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First I want to begin by saying I don’t like a lot of the things I’ve read on hijab. Most often I end up finishing an article or book on the subject with a profound sense of dissonance. I cannot for the life of me identify with a jewel or a tasty confection. When a woman is described in this way to justify hijab she is rendered immobile, inanimate and illiterate. I’ve sat with others and watched while a speaker or an average Jamal, with awe in their voices has said, “just as a diamond is wrapped in a protective cloth, women are precious enough that they too must be thus wrapped. Not everyone can see this diamond.” Sometimes some of the women watching with me raise their eyebrows with pride and high-five glances at each other. But trust me when I say that there are a lot of us watching and listening who don’t feel like we’ve been mined from Africa illegally. As for the argument that the very best bonbons are wrapped in hijab, I would have to remind you that those very best bonbons don’t have a life beyond getting eaten and washed down by the very best wine.

So, please stop with those analogies. They leave an extremely unpolished, bitter taste in the mouth of many a Muslim. And they all reek with the idea of women as possession for we all know a diamond and a bonbon belong in someone’s clutches. Sorry, I belong exclusively to Allah.

I can only approach the subject of hijab (in the head-cover sense) from my personal vantage point – which peers out from inside a hijab, most often a pashmina – not swung on but pinned in 3 strategic locations – but also from inside a regular shayla (long rectangular cloth) or sometimes when I’m feeling nostalgic, from the inside of those old-fashioned square scarves (which too many people nowadays consider too square). My vantage point also peers out at an increasing number of friends who have shaken their hijabs off.

These friends for the most part fall into 3 categories:

1. Those who read, read and read trying to find the source of the requirement to hijabify in the manner most people take hijabify to mean. They don’t find a strong enough source so they calmly fold their hijab up and turn it in. Unfortunately, these women are sometimes treated like they have committed an act of apostasy.

2. Those who believe hijab is a requirement but couldn’t stand to face the forces agitating against it – usually from family, job settings etc. They’re not caving in as much as trying to still the ropes pulling them from all directions.

3. Those who shrug off their hijabs because of profound life-altering situations. A lot of my friends who are in this category were women who took up hijab in their early twenties – most often against the wishes of their families. When things hit them later in life, they find comfort in not having to hold on to one more obligation. Because, really honestly, to hijabify in a society – okay, in a globe – which judges a woman’s worth mostly by her appearance is really, honestly hard.

What about the argument that hijab leads to an equitable society where a woman will be judged by her inner worth? My take on this would fill too much space and I have a whole week’s worth of planning to do for school so I’ll just say… this can only happen in a society which judges a woman for her inner worth. Those of us who have traveled abroad can testify that you can be the most covered French chocolate in the country amidst other similarly wrapped confectionery and you can be undressed by a thousand eyes before you get to the souk.

What does hijab do? Because I’m feeling disobliging, I can give you a list of things the wearing of hijab doesn’t do. a) As mentioned above, it doesn’t suddenly render a whole society into a state of perfect equilibrium in terms of mutual respect of genders. For that to happen you need to change more than the appearance of the woman; you need to change the perception of the man. b) It doesn’t stop men from asking you out. However, it does stop Muslim men who fear Allah from asking you out. c) It doesn’t transform the wearer into a pure, noblewoman. That transformation takes place on the inside. I’m certain that there are many pure, noblewomen walking around with their hair glistening in the sunlight. And I’m certain I’ve seen hijabis with impure mouths and dishonorable actions.

Again, then what does hijab do? I can only tell you why I wear it. I wear it because my reading of the famous Qur’anic verses on hijab speaks to me in a traditional way. I wear it because I love reading stories of the women and men around the Prophet – by any author – and I see that the application of these verses by the women of the Prophet’s time was hijab as a head-cover and these women are my role models. I wear it because it reminds me – a person who can become extremely fashion obsessed – that the worth of me is more than whether my newsboy cap goes with my new haircut. I wear it because it stops me from going out with men who see beyond my big black scarf because I don’t see beyond my big black scarf. I wear it because it reminds me that what comes out of my mouth and what my hands do and where my feet go better be benign because when others see me they think of Islam and when they think of Islam I want them to think of only one word: Peace. And lastly but really firstly, I wear it because it makes me feel submissive. I love feeling submissive – but only to Allah.

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