I had this post saved in my drafts from a couple years ago. Stumbling upon it again, I felt compelled to post it, to share my thoughts.
This has been a long standing debate within my conscience. What am I meant to do if I don’t want to wear my headscarf anymore?
I started wearing it when I was eleven years old. I had the purest of intentions at the time. Wanting to wear it to become a better Muslim. To strengthen my faith. It felt so natural, so amazing to feel part of something. A connection. You can’t possible explain it to someone to who hasn’t worn it before. The euphoric sense of freedom you feel when you wear such a veil is balanced by a sense of duty. An obligation to yourself, your faith. Akin to a flag-bearer at a sporting match; you are representing an ideal of modesty, of self-awareness, of awareness of others, and most importantly of peace.
If you believe in the symbol portrayed by the cloth on your head, then it becomes more than a cloth. For me, it did. All notions of having a boyfriend were defenestrated. Literally, it felt nun-like. We had crushes but didn’t pursue them. I remember my mum telling me at the start of every academic year: “Remember who you are, we don’t have boyfriends.” She meant it in the best way. From not letting me go to boys’ birthday parties, to school discos, to monitoring my dress sense to this very day. Every thought, every action was filtered out to train me to become the ideal Muslim girl. And I wanted to be this ideal girl. But to go through perhaps the most important decade of your life (your teenage years) and to not feel rebellious, doubtful or questioning of your faith and the way you have been brought up to fit a cookie-cutter mould, is rare to impossible.
Turning twenty in a few weeks, my conscience has within the last year swayed in all directions. I’ve started imagining what it’s like to take it off. To be a good Muslim you need to believe in God and pray. I do that already. Hijab is a way to remain steadfast to your beliefs. If you take it off it doesn’t make you a bad Muslim. The only thing stopping me is the backlash I would receive. Relatives and family friends would start lecturing me. Telling me to put it back on, because it looks bad. Because it’s ‘wrong’. Because it will make me an unruly person unable to commit to my religion. I’ve discussed this matter with my Muslim friends even and they all say the same. I was shocked; my friends are meant to be happy with whatever decision I make. Even a seemingly ‘unreligious’ one shouldn’t affect how close we are. It makes me feel like once I whip it off, the foundation of my closest relationships will crumble. I’d wanna ask them all. All the people who’ve decided they want nothing more to do with me: ‘Were you one of my closest friends for the past eight years simply because you thought I was Islamic enough for you?’ You give me reasoning, saying that I am an example to other Muslimah (Muslim sisters). My brows then furrow in frustration and I’m not sure whether to laugh or scream. The only thoughts in my head are: ‘Wait, you don’t wear a veil. You don’t wear a Hijab. And you are telling me I need to set an example?‘
I have never wanted to live my life for anyone else. I want to live it for me. I want to take my Hijab off. Don’t get me wrong; I am happy I am example. But if I am to be an example, let me be admired for my prayers to God. Or for my voluntary work. Or even for my badass Quiches. Not just for wearing a headscarf. And before all the Feminazis jump on the bandwagon, I’m NOT removing it because I feel oppressed. Not because I feel suffocated. Not because I’m finally ‘liberating myself from the chains of a Hijab’. If you DARE think that, my words will be manipulated.
I am taking my Hijab off because I want to. I want to explore my religion, Islam, and focus on the inward, rather than the outward. Focusing on strengthening my iman (faith), and if I ever feel like I want to commit to the Hijab once more, then I will be absolutely ready to do so. That is it. That is all it ever will be. I don’t feel comfortable wearing it except for when I pray. I don’t feel it adds to my modesty and I feel more relaxed with it off in public. I feel like this is a decision coming from within rather than influenced by all the people around me. And most importantly, I am happy with my choice.