger stopped wearing the hijab, and she wrote a blog post about it.
This wasn’t an easy decision. I had been struggling with it on a daily basis for the last five years. During the final years of my undergraduate degree, I was constantly reminded of how much my personal beliefs clashed with those of the Islamic orthodoxy. It’s hard to reconcile my mix of libertarian, socialist and humanist values with the conservative ideals of the orthodox Muslim community that I inadvertently become a part of as a Hijabi.
Hmm. “Inadvertently” seems an odd word to use. Did she think putting on the hijab was a libertarian, socialist, humanist thing to do, as opposed to an orthodox Muslim one? If she did she was deeply confused.
At the same time, as the only visible Muslim in my undergraduate program (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology) I became the de facto representative of all one billion or so Muslims to my classmates. I was always conflicted between expressing traditional/orthodox Muslim beliefs and my own.
But then why wear it at all? If the beliefs are not your own, then don’t wear the belief-based bandage. And the idea of “visible Muslim” is somewhat creepy too. That’s exactly why religious clothing has always seemed repellent to me. I don’t want your religion made visible (unless I’m actually in your religious building for some reason). Keep it to yourself.
During my first stint in graduate school, I became somewhat of a novelty. Here I was, a brown female visibly Muslim scientist working in a white, male dominated field. I organized academic journal clubs, hosted international researchers and attended conferences both at home and abroad. I was the only Hijabi in my field and I’d like to believe to think that I challenged commonly held stereotypes about Muslim women.
But that again is confused. Wearing the hijab confirms the commonly held stereotypes. Yes, you can do a party trick of wearing it only to reveal that you’re actually a feminist believer in gay rights, but what for? The hijab is what it is and not something else. It stands for conservative values, not liberal ones, so wearing it is a silly way to disconfirm the stereotypes.
So I’ve decided to take it off for now. It feels dishonest to represent myself as an orthodox conservative Muslim, when I’m not. I’m tired of representing all Muslims, Islam and dealing with assumptions of both the Muslim community and the general public about who I am and who I should be. For once, I just want to represent myself. My religious belief is not my defining identity, but it is an important one for me. I’m unsure of how to feel like one without wearing Hijab. (How do all the non-Hijabis and Muslim men do it?????).
I don’t know what is going to happen. I might put the Hijab on again. I might take it off permanently. For now, I just want to see what life is like without it.
What about a concealed substitute? Something carried in the pocket or under the clothes? A physical symbol that’s free of the baggage that goes with the hijab. I would think that would work. Honestly I think wearing a hijab when religion is important but not defining is bound to be a bad fit.