Who fears the Hijab?
This is the history and reality of a cultural element that has been misrepresented and has become a symbol of fear.
The identity of Muslim women seems to be everyone's business now. It is time to take a look at history and ask ourselves what is true and what’s not in what the media shares, in a battle for the survival of Occidentalism.
The month of March recalls the struggle of women for the equal positions, opportunities and recognition in the world, against a society accustomed to the duality of genders.
Blonde women in bikinis, with prominent breasts and extreme thinness, have become the ideal stereotype, leaving aside the multiplicity of bodies, colors and cultures that feed the real web of identities.
A Muslim woman is now easily recognizable on the street, and her identity has become a stigma. Many cases of discrimination occur daily (as the American Civil Liberties Union reports) and it is a phenomenon that does not distinguish latitudes.
In August 2016, John Bingham expounded in his column in The Telegraph the complications that Muslim women face in finding work. And in September of the same year, Rana Elmir wrote in The Chicago Tribune how sometimes cases can be much more aggressive.
In Europe, the veil issue has come to a legislative level, with France being the first country to ban the use of full veils, as well as the "burkini" in 2011, followed immediately by Belgium. Between 2016 and 2017, Germany, England and Italy have joined the prohibition of the veil in public and administrative places.
While secular states, such as France and Turkey, have tried to maintain a homogeneity in the policies of religious demonstrations, the veil and the Muslim woman who chooses to use it are more than ever at the epicenter of multicultural debate and acceptance.
Considering that March is the month of women's struggle, we wanted to pay tribute to those women who have decided to act on their Faith and their ideals in a Westernized world where Islamophobia seems to be the greatest barrier to personal development.
Who fears a woman with a hijab?
Who dares to understand the difference?
In today's Western world, the diversity of perspectives and cultures seem to have merged into a collective of people who recognize each other on the street according to what they have been taught to look at.
Being a man or woman in the 21st century means a great number of cultural constructs define us and compel us to rediscover ourselves every day, in the street, in the eyes of others.
Many researchers assume that the events of 9/11 marked a historical pattern not only in international politics but also in our visual culture. It was the first worldwide catastrophe perceived simultaneously and in real time by all global societies. It was the first time that a retaliation from the East was manifested on North American soil, generating a diatribe that would escalate with the progress of the 21st century.
The consequences of such an event would be transformed in the following years into a battle for the right to identity and a repulsion to generalized stereotypes.
The symbology that previously referred us to a universe of stories like One Thousand and One Nights (the turban, the pointed sandals, the desert and the camels), nowadays directs us to terrorism, war, Osama Bin Laden and the image stamped on our unconscious of the collapse of the World Trade Center.
But how much has been lost? How much reality and history has been replaced by political rhetoric and domination?
It is essential to begin by understanding that Islam is the third largest monotheistic Faith in the Middle East, and also the last to emerge, after Judaism and Christianity.
"Islam" means "submission," and its letters are combined to form, in Arabic, the word "peace."
Considered one of the strictest religions in the world today, especially after the structuring of the great economic empires of the twentieth century, Islam is really a way of life, and those who identify with it and those who profess their Faith in "Allah" call themselves Muslims.
To be a Muslim is both a birthright and an individual decision, and the only requirement is the declaration of Faith in Allah as sole God or "witnessing" (shahāda in Arabic), which traditionally prays "There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet. "
The pre-Islamic Arab people existed and was recognized among several tribes that covered the entire peninsula. Their polytheistic devotion diverged towards the respect of several natural entities that were accumulated in the Kaaba or sacred enclosure that represented the main religious point of Mecca - pilgrimage site and therefore commercial nucleus.
It was then when Muhammad (Mecca, 570) asserted that Allah had revealed to him the truth about the Faith through the angel Gabriel, who commissioned him to free the Arab people from the false deities from Medina, and to transform the Kaaba into a sacred center for Allah , The Only.
