“Hijab Is My Choice, My Personality”

say many Muslim women…

I have one question for them…Is the same true for your daughters?

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Are these little girls wearing veils out of choice? Do they even know what choice means?

I personally believe that the government has no business telling people what to wear and what not to, but when I see adorable energetic little girls converted into somber, ghostly, veil-clad shadows of themselves, I feel that a burqa ban might not be such a bad idea….

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32 thoughts on ““Hijab Is My Choice, My Personality”

  1. I am sick and tired of reading that everything Muslim women do is of their own choice.

    In India Shariat law is legally accepted personal law for Muslims. There is one weird law-

    If a divorced Muslim couple ( divorced because the husband can divorce his wife merely by saying talak three times) have worked out their differences and want to remarry-

    They can remarry each other IF AND ONLY IF the wife first marries another man, they have sexual intercourse with each other, and then this second man divorces her.

    This this is the LAW for Muslims in India, are we going to say let us not ban this because the wife does so willingly out of choice????

    Me: I didn’t know about this…Have your read about how the Deoband has said that it is haram for women to work because the Sharia prohibits proximity of men & women in the workplace?

    Also, wife beating (not on the face) is allowed in Islam if the wife is disobedient and remains so even after the husband has peacefully asked her not to be…The man is allowed to discipline his wife because he is her superior and responsible for her…

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  2. I get where you’re coming from, but I feel parents have the right to decide how their kids should be brought up. I mean, so many of us have issues because of certain attitudes our parents had when we were growing up – issues that don’t manifest themselves in a way that can be immediately seen.

    Ultimately someone has to have the responsibility for kids. It can’t be the government. It can’t be anyone else. The only logical choice is for parents to make that decision for better or for worse – as long as there’s no actual abuse of course.

    Me: You know, Bhagwad, I was just thinking about how I make most of the choices for my daughter…I guess it is the same thing but when I see little girls wearing hijabs in this heat and their brothers wearing shorts, I feel terrible…

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  3. Like Bhagwad says, I too understand where you are coming from, but what is the solution? Also, how is it different from many choices parents make for their children that cause discomfort? For e.g. in my community, the ears of children are pierced on their 1st birthday, no doubt causing pain. Is the child asked? If he/she grew up and was allowed to make the choice, would it be different? For that matter – sending a 2 or 3-year old to pre-school – does the child really want to go? It’s another thing that the child eventually adjusts, as children tend to do. In some cases, we may argue that the benefits to the child overcome the discomforts (as in the case of schooling perhaps), but the fact remains that it’s still the parents’ assessment. For that matter, bringing up a child as a Hindu or Muslim or Christian – that itself is a parents’ idea, isn’t it…

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    • Would echo all of Apu’s words. Just what I wanted to write. It is tempting to say that so and so is oppressed , or so and so is not right or she is being subjugated.
      All the while we forget that perhaps the yardstick changes when it comes to us.

      You know my views on this. I am opposed to the ban though I personally hate the burqa.

      The discomfort factor, oppression, subjugation …all of these apply to women in India who wear the ghoonghat as well .
      Will a ban on the ghoonghat work?
      Or will it result in resentment?

      What is better?
      Educating and changing the mindsets? Or a knee jerk ban?

      Me: I agree with you…The ghoongat is another form of hijab and yes, education can bring about a change but as long as community leaders continue to extol the virtues of covering up and threaten those who don’t, things will not change…Only if they change, things will get better…

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  4. 🙂

    What they do is wrong.

    Till age of 11,boys and girls are not,SHOULD NOT,pressurized or compelled to follow rituals,even 5-time prayer. It is assumed that by the age of 11 kids reach some level of sense,and it is then they are told to pray and fast. It is assumed that by the age of 11+ girls start to have periods,and enter another stage of life and boys too reach adolescent stage. During that age,if parents are strict,they may force their daughters to wear hijab. During that time,even if they don’t like it,they ahve to,because they ahve no other way.As and when they becaome old,some adopt to it,some adapt it,some throw it away. It is where personal choice comes to scene,I guess..

    What you see in picture is nonsense,but I have seen the same with my own eyes,especially Indonesians doing this.

    In our community,small kids,wear headscarf,only when they go to Masjid for religious class,every weekend,the same way as Christains do when they go to Sunday catesim class and attend church,as a sign of respect. The second images portrays kids praying ,i guess.

    I wear headscarf when i go to masjid or to Eid-gah for Eid prayer,Rest of the time,it remains in my cupboard.

    Don’t know what say..Yes,for some it is a choice,but for some,it isn’t.. Is it not so with almost anything and everything in this world? Is there something that it likable or agreeable to everybody? If you ban something,how will the half follow their choice? Rather,I suggest stringent punishment for people who force it.

