When people pontificate on my freedom or lack of it because of my burqa, this is the reality that none of them sees. For all the love of revolutions and disruptive activism, we forget to acknowledge a nuance where not everything is a violent disruption. There is a ‘quiet activism’ where we change things from within. It is impossible to embody values that stress a community and then expect them to reform in any way. Nobody trusts an outsider.
There is surely something to learn from the power that women can have from being free of the shackles of being an object catering to a man’s every desire. We are not walking fantasies. We are people who should be able to spend our brain cells and precious time pursuing things beyond making our shells look as shiny as possible.
It’s understandable that some girls are forced to wear the hijab. Assuming but not conceding that the hijab ban is to protect these girls, how is it that France bans the hijab for under-18 girls and in the same course of events, lowers the age of consent to 15? The audacity to think women can handle being 15 and have to right to consent to anything but can’t be under-18 and have the right to wear the hijab.
Al Aqsa was awe-inspiring but deteriorating from neglect. A big behemoth of a staircase challenged its foundations from the vantage point of the Wailing Wall weakening them as part of archaeological efforts to uncover ancient Jewish holy sites.
In this world where it sometimes seems that the only thing that matters is whether you’re a nice thing to look at or not, then I don’t want to be a thing to look at. Give me the choice of being the art or the artist, and I’ll choose the artist. Covering myself from head to toe is my liberation from the prying eyes of the public that expect something beautiful in return for the place I demand in the world.
Hijabis can’t do this, sit like that, joke about this, or try that. Hijabis must do this, sit like that, talk about this, listen to that. Hijabis are hijabis before they are girls, before they are people, before they are human. And, above all, hijabis must endure. I understand endurance of pain, loss, fear, hardships. But of deteriorating esteem? Of waning expressiveness? Of a noticeable loss in femininity? Of a dwindling perception of the self?
As a Muslim, I try my best to talk about Islam in the way I believe it to be true and not in the way that the media would like to portray me as. I remember somewhere in the conversation, she mentioned how when she went to Dubai, couples were not allowed to hold hands and how she found that to be backwards. I told her, it is their culture and it is their country and if you did not like it, you do not have to go there.
Women who don’t become pregnant have been presumed to have weak morality and stereotyped as promiscuous or masculine. From the snide comments about her chastity and medical history to the explicit confrontations about whether or not she has had an abortion in the past or has been using contraceptives to avoid getting pregnant, the issue of infertility is a leading cause of anxiety and mental health issues for many women.
Women’s voices are still struggling to be heard unfiltered even when they bring up their own grievous stories. They still come out mixed up with judgment and fear, they receive the request to be polite and they often collide with society’s will to cut out the most unsettling parts. Hence the very popular choice of silence instead of voicing violence, racism, and homotransphobia. Marginalized people do prefer keeping silent than seeing their stories thrown in the public sphere with little chance of a truthful narrative.
Over time, I found that the questions couldn’t be shushed anymore. Whenever I was around women, these questions would come to me. “Do you ever consider taking it off?” I would ponder. “Now that you are wearing it, how did you get to this stage? Who are you wearing it for?” These questions demanded answers. These are topics we should be able to discuss at great length, but these subjects, whenever brought up in conversations, are met with stark disapproval and resignation, as though they were blasphemy.