Each of God's revelations to Muhammad manifested itself in different ways (orally, in palm leaves, pieces of leather, etc.) and were gathered in 114 chapters (suras) that have different verses, and that finally formed the Koran.
Muhammad succeeded in converting many of the men of the tribes near Mecca, who would join his army to conquer the "infidels" by force, which would allow the domination of all Arabia through a government that determined Islam as a social, military and religious force that managed to include Persia, Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Armenia and North Africa, even penetrating for 800 years, in the Iberian peninsula.
Being Islam is the last of the monotheistic religions and Muhammad the last of the prophets, his birth could not ignore the presence of other religions and of practicing citizens. Islam recognizes Christianity and Judaism as established religions, as well as recognizes the prophets, from Adam to Abraham, and considers Jesus Christ as one of the envoys of God, the only one to guide His people to a devotion that destroys the Existence of any other deity.
Thus, traditions such as fasting, ceremonies, and attire are particular to more religions than to Islam.
It is curious that few people recognize that Mary, the mother of God, is always represented with a veil that covers her head, and that women who have received the "call of God" and adopted the habits of the Catholic Church are also covered. It seems that this symbol is closer to us and less aggressive because of its normalization.
But when we think of the Muslim woman, we automatically consider that the veil she has decided to wear is a symbol of male oppression and has become the icon of a theocracy (religious mode of government) that supposedly has declared war on the world we know as our own.
The veil is not a Muslim invention. On the contrary, the images of veiled women precede the three Abrahamic religions, being able to find images of more than 2,500 years before Christ.
The covering of the body in ancient Mesopotamia and in the Persian, Byzantine, and Greek empires was a symbol of respectability and social status, and was determined by the class, rank, and occupation of women.
In fact, in ancient times, slave women and prostitutes were prohibited from using the veil, under penalty of serious punishment, as the garment differentiated respectable women from those that were "available."
In the Jewish religion, the veil was a matter of modesty that distinguished the Jewish woman from the others, and was obligatory at the time of the invention of Christianity.
By the time of Muhammad, the veil was already used in various tribes and religions, and the term hijab did not distinguish between "covering" and "curtain."
It was the successors of Mohammed who collected all the sayings and actions of the prophet, as well as the accounts close to him, in what is known as "hadith" or "conversation." The hadiths are the basis of the Sunnah, the second source of Muslim law after the Qur'an, and whose literal translation is "conduct, way of behaving or custom," and it is they who dictate the social rules of the Muslim.
It was Muhammad who for the first time forbade his wives to be seen by those who visited him frequently, as well as ordered his guests to distance themselves to protect his wives from strangers.
The gradual transformation of the sayings of the prophet and the interpretations of the verses of the Qur’an would frame the tradition of wearing the veil in the Muslim religion.
So the Noor Sura (Light) in verses 30-31 of the Qur'an establishes the principle of the law of modesty, both on Muslim men and women and prays: "Tell believing men that they should look down and protect their modesty, this will be greater purity for them, and God is well aware of all that they do. "
"And tell believing women that they should look down and protect their modesty, and that they should not show their beauty and adornments, except what is visible by themselves, that they should put their veils on their breast and not show their beauty, except for their husbands, "he continues.
The Qur’an does not specify that women should cover beyond their chest, nor does it determine any kind of punishment for women who are not covered.
During the beginning of Islam, Muslims were harassed and persecuted by those who did not believe and perceived them as a threat to social stability. That is why Allah said to Muhammad: "Those who unjustly harass believing men and women, carry a calumny and a most grievous sin. Oh Prophet! Impose the wives of the true believers to put their outer garments. The most convenient thing is that they can be distinguished and not harassed. And God is compassionate and merciful. " (Chapter 33, verses 58-59).
The transformation of the words of God received by the Prophet is a matter of discussion, for it seems that the message of Islamic doctrine lagged behind rather tribal matters, without taking into account the true and broad sense of the hijab.