    Me: Nimmy, yeah I know that children are not supposed to cover up till they reach puberty, but many parents make them do so at a very early age…In Singapore, I see a lot of small Malay children wearing head scarves and long sleeved shirts and it makes me sad especially when I see the discomfort on their faces…It’s really hot and humid here so I can’t even imagine what they go through…What makes me angry is that while these children are baking in the heat, their brothers are nice and comfortable in shorts and t-shirts…

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  5. Really interesting & important post!

    Manju, Bhagwad & Apu have raised very valid points.

    It’s true government can’t step in for every decision concerning child’s welfare. Let me give an extreme example, would we have used this point to allow child labor or prostitution?

    Like almost all decisions, to assess the propriety of making children do certain things/doing certain things to them, following points should be considered:

    1. Motive – what factors make parent take a particular decision – is it social pressure, blind aping of traditions?

    2. Intent – what the parent wants the consequences of act to be?

    3. Actual consequences of act – many times difficult to determine, but through case-control studies these can be somewhat estimated. For example if you remember, Dr. Ashley Tellis had argued that “man-boy love is a beautiful thing”. But using statistics from studies, it was possible to prove that child sexual abuse is quite harmful.

    4. Risk-benefit analysis – what are the harms & what are the benefits of what parents want children to do? Of course, we would need to know the consequences – not always known. For instance, now there are clear guidelines against milk-based baby food products like Cerelac, Farex, as they were found to be high in fat & sodium & led to adulthood obesity & hypertension. Whereas, my mother proudly tells me pointing to cerelac bowls – “see, how well-fed you were as a child”! 😦

    If parents are conscientious, there’s no margin for ambivalence with regard to initiating children into religious practices. They’re totally dispensable in nuclear families.

    But there’s one huge problem with religion & familial tradition-inspired symbols, which is directly proportional to the conspicuousness of any symbol. In children, it inspires a strong “us v/s them”-feeling. In cosmopolitan gatherings (like wedding receptions, award ceremonies), the atmosphere is very formal & parents are guarded, whereas in gatherings of one’s (religious, linguistic or caste-based) community, e.g., to celebrate festivals, certain traditional symbols turn out to be prominent where the parents are much more jovial, less formal. Children, I guess, perceive the latter kind of clustering as approved by parents & imbibe the idea that those sharing such symbols are to be trusted more than those not sharing such symbols….

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  6. I feel the same way. I find it difficult to understand the concept of ‘choice’ when little children are dressed like this. There is a little girl in my daughter’s class who comes dressed like this and I really wonder. On sunny days the rest of the class is running around in abandon in the playground, I wonder if she feels as free.. At least here, it isn’t very hot, but what about those is warmer countries.. But then I also hear of women who have never worn a burka, actually adopt it, when they grow older, because they feel comfortable in it. So it is quite confusing to be honest.

    Me: I agree with you – it is confusing…I don’t know what is right and what is wrong…

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  7. Each parent thinks whats the best for their children and from their experiences they are passing on some value… Which can be equated to this practice also… My parents said wearing sacred ash on the forehead is good and i followed then sincerely… But now i dont think its important for me and i am not wearing it much now…
    If those girls too wish to get rid of their barqua at the time they are ready to take decision they will come out of it…

    I Have a question for those european governments… Whats the point in imposing bans after declaring themselves as free democracy??

    Me: Kanagu, the kind of democracy France follows is different from what we follow…They follow the Laïcité form of democracy…According to the French constitution,
    “France shall be an indivisible, secular, democratic and social Republic. It shall ensure the equality of all citizens before the law, without distinction of origin, race or religion. It shall respect all beliefs. It shall be organised on a decentralised basis.”
    Laïcité is defined as the neutrality of the state towards religious beliefs, and the complete isolation of religious and public spheres…In other words, the French believe religion and symbols of religion should remain in the private…Because of this, the government has banned burqas and hijabs…I don’t agree with the banning but that is one of the reasons for the bill…

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  8. I am undecided even now. I am thankful to the mas movements against ghughat and purdah that freed a lot of women to a huge extent – I feel that is the only thing that would ever work.

    I also feel clothing becomes a habit. My mom would never wear salwar-kurta because she has been wearing sari for years. Some of my friends can’t leave their hair loose, because they plaited it all their lives. Some women who have never worn a kurta without a dupatta or have never worn tight clothing are uncomfortable in clothes that fit. Some women feel self conscious in clothes without sleeves (and this in a sari when a good amount of their back is exposed, and in some places in Maharashtra their legs are also exposed), so making a young girl wear a burka as a kid is going to become habit too. They would want to continue wearing it.

