the first 10 years of my adolescence, I wore hijab. My mother wore hijab,
and so did my older sisters, so it was a natural progression. Even in those
initial, 'awkward' teenage years, I never found wearing a head scarf
particularly difficult - it was easy for me to make friends in high school; it
didn't stop me from taking part in extracurricular activities, nor did it make
me want to shrink away like a wall-flower. To me, it was just something that
was done, and because I was always taught to go out into the world and get
what I wanted, it was never a hindrance, but just a part of me; by no means
did it define me.
As I grew
older, I began to actively question why I was wearing hijab. I
started asking myself what exactly was its intended purpose? As I
thought about it more and more, I found myself disagreeing with one of
the primary justifications for wearing a head covering, which was modesty.
In my eyes modesty
is more about overall character and the way one carries one self. Modesty
is equally applicable to both genders, and it should not be solely a woman's
job to ensure that a man 'is not led into temptation'. I
thought about the centuries of cultural interpretation that heavily influences
the wearing of hijab, which has given it such prominence.
thought, is wearing hijab always about liberation. Liberation does not come
down to what a woman wears. This holds equally true for the argument that
being scantily clad is liberating, or that wearing hijab signifies liberation.
True liberation, I felt, was much more elusive and a lot harder to achieve
than simply choosing to wear or not to wear an item of clothing.
same time that I was feeling this way, I came across a poem by my late
Grandmother - an Afghan poet and feminist who was years ahead of her time in mid-twentieth century
Afghanistan. It was a simple, beautiful verse written in Farsi, which
translates into "Modesty and infallibility is
not only wearing the chadar- I swear that chadar does not
So no, it
wasn't a series of negative experiences that prompted my decision to stop wearing hijab
in my mid-twenties, rather it resulted from long and arduous thought. While I
don't wear hijab in my day-to-day life, I do respect that it is a woman's
choice: if a woman, of her own prerogative, decides to wear one—then she
should be respected for making that choice. Equally, if an individual chooses
not to, then that is her decision. After all, true liberation stems from
having 'real' choice while continuing your relationship with God - not choice
that is fraught with cultural and societal expectations, and masked as 'a
fervently defend the right of any woman to freely exercise true choice,
whether this means wearing a head covering, or choosing not to. For me, this
has meant not wearing one, and I feel all the more modest, liberated and
emancipated for it.