Hijab, the most controversial garment has turned heads literally and metaphorically, and created chaos, turmoil and debate globally.
Hijab in its literal meaning is a piece of cloth that a Muslim woman has to use to cover her hair, which is a part of her “Sattar”. “Sattar” is an Islamic term used to describe the body parts of a man or a woman that need to be covered. Hair for women is one of them. She needs to cover her hair in front of the male members of society other than her husband, father, brothers or uncles. Hijab is not just a garment but it’s a statement - a statement that clearly defines its own rules for the followers but at the same time doesn’t shut out the world around.
Women in most Muslim countries, including India and Pakistan, wear Hijab comfortably as they are trained to wear it from a very young age. “I’ve been wearing a Hijab since I was 10 years old,” says Heba, a 34 year old Jordanian esthetician. Heba has been living in Canada for the past 15 years and is happy with her lifestyle. Hijab is not just something that’s forced on women by Islam; it’s a practice that teaches modesty and diffidence to women, and creates a certain bond of respect and humility in men too. Respect and humility are the two main pillars on which the foundation of a good relationship is maintained.
Religious headgear, whether Hijab or the Sikh Turban, has always been under public scrutiny in one way or the other. It’s liberating to see a turban clad Sikh marine in US army. Good on the US Army to allow turbans as a part of their uniform.
Hijab is still debatably controversial just because it’s a Muslim term, Muslim attire. After 9/11, everything has to be seen through the American’s perspective even though the Hijab conflict existed long before that date. France, the home of the most liberal minded people, banned a girl from wearing hijab in 1994 and since then supported its stance over this issue and finally made it official. Turkey, though a Muslim country, has been under fire on this issue.
Canada with its diverse multicultural Diaspora has seen its ups and downs in context of Hijab. From the case of Aqsa Parvez, the young teenaged girl who was strangled to death by her own father for not covering her head to the new generation of young, educated and trendy girls going for Hijab as a part of a fashion statement, Canada has seen it all. “I was born and raised in Toronto. My parents are originally from Aligarh, India. I took Hijab after I researched it during my days at university. I was fascinated by how a couple of my Arab friends used to wear Hijab and they were comfortable and looked good too”, states Sara, 23 year old U of T graduate. More university and college students in Canada are accepting this trend as it is cultivating a confident and positive attitude amongst them and the more praiseworthy part is that all the other ethnic cultures are open minded about them.
If we look to the Quran for more understanding on the subject, it is very clear. Islam doesn’t compel the stronger gender to impose anything on the weaker one. Even parents have their rights clearly defined and the children too. “If you are given power by Allah, use it for the betterment of everyone and do not use it suppress weaker ones”, said prophet Mohammed (PBUH).
“I took this hijab cause my parents asked me to. My grandma and aunts don’t observe it. My mom is the only one who is conservative. She goes to ‘darss’, Islamic teaching sessions and changed my dad too,” tells Sheema, a 15 year old high school student. I know that hijab has to be taken by your own consent and not by force,” she added. On the other hand a completely opposite opinion comes from Mrs. Hina Qamar, a teacher who holds a degree in Islamic teachings, who believes that pleasing Allah’s order will take her to ‘jannah’, the ultimate paradise promised by Him. “I’m happy as I took Hijab by choice and never had pressure from any one. I never felt any discrimination in the past 10 years that I’ve been living in Toronto, even with a veil. People don’t bother, just a few stares from some older ladies. I think banning Hijab in France is a violation of human rights, any liberal minded person would agree with me. How could a progressive thinking nation do that?”
I continued the topic with Sumera, 26, MBA student originally from Delhi, who is a ]Muslim convert. “I studied Islam before I embraced it. I’m very happy and satisfied with my new religion and its rules. I was a bit uncomfortable with Hijab in the beginning but then I got used to it. I’ll never remove it, I accept it whole heartedly. I’ve no pressure from my in laws; I’m following Allah’s will. People in Canada are very warm and open minded, I’m not stared at or bullied by any one. I think France and other like minded countries should learn from Canada, how to accept and respect all religions and cultures.”
The recipient of the award for the ‘sports man of the century’, Mohammed Ali has his point of view. I took the following excerpt from the book “More Than a Hero: Muhammad Ali's Life Lessons through His Daughter's Eyes. The following incident took place when Muhammad Ali's daughters arrived at his home wearing clothes that were not modest. Here is the story as told by one of his daughters:
My father took a good look at us. Then he sat me down on his lap and said something that I will never forget. He looked me straight in the eyes and said,
"Hana, everything that Allah made valuable in the world is covered and hard to get to." "
Where do you find Diamonds? Deep down in the ground, covered and protected".
"Where do you find Pearls? Deep down at the bottom of the ocean, covered up and protected in a beautiful shell".
"Where do you find Gold? Way down in the mine, covered over with layers and layers of rock. You’ve got to work hard to get to them".
He looked at me with serious eyes. "Your body is sacred. You're far more precious than diamonds and pearls, and you should be covered too".