The morality and modesty of the Muslim goes much beyond the dress. It is a way of living regardless of the type of veil that women can or can not use.
Likewise, the stringency and type of veil used by a Muslim woman may be subject to many variables.
Nazira Zain al-Din, a Lebanese academic and writer born in 1908, studied and demonstrated the reality of the Muslim woman, criticizing the measures taken by Arab society - away from the true message of Islam - to degrade and oppress women.
Zain al-Din explores in her book "Faith and Freedom: Women's Rights in the Muslim World" the reality of iconography implied to women, stating that morality and consciousness go far beyond the veil, ensuring that it is not an Islamic duty of Muslim women to carry the hijab, but an individual decision.
Today, to cover has become a political manifesto for the sovereignty of the Arab countries, in protest against the Western intrusion into Middle Eastern affairs. The Arab has always been able to differentiate between the supposed mission of the West for the "defense of the principles of democracy and freedom", and the reality and economic interests of mineral exploitation that have always been the thread of military invasions during the 20th and 21st Centuries.
The hijab is a word that conglomerates several types of veils, being the most popular in the West. It consists of one or two scarves that cover the head and neck, and is often used by Muslim women in the Arab world.
The nicab is a dress that covers the entire body, head and face, leaving an open space for the eyes. It can have a half-body format and is most commonly used in Gulf countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Iraq, Kuwait, Iran and Oman. Nicab has been the object of political conflicts, especially in Europe, after its prohibition in countries like France.
The chador is a feminine street garment that covers the whole body and closes at the level of the neck thanks to a pin. It covers the head and the body but leaves the face visible, and is frequently used in Iran.
And finally the burqa, it is the veil that completely covers the body, without allowing the visibility even of the hands, allowing the woman to see through a blanket in the form of a mask that covers her eyes. It is frequently used in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and has been transformed into an ordinance thanks to the Taliban regime in the region.
The type of veil a woman uses always depends on her individual decision to use it, the family tradition to which she belongs and the Arabian region she comes from. Tradition dictates that women should begin wearing the veil once they enter puberty, in the presence of adult males who do not belong to their immediate family, although, as we have emphasized, each circumstance is different.
To radicalize our prejudices and judgments on a subject so variable and with so much debate is to ignore religious empathy and omit the similarities between Islam and the beliefs closest to home.
Although the Qur'an has never forced a woman to cover herself, and the Prophet only spoke of his wives in reference to their attire, the wearing of the veil on the part of the Muslim society has had to do with the transformation of the religious system and the adaptation to interests outside of religion.
The veil can be seen as a vehicle for distinguishing the position of women versus men in some societies, just as other beliefs such as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints use dress to differentiate and to make a statement of their Faith.
Likewise, some sociologists, such as Caitlin Killian, claim that the veil is a "tool to control man's sexual desire," keeping the temptation out of sight.
Currently, the ways of professing the Faith, of living it and of adapting the lifestyle to a society whose political system is intimately linked to religion, is a matter that must be observed with several lenses.
The veil and the decision to use it depends on a multiplicity of factors that can range from the political manifestation of a woman to what she believes to be fair and what identifies her, to the system of male oppression in some (very few, in fact) territories in the world.
There are thousands of Muslim women who do not need to wear the veil to identify themselves as such, as there are thousands of young millennials who have decided to wear a veil because they identify with what it represents for them and for the circle from which they come.
One way or another, the Western world must face the reality that freedom is the right of each individual to manifest his Faith and his way of living, whatever his belief may be or the place he may come from.
Thus, the Hijab is far from being a synonym of terrorism or oppression, as much as a crucifix or the Kipá, and deserves the same respect as any other since it does not intend to leave soon.
It’s only a matter of seeing the acceptance and the advertising adaptation that the veil has had in the last years (in the last campaign of Nike for muslim sportswomen, for example), to know that the Hijab is here to stay. Welcome!