The Extinction of The Hijab
The word Hijab comes with multiple meanings. In the West, particularly in the US, it would trigger 9-11, or an intruder, outsider often too. In Egypt, where I come from, it might as well come off as culture, obedience, and a sort of humility to God. But digging deeper to the “where I come from,” I would say it triggers a whole other side of stereotypes. If you are a Hijabi in the social circle I come from, you are prude, you are uncool, and you aren’t permitted to get into clubs.
Yes. In the Muslim part of the world, there is an even bigger pressure on Hijabis than one might anticipate. Being subjected to racist attacks because you’re a Hijabi is one thing, but feeling unbelonged in your own country, where you were brought up to believe in Islam, where everyone else around you was brought up to believe in the exact same thing then judge you later, is a whole other thing. I’m obviously not a woman, and hence this article is not biased, nor is it to trigger an endless debate of wrongs and rights, this is my mere observation. This is a question I, a male, believe is worth asking: What exactly has happened to the Hijab?
Not long ago, Egypt was practically devoid of covered women. Every single black and white movie hasn’t once recorded in history a single Hijabi walking on the streets, or acting in a film, or coincidentally passing in front of a movie set. There was a time, where all the women of Egypt looked the same. No scarfs on their head.
Along the course of time, the Hijab started to appear in the picture. Women were taught that covering their hair meant they are proud of their religion, meant they are willing to sacrifice their beauty for a more important cause, meant they don’t want to be objectified by their looks and instead identify themselves with what is behind all the flesh and hair. And just like that, the Hijab spread like wild fire. I don’t really have any solid statistics but I would say at least 90% of the Muslim women population in Egypt is veiled. Which inevitably gets you thinking, are they all fully convinced?
I obviously wouldn’t know. What I do know is that a proper portion of them is convinced. However, some might have it on because they were born into a world where every woman in their life has her head wrapped in a scarf. Some put it on because parental and cultural obligations forced them into it. And others put it on because it meant they were abiding by the rules and didn’t want their hair to come off as a welcome doormat to their vagina. Our society has played a darn good role in convincing people that a headscarf is your moral compass pointing north, and putting on a Hijab can tangibly represent the decency of your soul. Ergo, the concept of the Hijab, which initially was to help a Muslim woman identify herself -her own way-, has now been moulded into an actual identity. A label. A permanent tattoo.
Paradoxically, while the lower and often middle class of Egypt are obliged to wear the Hijab so as to fit in, the upper class are at the farthest position from ever covering their hair so as to fit in too; a rather peculiar, yet very logical behavior.
In the upper socio–financial classes, Egyptians are taught in multiple languages. They are taught to think for themselves. To analyse. To take a hefty lot of time until finally coming to a decision. Culture does not chain the educated citizens of Egypt. It does not direct them into a pit full of popular beliefs. A big portion of the educated population, use that little, yet massively significant, organ in their head before taking an act. By saying so, I do not at all imply that the lower class are herds following a certain belief, I’m just stating that the environment and the sub-Egyptian-community, surrounding the upper class, are a potential space that gives you the freedom to act as you please.
However, despite their ability to somewhat get outside the metal box this country has finely constructed for them, they choose to build their own impermeable box instead, and trap themselves in it. Yes, most of them are sadly as narrow minded as the less fortunate they pity for not having the ultimate “freedom” they do. But please define a liberty that has questions like “Would you marry a Hijabi?” so popularly elaborated? Or the liberty of some notices hung up at top-shot clubs stating, “No Hijabis are allowed in”? Or how you inevitably judge a Hijabi for smoking but wouldn’t have done so had she not been veiled?
Sadly, the “educated” of this country, too, have created a label called Hijabi for women. And sadly, they do so in the name of liberty.
Again, this is just a mere observation. I am neither pro-Hijab nor anti. Not because I am a man, but because it is NOT my say. I do not look at a woman differently because she has or hasn’t a piece of cloth on her hair. I do not give myself the authority to jump into conclusions because I can’t see any hair dropping down to her shoulders. I am confused as to why the educated, too, strongly favour a homogenous environment where everyone should dress and look the same. I am calling out for people to just stop framing the word Hijab, and to not make such a big deal out of it. Whether a woman puts a headscarf on, takes it off, or doesn’t put it on at all isn’t a questionable matter welcoming anyone’s involvement.
The existence or absence of a Hijab is NOT an identity. A headscarf is not an identity.