The Hijab Controversy- “They call me Muslim”

February 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

The video “They call me Muslim” shown in class raised an interesting issue that perhaps not a lot of us are aware of being in America. The documentary did an excellent job showing two different sides of the story in regards to the law placed against Muslims wearing the hijab in public schools in France and also the laws demanding women to wear the hijab in Iran. These two extremes in two different countries boil down to the same issue of religious freedom and expression.

In France, a university named Samah and many other Muslim women were affected by the law placed in France restricting Muslims from wearing the hijab in class. Samah shares stories of some of her classmates and friends getting expelled from school because of their refusal to take off the hijab. She shared that taking it off makes her feel like she’s incomplete and she said that she wore it out of her own choice which often times people misunderstand it as being forced and against women’s rights. While on the flip side, a woman in Tehran rebelled against the traditional beliefs of modesty and surprised the audience by wearing a tank top and shorts at home. And when she decided to go out, she would wear a thin layer of material barely covering her head or sometimes just a hat. It was surprising for me to see a woman born of such restricted traditionalism to have such liberal ideals of feminism. She said “the world revolves around women, and that’s why men try so often to restrict her in her roles because they know of the potential that women have”.

The Hijab symbolizes modesty, privacy and morality for a woman. Samah describes it as a veil that protects women so that they may go out rather than restricting women. The woman from Tehran however saw it differently and saw it as a tool men use to control women and keep them in their place. She also brought up an interesting point that women are often blamed for seducing men with their head and therefore, their head needs to be covered but she refuted saying that its their problem if men are attracted and it should not be her’s. I agree with this statement and I find it relevant also in the Christian faith. I once read an article written by a man from the church community that angered a lot of women where he criticized women for “leading men astray” wearing tight skirts and low cut tops. He shared that he had hard times concentrating on the sermon when she was showing it right in front of him and urged women to dress appropriately and not make men fall. Women retaliated saying that what they wore is their own business and should not be blamed for men’s weakness. I’ve seen the extreme of both cases of women dressing modestly being raped and also women who dressing inappropriately being sexually harassed, not realizing that their retaliation and refusal to a man was significantly undermined due to their behavior and choice of apparel.

Whether or not women wear the hijab or not, the scale of battered women still exists. However, I believe women should be given the freedom to express their faith to their deity in whichever way they find comfortable. They mentioned a good point saying that the government does not forbid Christians wearing crosses, then why should they forbid Muslims wearing the Hijab if they choose to do so? And if some do not feel that they can express their faith by wearing the hijab, then why should they be forced to wear it? This mulit-fold issue involves not only the daily living of Muslims but also the government and religious leaders of the faith.

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