Everything You Wanted to Know but Were too Afraid to Ask: Hair Covering and Islam

Everything You Wanted to Know but Were  too Afraid to Ask: Hair Covering and Islam

By Francis Streitmann

Though freedom of religion is one of our country’s founding principles, this is often forgotten when discussions of foreign policy arise. Western media portrays veiled women as submissive victims, whilst also perpetuating Islamophobic stereotypes. Generally, discrimination against women who veil has been less visible on a political level here than in other countries. However, presidential candidate Donald Trump has already made one questionable comment at a Republican rally in New Hampshire.  In that statement he reduced Muslim hair covering to the mere advantage of ease in beautification routine. “You don’t have to put on makeup. Look how beautiful everyone looks. Wouldn’t it be easier [with a hair cover]?” he said. This act of religious fidelity is more than not having to fix hair in the morning. Here is what it means to four girls at Tam.

Sophomore Mariam Bham:

My religion is everything to me and I don’t know who I’d be without it. It influences everything I do.

I try to follow my religion as closely as I can because I stand with everything that it teaches.

There have definitely been times when I felt like I was treated differently but I never have the evidence that it is because I am Muslim so I usually give others the benefit of the doubt.

I have never felt discriminated against [at Tam]. However, I still feel like there is a lack of understanding [of my religion].

I choose to wear a hijab. I don’t consider my hijab to be oppressive, but rather liberating. It frees me from society’s expectation of women. In a world where women are so heavily judged by their physical beauty, I feel empowered to be seen for more than how I look.”

Sophomore Safura Nana:

My religion means everything to me. It teaches me how to live, deal with people, and stay clean. It’s a frame of how I should live my life.

Staying true to my religion is essential because I know in doing that I am doing the right thing. Also because I know the benefits [heaven].

Personally I can’t recall a time that I was treated differently [because of my religion] but at the same time it might not be obvious that I am Muslim since I don’t cover. I have seen my friends being bullied for wearing a headscarf.

Generally I would say Tam is tolerant but definitely some people are very rude. I would say the Tam community is very uneducated and ignorant to Islam.

At points I have been embarrassed that I don’t cover [my hair]because I know it’s the right thing to do. Often I will be with family and friends who are talking about wearing headscarves, which isn’t necessarily embarrassing but can make me feel a little uneasy.

I think that people need to learn about Islam generally. When I say learn about Islam I mean from Muslims. The media does a horrible job showing what Muslims are like and their motives.

Honestly, lots of people at Tam don’t even know that a girl who covers does it for a religious reason. For example, my friends have been asked multiple times if they have cancer. People need to note that religiously it’s your own choice on whether or not you cover. Covering is a complicated idea and can be misinterpreted.”

Junior Misbah Mamoon:

My religion is a means of measuring myself. Keeping myself in check – at its simplest terms, a value system that provides me with limits and checks I can consider and may or may not follow – but it’s there nonetheless.

Learning something about my religion is like learning something new about me. Like all teenagers, we aspire to learn more about ourselves; find ourselves in the crazy world we’re trying to make sense of, and my religion is simply an outlet for that.

You forget what you look like to the rest of the world because you’re always looking out of a headscarf, not at it, so eventually you don’t even realize it’s here – that is, until something happens or someone does something to remind you of it. I feel like there’s this very large connotation with women that wear a headscarf and the fulfillment of stereotypical, domestic expectations, and when I go against them, it’s always a bit off-putting to some people.

I think the Tam community is incredibly accepting. And everyone is really respectful of my scarf and asking me about it. I think a lot of people are scared to ask but don’t realize that I actually love it when they do. I like to clarify everything because I’ve realized that if you don’t, it gives a lot more room for assumptions.

[Wearing a headscarf] was totally something I had wanted to do for a while and started once I started high school sort of as a fresh start.

but not only are those [things] completely against the religion, but have nothing to do with its key principles. More than wearing a headscarf, Islam is about treating others well, providing to charity, etc. In a lot of ways, it’s incredibly misrepresented.

Just because someone wears a piece of cloth over her head doesn’t mean they can’t be outgoing or independent or incredibly driven. In its own way, it’s just a way to make people focus on your intellectual side and deny succumbing to having to make yourself pretty for someone else – that doesn’t mean I’m being put down, it means I’m making a choice not to do something for myself.”

Senior Mariya Mulla:

For me, religion is my identity, because it gives me the identity that I am a Muslim girl. I believe in my religion and cultural beliefs very closely. Like I wear hijab, burkas, and the traditional clothing.

Staying true [to my religion] is important because you cause much fewer problems, such as loss of trust between people, [which] can break a good relation. Or being true to yourself. If you betrayed yourself or someone, have the courage to tell them why you did that, for me that is more important [than the betrayal] because they have the courage to tell you and they feel guilty about what they did.

People come to me and ask “Why are you  hair cover and not leave it open?” Then I explain to them it’s because of my religion and they understand and respect me by listening carefully. And I see in them the hunger to learn and know more about the religion and the cloth.  I feel great after help[ing] them learn.

Yes, I feel Tam is a tolerant community because everyone is so friendly and helpful. People at Tam are always there to help you in anything in which they can help. I have seen many teachers and staff helping kids all the time, even after school or before, they are so helpful enough to give their time to them.

No, it is not forced to me to believe in my religion or wear hijab. When I was a kid, I [did] not cover my hair I [left] it open, and as I grew up I started to understand more about my religion. 

It’s very pure and friendly religion to believe in. [Many people] don’t know a lot [about Islam] and they misinterpret it differently. For example,  if you believe in Islam then you can eat meat. That’s true but not completely. Muslim people can eat meat but only halal meat. Halal is the Arabic word for permissible. Where meat is processed by cutting by hand and not in machine.”