Picture a Muslim woman, and most people around the globe will imagine one wearing a hijab. But as we all know, Muslim women are diverse in every sense of the word, yet there remains the wide belief that modesty must be strictly adhered to.
How that modesty is defined? In reality, it varies from one woman to another. But one thing that has always remained stagnant is a long list of stereotypes and beliefs attached to those who decidedly adhere to a hijab in its traditional sense.
And we’re not just talking about outside of the region. We spoke with a few hijabis here on the ground to get a clearer idea of what their experiences have been like wearing the veil—exposing some issues they’ve faced along the way.
Here are a few things we learned.
Wearing a hijab can be conflated with a lack of education
For some, wearing a hijab implies a certain level of conservativeness, which then unfortunately translates to having strict families that do not value education for women. It’s not uncommon for a hijabi to receive backhanded compliments on their education levels.
Working in beauty or fashion industry negates their level of modesty
With modesty often defined as a refrain from attention, wearing makeup and wearing stylish, colourful clothing is frowned upon for hijabis—let alone the pursuit of a career in the industry.
Constantly having to assert one’s self
Often, it is difficult for some to believe women who decided to wear the hijab on their own accord. Truth is, no, not all women are forced to wear it. And one downside to the widely-held belief that it is parents who force their children to wear a hijab is that it forces the women who wear it to constantly reassert their agency, due to being treated as not having any.
Facing disappointment due to certain level of religiosity expected
As is the case for non-hijabis, religiosity varies from one person to another. No, being a hijabi doesn’t equate to a certain level of knowledge on Islam, nor does it entail high levels of piousness and religiosity.
Gyms are not a safe place for hijabis
You’d think the existence of hijabi Olympians would have trickled down to fight the belief that the veil doesn’t stop women from working out—but any hijabi who frequents the gym (non-segregated ones, of course), will tell you otherwise. For long, sports were deemed off-limits to women who choose to cover—and that belief is what informs the stares, comments, and questions women face by their peers. “Aren’t you sweating like crazy under there?”
Main image Credits: Forough Alaei
Also Read: 5 Things We Need to Stop Asking Ex-Hijabis