In Western cultures, or anywhere that isn’t directly related to Middle Eastern culture, the traditional dress such as the hijab is often seen as a red warning sign of oppression. Many understand it to be an act against feminism as women are forced to conform to their country’s customs and hide who they really are.
In reality, however, it has been found that foreigners often simply don’t understand what traditional dress really means as the value it holds for Muslim women are lost in translation. For them, it is a cultural piece that is worn as a sign of modest expression, and most wear it either because of their faith or simply because they want to.
If you are wondering why Muslim women wear hijabs and looking to understand more about this choice, keep reading to find out more.
What is a hijab?
Rooted in the Arabic word “hajaba”, hijab means to conceal or cover. Upon first glance, these are scarves that come in various styles and colors, commonly worn to expose the face while the head and upper neck are veiled. However, there are different types that depend on customs and the individual interpretation of the wearer.
For instance, niqab is prevalent in Persian Gulf countries, wherein the scarf only leaves the eyes out in the open. Burqa, from Pashtun Afghanistan, offers crocheted eye openings, chadar in Iran is a black or dark coat that covers the entire frame, while shalwar qamis is a traditional outfit of men and women that consists of a knee-length tunic and pants.
Upon closer inspection, hijab is more than just a scar
The hijab is more than just a fashion statement as the fully-covered design is intended to maintain modesty and privacy from any unrelated males. It can, however, be taken off when a woman is in the presence of other women or male family members. It is a sign of their respect to their God, and the physical act of wearing it is one’s way of expressing devotion.
In many ways, wearing a hijab transcends beyond fashion as it acts as guidance towards one’s actions and thoughts. Seeing as it is an act of love for God and not just a garment that women wear to be modest, a hijab can also be worn by men. It does differ in style though as a man’s hijab focuses on covering the lower body.
Understand that wearing a hijab can be empowering for Muslim women
Most women choose to wear a hijab because it shows their conviction towards God and helps them increase their self-esteem as they are not limited by an obsession with physical appearances. It does not aim to hinder women in society, nor is it a portable prison that acts as defiance to feminism.
Understanding women and men’s pursuit of God shouldn’t be seen as oppression as they are simply upholding the standards of modesty within their culture, which may come as a shock to foreign eyes. As Islam becomes more exposed in public debates and mass media, it’s important to dig deeper into their culture and look beyond the veil before drawing assumptions.
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