‘Hijab is my choice, not my compulsion! I CHOSE this, no one forced me to dress this way!’
Ah, this was a sentence I uttered many times as a muslimah. Prior to converting(wow I almost typed ‘reverting’!) I was a pretty glamorous woman. Loved heels, loved sexy dresses, loved makeup. But as a proper muslim woman all that had to go. I began modifying my wardrobe before I took shahadah. My hemline dropped to my ankles, cleavage was gone and my hair was concealed. Adopting hijab seemed like a no-brainer; I just did it. Indeed it was my choice, no one forced me to do it. When I abandoned hijab that was my choice as well.
Muslim women in the West, especially converts, are passionate in their defense of hijab. You know what is ironic about this? We’re only able to do this due to the fact that we live in the West. It is the secularism of the West-which some Muslims criticize-which gives Muslim women this very choice! Hijab was only a choice for me because I’m American and came to Islam of my own free will. Had I been born elsewhere in the world, or had I been born into a strict Muslim family I wouldn’t have the privilege of defending hijab in such a flippant and self-righteous manner.
This was all brought home to me when I joined a messageboard for ex-Muslims. I had a lot of Islamic clothing that I wasn’t sure what to do with. I figured that I’d start a thread asking fellow ex-Muslimahs how they disposed of their old clothing. Some replied that they had done nothing with the clothing as they still had to wear it. They didn’t live in communities where removing their hijab was even an option. These ladies had completely broken away from Islam mentally and didn’t care for it. Yet they are forced to live a lie and perpetrate due to intense familial and societal pressures.
As I read their responses I realized how self-centered and spoiled I had been. When I argued with people about hijab and proudly proclaimed that I had chosen it, did I even stop to think of the millions of Muslim women that had not? Did I stop to think about my sisters who were forced to don khimars and abayas under duress and the threat of violence? Did I stop to think about the fact that this duress was done in the name of the faith I followed? Sadly, I did not. Hijab may have been a choice for me and other converts, but it was incredibly narcissistic for me to behave as if that was the reality of every Muslim woman.