    Tarek Fatah from Canada argues that liberals and feminists are supporting a choice that is not really a choice… since he is a Muslim leader, I guess many more voices like his are needed if a change is to be brought. He also fought successfully against sharia law being included (or something like that) in Canada.

    Me: I agree with you and Tarek Fatah…Once something becomes a habit then it’s not really a choice, is it?

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  9. This is such a coincidence! I just mentioned something about the tragedy of choice, in an entirely different context on Twitter, and I come here to find an echo of it.
    This is a sensitive issue, definitely, but then again, when it so happens that one is ingrained or indoctrinated into a particular way of life, somehow the matter of choices are trivial to them. Of course, in the impressionable period of life, during the formative years, if exposed to another way of doing the same thing, then there would surely be conflict between what they know, and what is expected, and what they would like to do, if permitted, or not. And of course the parental role in all of this is the most important. If the family is supportive, despite the “community” norms, then yes, things could improve, but do we see this at all? Right across several religions or communities, this is not encouraged, obviously, and also takes time if at all there is a consensus for change!
    Life is tough, isn’t it? Esp for those for whom choices are available but out of reach!

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  10. I thnk its upto the common sense of ppl…how much of the religious mumbo jumbo they shld allow in their lives without stomping on human decency, dignity and mutual self respect…time has afterall moved ahead from pre-medieval ages.

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  11. This is a sensitive issue. But one must say that often what one does because others around are doing is mistaken as personal choice. A real free choice is when a number of alternative are known and available to someone and he/she can pick one or more without fear or pressure.

    What choice does a frog who lives in well have? This applies to us all, irrespective of religion.

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    • Well said Sir…At the end of the day,most of them do not have much choice but to follow their mother’s or in-law’s habits..

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  12. Whatever people might put forth for argument, I believe that Ghunghat and Hijab are unnecessary. Women can debate on their choiced but the fact is these things are a result of conditional thinking. Those who compare swimsuits to hijab should know that swim suits are used for swimming not to the office and in general public. Even in India when I was learning swimming, I wore swim wear.

    Hijab and Ghunghat are just marks of patriarchal society. Those who advocate this as a woman’s choice should then go ahead and agree to mangalsutra, sindoor, karva chauth and all that jazz that women “choose” because she wants to. Yeah right!

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    • There was a time when Sati was legal and there are people even now who advocate for it. If today a woman decides to be a sati then is she free to choose what she want?

      Are we going to justify all these religious stupidity by saying hey! it’s a woman’s choice? What about man’s? Why is he not growing a beard and wearing that traditional pyjama in public places? Why Hindu men who want to cover their wife in a ghoonghat don’t wear pagdi, teeka and all that jazz and go to work?

      We will always have 100 stupid reasons to justify norms set by patriarchal society.

      Me: I couldn’t agree with you more…

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    • ” Women can debate on their choiced but the fact is these things are a result of conditional thinking”

      I agree..

      Forget swimsuit,I think it is fair to compare low neck blouse to a hijab..Well,i don’t wear both,so no chance of me being conditioned.. I support both..Well,if one is bad,i don’t find any reason to judge the other as cool..

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  13. Solilo – my only point would be that this is not so much about Purdah/burkah as about what parents can/cannot ask their children to do. At what point do we draw limits on the rules parents can set for their children? (besides abuse).

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  14. I agree with you Bones… the ban may not be such a bad idea after all. The sad thing is, the women themselves want to stay cloaked.. they do not want to break free , as its become their mindset, that burka is good.. and that its part of them. The Govt can ban the burka but what can be done about this regressive mindset?

    Me: I was reading that the ban on veils and made conservative Muslim women in France less free…Now they are not ‘allowed’ to go out…

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  15. I don’t know about what many women who wear the hijab feel. But I don’t like the thought of having to wear one all the time. And that makes me wonder how such girls manage it.

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  16. This is an interesting discussion. I’ve seen non muslimgirls making good use of the burkha to meet their boy friends. This regularly happens in our college. Such smart thinkers may not want a ban on burkhas

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  17. Old post but I thought I’d comment anyway… I think it’s mostly cultural conditioning that leads women to want to wear hijabs – if everyone in your community wears it understandably you don’t want to stand out, and/or you might be punished if you don’t. I feel bad for kids who wear hijabs though, but it’s kind of the same when Christian babies are baptized, or Hindu boys have their thread ceremony…the children don’t really have a choice. Have you heard of the movement for an age of consent for religion?

    I personally don’t have a problem with anyone wearing (or not wearing) what they want to, but I would like to be able to see a person’s face while I’m talking to them, and in case any criminal activity is involved an uncovered face is better for identification.

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