I thought a lot about choosing the title for this blog.
I thought about how one of the hallmarks of my shift to a freer existence was removing the hijab I had worn for 14 years. Taking that veil off of my head, and the enveloping clothes that came with it, which I had worn against my will for most of those 14 years.
I thought about how many Muslim women take so much pride in their conviction to wear the hijab and integrate it into their identity. I thought about how I never want to find myself in a position where I pretend to choose somebody else’s identity for them, normatively.
I thought about how, on both ends, the hijab is not a discrete entity but representative of different ends of the spectrum of concepts of body image, gender identity, sexuality and objectification, safety, love, hope, trust.
I thought about how, when I removed my hijab, I realized how difficult it was to remove the shame, guilt, and ineptitude bound to my body with it. How, even though I took this thing that was burdensome to me off, I am left to deal with what I am without it and because of it. I am still not free to speak. I still have to hide behind anonymity. I am still in fear, hated, denigrated, pursued. I am in a dark place.
But I am also in lighter places full of hope and wonderment and opportunity. I am somehow not extricated from the hijab, not completely in darkness either. I am in suspension, cradling myself in between the two of these, trying to find some balance that will allow me to swing from their two pivots to another plane.
Between a Veil and a Dark Place
A veil. My veil. Not the veil as a concept. I thought about how, in speaking about my own hijab and rejecting it as a symbol of my oppression, I am not obliged to worry about being misunderstood as trying to represent those who freely choose an identity because having it forced upon me harmed me. I am not obliged to worry about whether even such a free choice is a free choice or only enabling of self-denigration. I do not speak for those other women.
I also thought about how I want to create a voice for the millions of women like me who do not freely choose the hijab and to emphasize that our hijabs can be markedly different things when they are enforced and sanctioned, and it is okay to speak of mine as belonging to me and to women like me even as I have removed it. That is where it becomes the veil that we leave behind; where it transcends the particular into the interpersonal, where it follows us because it has shaped us.
Leaving the Veil Behind. Still Behind a Veil.