Last Updated on January 17, 2021 by Nina Ahmedow
As a confident Muslim woman, I have written in the past about things you shouldn’t say to Muslim women who don’t wear hijab. Because those comments and questions are annoying. But I understand that some of you may not know much about Muslim women so I’m answering some questions in this post.
There Are Many Muslim Women Who Don’t Wear Hijab
No, not all Muslim women wear hijab. There is an enormous level of diversity in the Muslim world, and women from Senegal to Indonesia, from Bosnia to Oman all have different ways we choose to live. Christian women in Ireland probably don’t dress, think, or live the same way as Christian women in Bolivia, do they? I’ve mentioned this when I talked about Orientalism in travel writing.
Should you wear hijab in solidarity with Muslim women? Whether it’s on “World Hijab Day” or when there’s a violent attack against Muslims, there’s always a group of non-Muslim women who put on hijab in solidarity with Muslim women. It might be well-intentioned, but it doesn’t help anyone.
But why shouldn’t I wear a hijab to show my solidarity with Muslim women? Which Muslim women do you mean? Certainly not all of us because there are many of us who don’t wear hijab. And some of us have very strong convictions against wearing it. Choosing the hijab as your symbol of solidarity erases us and ignores our struggle as well as the internal Islamic debate surrounding hijab. I don’t usually see the same women showing solidarity with women in Iran who protest against forced hijab. The same is true for your “intersectional” graphs in which Muslim women are represented by a woman who wears hijab. Hijab doesn’t define us. Please stop.
Wearing hijab does not mean a person is more or less religious. There are different reasons Muslim women wear or don’t wear hijab, but it doesn’t speak to whether or not we fast, pray, or give alms (some of the pillars of Islam).
Women put on or take off hijab all the time. I know several women who used to wear hijab but eventually took it off, and likewise, there are women who used to not wear it and then start.
Yes, I’ve worn hijab in mosques. Most mosques will not allow women to enter without covering their hair. So women who don’t usually wear it bring along a scarf and put it on before entering. Then we take it off when we leave. I’ve seen some Christian women do the same thing. But given the choice I’d prefer not to have to do it. By the way, I have never felt as policed about what I wore as in Malta, a staunchly Catholic country. (I still loved Malta though.)
Yes, there are different styles of hijab. Although many people will comment on what is or isn’t “proper hijab” there are in facts hundreds of ways those who do wear it choose to dress. From turbans, to scarves tied behind the head or below the chin, combined with shorter or long sleeves, all the way to face veils, there are a lot of different ways women dress.
So those are some of the main things that people seem to be confused about. I’m perfectly fine without hijab, and despite what you may think it doesn’t make me any less Muslim. There are a lot of judgmental people out there (Muslims and non-Muslims alike). Please let women simply be.
Lily | imperfect idealistAugust 25, 2020 at 5:58 pm
I meant to comment on this earlier, but I think this is a really important post. It makes a lot of sense that choosing the hijab as a symbol of solidarity leaves a lot of women out, and that it’s problematic to use a woman wearing a hijab as a “symbol” of Muslim women. It’s kind of ridiculous that there’s so much pushback on both sides – people wanting to force/pressure women to wear a hijab, and people wanting to force/pressure women to not wear one (like the French government). Life would be a lot easier if people just let women be.
Nina AhmedowAugust 26, 2020 at 5:59 pm
Yes, the patriarchy at its best, sadly!
AnaSeptember 28, 2020 at 2:01 am
People are so judgmental it makes me mad.
Regarding the solidarity thing, I’m against that type of empty gesture.
Nina AhmedowSeptember 28, 2020 at 4:32 pm
Thanks for your comment, Ana!
AshaApril 11, 2022 at 9:29 am
Thank you…i needed to read this as a Muslim woman who does not wear hijab( the mean comments,cruel words and hurtful comments are mostly from fellow muslimah)
Nina AhmedowApril 11, 2022 at 3:44 pm
I’m sorry to hear about your experiences, Asha! Insha’allah this Ramazan you will be protected from these hurtful behaviors from others.