Evolving Perceptions

I think the best part about meeting new people is getting to know their perspective and views on different things. It’s so interesting to see how people’s backgrounds influence their thoughts. College is all about meeting new people from different walks of life. In my first two months of college, I have indulged in plenty of conversation and friendly debates over politics, religion, and social issues. I love to hear the arguments people make to prove their points. Sometimes I even get convinced to switch sides or reconsider my stance. However, it is so unappealing to me when people start up a conversation on a controversial issue only to attack anyone who disagrees with their viewpoint. Not only is this being close-minded but it is also depriving the person of learning about a different perspective.

As a Muslim woman who wears the hijab I am constantly being asked questions about my hijab and about Islam. I love being asked these type of questions and I love when people want to know more about me and my religion. But today, I had to deal with a girl attacking me about the reason for wearing my hijab. It all started when she asked,

“Do you consider yourself to be a feminist?”

Naturally I answered, “Yes I do, to a certain extent.”

We spent some time speaking about feminism and the feminist movement.

Then she asked me, “Why do you wear the scarf?”

I briefly replied, “I wear the hijab for modesty.”

She aggressively said, “So you aren’t a feminist because you cover yourself for men, when you should be teaching men about consent and how to respect women.”

I immediately tried to defend myself by saying it wasn’t about being modest in front of men, but she continued to bombard me with questions like, “But don’t you only wear it in front of men? So why don’t you wear it in front of other women?” I was immediately caught off guard. I was speechless. I had no clue how to answer her questions because I had never thought of my hijab in this way. I felt extremely attacked. She did not want to know anything about my hijab or my religion; she was only trying to push her own agenda.

I left that conversation with so many questions for myself. I realized that I needed to gain more knowledge on the legitimate reasons for wearing hijab. Yet, I wish I was able to tell her that my definition of modesty is clearly way different from hers. To me, wearing the hijab is about being modest for myself. It is about respecting myself and wanting to represent my religion. I never once thought about my hijab in terms of men until it was brought to my attention. It is a choice I make for myself every single day. This choice does not make me anti-feminist. In fact, I agreed with most of the things this girl was saying! Men should learn about consent! Men should learn to respect women’s decisions! I just never thought that my hijab was connected to this at all and I’m surprised that she did. Still, if she thinks in this way it must mean that there are others who do as well. Now I know that I need to educate myself more on my own religion. Not everyone thinks the same way I do which is completely okay, but I want to be able to understand my own thoughts in order to be able to properly defend them. I wish that she had given me a chance to actually tell her why I wore the hijab instead of jumping to conclusions. There is a respectful way to disagree with someone and she did not do that well. I guess not everyone understands the proper etiquette of dispute. The next time I have to deal with someone like this, I hope I won’t get as flustered and will be better prepared to argue my points. Not everyone thinks the same way I do which is completely okay, but I want to be able to understand my own thoughts in order to be able to properly defend them. If this is how I needed to learn this lesson then Alhamdulillah. (P.S. Alhamdulillah is the Muslim way for saying “Thank God/ Praise be to God”).

– Ayatt