Many see the scarfs that drape a Muslim woman’s face, called a hijab, as a sign of oppression, but Cedar City resident, and Muslim revert, Malake Davis, previously known as Monique Davis, said that the stereotype is a blatant lie that has been sold by the mainstream media, and bought by the public.
In fact, she said, it’s one of the largest lies that have been perpetrated against Muslim women around the world. The idea that women are in any way forced to wear their spiritual headdress as a sign of submission to their male counterpart is absurd she said, and a bit condescending at that.
“Not all Muslim women wear hijab,” Davis said. “That’s another thing too, is that there very well could be Muslims around people who don’t know they are Muslim, because they have chosen not to wear hijab.”
She said that wearing hijab was a choice; and one most women choose, because they feel empowered by wearing it. She said the head cover draws attention away from a woman’s physical appearance and forces whomever they interact with to evaluate her based on her deeds rather than the way she looks.
Living in a small community can be difficult for a “hijabi” woman in America when she is looking for work, or just going about daily activities Davis said. She said she receives looks of disgust from people in other cars while she is simply driving down the road, not to mention the stares when she is shopping, and running typical household errands.
“I will be just driving in the car,” she said. “And people will pull faces at me; like, imagine some child not liking something and pulling faces at you.”
Davis said she wasn’t raised Muslim, instead she said she grew up in a Mormon household. Since she chose to walk the path of Islam and wear hijab, she said her relationship with her family has devolved to a terrible state.
“My father – he will talk to me from time to time,” she said. “But my mother is in complete denial and thinks that I have become this subservient woman.”
Davis said her mother raised her to be “a very independent – almost feminist – type of woman”. She said that is still part of her core values, but she believes her mother can’t see it, because she is filled with so much misinformation and prejudice that they no longer communicate.
“Actually, women are upheld in Islam,” she said. “They are upheld as the teachers, and as the ones who have knowledge.”
SUU Arabic Club president Chelsea Kimpton said that though many people do not realize it, Mohammad was one of the first feminists.
“He was all about equality for women,” she said. “He married a woman that was 25 years older than him, and she ran her own business and everything.”
Kimpton said that she, much like Davis, was not raised Muslim, but was lucky enough to have a very supportive family who respected her choices and accepted her for who she was. The road to Islam was a long and unlikely one for her to have stumbled upon Kimpton said, but the further she traveled it, the more she knew she was on the right one.
“In my freshman class for English we had this project to do,” she said. “He said ‘I want you guys to do something for 30 days,’ and at the time we were reading Three Cups of Tea and it was almost the ninth anniversary of 9/11, so my partner and I decided we would be Muslim for 30 days.”
Both she and her partner committed to wear hijab, read the Koran, pray five times a day, and give up pork for the full thirty days she said. She said that she and her partner only lasted 27 out of the thirty days they had committed to, and some days they didn’t wear their hijabs at all, because of the way people treated them.
The whole time she worked on her English assignment, Kimpton said that only 11 people actually asked her if she was even Muslim.
She said she made a video diary for the project, and shared her experiences every day. Kimpton said she wore Niqab (the full body veil that only shows the eyes), one day to Wal-Mart with a hidden camera and caught the various stares and looks of disgust on tape.
“We felt oppressed,” she said. “We felt ostracized from the majority that we were so used to being a part of.”
MSA president Leen Samha said that she firmly believes this type of discrimination is based on the public’s misconception of what it means to be a Muslim woman, and what the Hijab truly stands for. She said that it is nothing more than a way of honoring their creator by dressing in a modest fashion – a practice implemented in many cultures and religions, including early Christianity for thousands of years.
According to http://worldhijabday.com Feb 1 was the second annual World Hijab Day event in which both non-Muslim and Muslim women wear hijab in public to show solidarity, and make a statement against the stereotypes that Muslim women live with every day.
Since this year’s worldwide event fell on a Saturday when there is no school, Samha said that the MSA planned to celebrate on campus the following Tuesday instead. She said she is hoping that more students will be involved in helping to make a campus-wide statement.
Samha said the MSA will have a table in the Sharwan Smith hallway from 9 a.m. - 2 p.m. where women can learn different wrapping techniques to wear hijab, and take pictures of their new look in the photo booth.
More information about MSA is available on facebook at the SUU Muslim Student Association group page.
More information about how World Hijab Day began is available on the youtube video taken from http://worldhijabday.com, and shown here:
World Hijab Day (Nazma Khan)