This post was last updated on January 29th, 2019
Muslim women who don’t wear hijab are in the unfortunate position to get a lot of outrageous comments from Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
While I understand that non-Muslims don’t necessarily know a lot of things about Islam and may want to ask certain questions there are some things that are really insensitive. Some questions are better left to Google if you’re not willing to actually read a book on the matter.
On the other end of the spectrum, many fellow Muslims tend to feel like somehow their commentary is actually welcome.
In order to make things very simple for everyone, I hereby present to you the twelve things you should never say to a Muslim woman who doesn’t wear hijab.
1. You’re one of the good Muslims, right?
First, this comment assumes that Muslims are somehow bad people. Trying to elevate me to the status of “VIP Muslim” because of the way I dress is not going to make me feel as “honored” as you might think.
Second, not dressing in a way that some people expect Muslim women to dress says very little about actual belief systems.
2. You can’t be feminist and Muslim.
This one comes from both Muslims and non-Muslims alike and is a statement that Muslim feminists have to hear regardless of how they dress. I have already explained in my posts on Islam vs. Feminism
and Islamic Feminism
that the two don’t contradict each other at all.
On top of that, please don’t tell me if my different identities match or not. You don’t decide what I can or can’t be. I am both of those things, and your opinion will not change how I identify.
3. Finally somebody who accepts our Western values./You’re Westernized.
To the non-Muslims: If by Western values you mean things such as paying women less than men you can keep those to yourself.
To the Muslims: If by Westernized you mean that I don’t believe women need to hide their bodies then yes.
There are different reasons for not wearing hijab, but trying to be more “Western” is not usually one of them. I have explained why, as a progressive Muslim woman, I don’t wear hijab.
4. But other Muslim women I have met wear hijab.
You know, other Christians I have met like to wear skirts, but that’s not really relevant to their religion, is it? The hijab is not a symbol of religiosity. One who wears it is not more or less religious than someone who doesn’t, and they are most definitely not the standard by which all other Muslim women should be measured.
5. Are you even Muslim?/You don’t look like a Muslim.
Just because I don’t dress in a way that you associate with my religion doesn’t mean I don’t believe in it. Just because you are used to associating Muslim women with the hijab doesn’t mean that it is common in all Muslim cultures.
6. Your prayer is not valid if you don’t dress properly.
Oh, the self-appointed religious police. Under the guise of, “enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is evil” they offer unsolicited advice to other Muslims. Guess what, I didn’t ask for your advice and might know more about Islamic jurisprudence than you do. You know what’s even better, God can do the job of Judge just fine and doesn’t need your help. Feel free to focus on your own religious life.
7. You’ll be ready for it soon, insha’allah.
We are now entering the territory of those well-intentioned people who think that we actually want to wear hijab but we have some psychological obstacles to overcome. I don’t want to diminish the fact that some Muslim women who don’t wear hijab actually do want to wear it. However, the vast majority of Muslim women I have met who don’t wear hijab choose not to wear it.
8. You look so beautiful with hijab, masha’allah.
Every once in a while even Muslim women who don’t wear hijab decide to wear it. This could be because they believe they should wear it in certain settings, or even because they go somewhere they are forced to wear it (like mosques or certain countries). Whenever that happens, there is at least one fellow Muslim sister who makes a comment about how this woman looks so great with hijab that she should always wear it. Clearly, this is completely beside the point that hijab proponents claim the hijab has.
If you’re at the point where you want to use someone’s vanity in order to lure them into wearing hijab something is seriously wrong with you.
9. Nobody will marry you if you don’t wear hijab!
The assumption that marriage is desirable comes, of course, from the saying that “marriage is half the faith.” But even if we were to assume that, should this be the reason for wearing hijab? And what exactly is the value of a marriage which is based on somebody’s fashion choices?
10. If you don’t wear hijab then no wonder non-Muslims think it’s a bad thing.
I remember this one very vividly. We were at a Muslim women’s seminar. About 75% of the women there wore hijab, 25% didn’t. Of the 25% who didn’t wear hijab, at least 95% were extremely knowledgeable on Islam and knew why they were not wearing it.
First of all, why don’t you stop caring about what non-Muslims think of your hijab?
Second, don’t make me responsible for how people react to your fashion choices. Thank you.
11. You will distract the brothers.
Let me tell you this, Muslim gatherings are marriage markets. The amount to which both men and women actively seek out partners in these situations is shocking. Both men and women are extremely aware of who is present on the other side of the room, whether they are single or married, etc. This has nothing to do with hijab. In fact, if you go back to point 9, there are men who clearly prefer women who wear hijab, so these women are stared at even more intensely.
And no, I’m not accepting responsibility for someone else’s thoughts or behavior.
12. Any analogy including pearls, diamonds, lollipops etc.
For those who are not in the know, there was a famous ad comparing women to lollipops where women with hijab were symbolized by wrapped lollipops, and women without hijab by lollipops without the wrapper, surrounded by flies.
Much has been said about these comparisons, both as far as comparing women to objects goes, as well as the image of men (thieves who want to steal jewels, flies who surround lollipops) they portray.
All I really want to do after hearing or seeing those comments is throw up as if I had been eating nothing but lollipops all day.
Now that you have read through all of these you really don’t have an excuse anymore to say things like this to Muslim women who don’t wear hijab.
If I forgot anything please comment below.