I am an American woman who was born in the midst
of America’s “Heartland”. I grew up, just like any other girl, being fixated
with the glamour of life in “the big city”. Eventually, I moved to Florida and on to South Beach of Miami, a hotspot for those seeking the “glamorous life”.
Naturally, I did what most average Western girls do. I focused on my
appearance and appeal, basing my self-worth on how much attention I got from
others. I worked out rigorously and became a personal trainer, acquired an
upscale waterfront residence, became a regular “exhibiting” beach-goer and was
able to attain a “living-in-style” kind of life.
Years went by, only to realize that my scale of
self-fulfillment and happiness slid down the more I progressed in my “feminine
appeal”. I was a slave to fashion. I was a hostage to my looks.
As the gap continued to progressively widen
between my self-fulfillment and lifestyle, I sought refuge in escapes from
alcohol and parties to meditation, activism, and alternative religions, only to
have the little gap widen to what seemed like a valley. I eventually
realized it all was merely a pain killer rather than an effective remedy.
As a feminist libertarian, and an activist who
was pursuing a better world for all, my path crossed with that of another
activist who was already at the lead of indiscriminately furthering causes of
reform and justice for all. I joined in the ongoing campaigns of my new mentor
which included, at the time, election reform and civil rights, among others.
Now my new activism was fundamentally different. Instead of “selectively”
advocating justice only to some, I learned that ideals such as justice,
freedom, and respect are meant to be and are essentially universal, and that
own good and common good are not in conflict. For the first time, I knew what
“all people are created equal” really meant. But most importantly, I learned
that it only takes faith to see the world as one and to see the unity in
One day I came across a book that is negatively
stereotyped in the West--The Holy Quran. Up until that point, all I had
associated with Islam was women covered in “tents”, wife beaters, harems, and a
world of terrorism. I was first attracted by the style and approach of the
Quran, and then intrigued by its outlook on existence, life, creation, and the
relationship between Creator and creation. I found the Quran to be a very
insightful address to heart and soul without the need for an interpreter or
Eventually I hit a moment of truth: my new-found
self-fulfilling activism was nothing more than merely embracing a faith called
Islam where I could live in peace as a “functional” Muslim.
I bought a beautiful long gown and head cover
resembling the Muslim woman’s dress code and I walked down the same streets and
neighborhoods where only days earlier I had walked in my shorts, bikini, or
“elegant” western business attire. Although the people, the faces, and
the shops were all the same, one thing was remarkably distinct: the peace at
being a woman I experienced for the very first time. I felt as if the chains
had been broken and I was finally free. I was delighted with the new looks of
wonder on people’s faces in place of the looks of a hunter watching his prey I
had once sought. Suddenly a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I no
longer spent all my time consumed with shopping, makeup, getting my hair done,
and working out. Finally, I was free.
Of all places, I found my Islam at the heart of
what some call “the most scandalous place on earth”, which makes it all the
more dear and special.
Soon enough, news started breaking about
politicians, Vatican clergymen, libertarians, and so-called human rights and
freedom activists condemning the Hijab (headscarf) as being oppressive to
women, an obstacle to social integration, and more recently, as an Egyptian
official called it -“a sign of backwardness.”
I find it to be a blatant hypocrisy when some
people and so-called human rights groups rush to defend women’s rights when
some governments impose a certain dress code on women, yet such “freedom
fighters” look the other way when women are being deprived of their rights,
work, and education just because they choose to exercise their right to wear
Today I am still a feminist, but a Muslim
feminist, who calls on Muslim women to assume their responsibilities in
providing all the support they can for their husbands to be good Muslims. To
raise their children as upright Muslims so they may be beacons of light for all
humanity once again. To enjoin good -any good - and to forbid evil -any evil.
To speak righteousness and to speak up against all ills. To fight for our
right to wear Hijab and to please our Creator whichever way we chose. But just
as importantly to carry our experience with Hijab to fellow women who may never
have had the chance to understand what wearing Hijab means to us and why do we,
so dearly, embrace it.
Willingly or unwillingly, women are bombarded
with styles of “dressing-in-little-to-nothing” virtually in every means of
communication everywhere in the world. As an ex Non-Muslim, I insist on
women’s right to equally know about Hijab, its virtues, and the peace and
happiness it brings to a woman’s life as it did to mine. Yesterday, the bikini
was the symbol of my liberty, when in actuality it only liberated me from my
spirituality and true value as a respectable human being.
I couldn’t be happier to shed my bikini in South Beach and the “glamorous” Western lifestyle to live in peace with my Creator and
enjoy living among fellow humans as a worthy person.
Today, Hijab is the new symbol of woman’s
liberation to find who she is, what her purpose is, and the type of relation
she chooses to have with her Creator.
To women who surrender to the ugly stereotype
against the Islamic modesty of Hijab, I say: You don’t know what you are