“ISIS!” one of them muttered.
A female student walked into her class in a dress and a long hijab, a completely new look, and was greeted by her screaming female friends: “Ciyeee yang udah hijrah,” (look who has just been enlightened!).
“My future baby-mama,” a boy said.
All true story.
Women have never been really free from any kind of stereotypes. When we choose to wear something short, we get catcalled. When we wear something long, we are automatically super religious, a fanatic, even. Why can’t we just see hijab as a clothing item?
I was born and raised in a family who holds strong Islamic values, but I was never taught to judge or label people based on what they chose to wear. I chose to wear a hijab long time ago, not because my parents made me do it. It started because I was curious how it felt to wear one, and once I found it comfortable on my head, I couldn’t see the reason why not.
Years later, I came to see so many kinds of hijab and began to wonder which one my God wants me to wear. I learned and read lots of articles and watched explanations given by people who actually have knowledge about it. Eventually, I settled down into the kind of hijab that, for many, is considered (too) long. And so the comments started coming.
Things I heard varied, from “I miss the old you” or “You wouldn’t get any job with the kind of thing you put on your head” to “Now you are my role-model” or “Please lead me to the right path”. The latter spontaneously raised my eyebrows. How in the world would you expect a person to guide you in the right path when she is struggling in her own way to find one?
I can manage with the comments, but it is the stereotypes that drive me nuts at times. Women with long hijabs are often deemed to be people who understand the religion the most and, hence, never commit sins. It is burdensome on so many levels. Chances are they are going to raise their eyebrows when they happen to see your playlist or the books you are reading or the kind of writings you produce.
Is it that difficult to comprehend the idea that a piece of cloth you wrap around your body does not limit your freedom of thinking? And that it is only meant one thing: the worship of God?
The hijab that covers my body is the identity I choose. An identity of a Muslim. As simple as that. Other than that, it does not say anything about me. It is not a pair of wings that flies me directly to paradise; it is not a magic wand that turns me into a holy person. It is merely a way for me to get an inch closer to God, as I am not able to do good as many other people out there. With the hijab on my head, I strive to be a better Muslim who promotes peace and tolerates differences, just like what my religion wants me to be.
The way you choose to dress this morning does not define who you are. The hijab you decide to put on today does not reflect your level of religiosity nor spirituality. They mirror your aesthetics, yes, but that’s it.
Therefore, my fellow friends, I just want to say that keep being you in whatever clothes you believe are right and good for you. It is time we stop being judgemental. And while you may form a judgement in your heads, saying it out loud is another thing.
Cita N. Ishak enjoys a lone train rides and is OK with cats.
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