After the storm…the lull. It’s amazing, the amount of din, a piece of cloth – the scarf, could generate. But like other controversies, this has also subsided, but not without leaving its traces. Its ripples can be still felt on some faces when they encounter hijabs and veils – a raised eyebrow or a crease in the nose… (as if I’m fettered.)
True, now that all opinions and discussions have been exhausted, it doesn’t occupy much space in newspapers and debate halls, but I do occasionally get ambushed by a flinch or two when I walk out in my hijab. It hurts.
A patient observer I was of the entire show, holding on to my opinion, like I hold on to my scarf, lest it gets drowned in the pandemonium. But now that the fog has somewhat cleared, does anyone care for a few words from the horse’s mouth?
I do the hijab…proudly. It is my badge of honour. I just wish to be recognised not for my beauty or for the lack of it, but for my mind, my personality. (Is that an unrealistic demand that’s not feasible in today’s civilized society that can accommodate nudists but not hijab clad women?) I am more than my face, more than my clothes. Why should my appearance have a role in determining my social interaction?
Am I an eyesore? Perhaps… But I can’t care less. I don’t want to be an eye candy, that’s all I know. I’m not out on a mission to please and impress.
It hinders communication with me, does it? But Mr. Straw’s convenience is the last thing on my mind. If his communication skills get defeated by a veil, I suggest he seek more expertise…I’m not magnanimous enough to donate any tenet of my faith to serve someone else’s comfort…
If my hijab causes ‘separation and difference’, so be it. (I hide no bombs and knives in the seam of my scarf or veil). But I do wonder that when turbans, saffron dhotis, habits, cassocks, yarmulkes… don’t stand out, why is it that my hijab sticks out like a sore thumb? How am I supposed to react when I’m expected to feel humbled and grateful at this polite and generous offer of assimilation with society? Should I barter my hijab to buy full membership of society?
In that case, I choose the former.
So all those who wish to liberate me from "subjugation", may I help take off a little burden off your backs. How much ever I appreciate your concern, you have to know that my hijab does not shackle me. It’s not radical militancy. No, it isn’t forced silence either. I’m in it because I want to be in it.
It did not stop me from penning down this piece. It did not stop Ruqaya Al Ghasara from winning the gold. (200M, Doha. December 11, 2006.)