Call Me:

So, I wear the Hijab. I cover my head, society. I go around the city looking like your version of the quintessential “oppressed” woman, and I am endlessly amused by the banter my head-scarf can inspire in perfectly insipid people. For one, since I started covering my head at around age 22, (prime marriageable age bracket), my household pretty much exploded with grief. My mother and all of her friends made sure I was adequately ashamed of my decision, and would often say things to the effect of, “But you’re so pretty,” and “Your hair was so beautiful.” First, what does that even mean? Is the adorning of the headscarf limited to giant hunchbacks with nose warts? And secondly, my hair still exists. I cover my head, I did not join the Temple of the Monks. Then, there was the rishta problem. Apparently well-bred, well-educated, “liberal” men will judge you by your choice to wear the hijab because it reflects “a certain mindset.” In other words, it makes you look like a fun-hating fundo who will never understand your jokes, who will collapse every time you swear, will give birth to and raise little mullah children reciting the Quran before their ABC’s, who will holiday only in Mecca, who won’t appreciate The Doors or your love of literature, who will never wear beautiful lingerie, who won’t be able to partake in light hearted conversation, or dance with you, or throw her head back and laugh. And so, my parents went to great pains to assure people that I was still “normal,” and that this was only a phase I would slip out of in a few weeks. They would point to their other more mainstream children, and sometimes I would feel like a rebel and that felt good. Anyway the point, as it turns out is that if you wear the Hijab, you end up attracting a certain kind of man in the Industry of Arranged Marriages. It only makes sense that a woman who wears the Hijab would prefer to be married to a man less educated than her, somebody who’d want her to be at home implementing the pious rituals of Islam into her person, and of course, have his babies swiftly which is the whole point. Well, I’m 28, unmarried and perfectly at peace with it.

Second problem, the Let Me Liberate You narrative. I saw it first amongst people my age, who would have long, winding debates with me about the science of the Hijab, the semantics of the Hijab, the logic of it, the unnecessary nature of it in the modern world. At weddings, in classrooms, in airport queues, the air would be thick with condescension laced with some pity. I was the very portrait of oppression and misguidance. A perfectly normal upper-middle class young girl, so ambitious and smart and witty, now wore the Hijab. Ghastly. I might as well have moved abroad forever, or quite simply died. People uttered every unfortunate comment like it was a eulogy. “You have so much potential, why did you decide to do this?” Translation: Why did you decide to recede into the abyss where cavemen, terrorists, strict imposing aunties and music hating mullahs reside? “But you’re so young.” Translation: You will never have fun again with that rag on your skull.

A month ago, I bought my first car with my own savings. I try as hard as I can not to burden my parents for money, even as I live in their home (but that is a cultural constraint). I have a wonderful group of friends. Some of them drink, some of them pray, some of them are mothers, some of them are male. All of them have given up judging me for my Hijab. I have worked hard to show people I am a liberated, independent minded woman; something that the headscarf makes so very hard to do. I am not beyond caring what they think, because it bothers me that they categorise us all, us Hijabis, into the same group as they do religious extremists. I am a feminist, I am a humanist and I am independent, whizzing around in my brand new Honda City. You don’t see a lot of oppressed women with the keys to their own cars, making their own decisions about who to meet and when, and struggling every day to become better, stronger versions of themselves. Stop judging. It’s just a choice, and it is my right to get through the day without your pseudo liberal eyes upon me at every turn.

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