Hijab what is it really and why do we judge what we don't understand so harshly?

Hijab what is it really and why do we judge what we don't understand so harshly?

The terror unleashed in Christchurch has given New Zealand, and the world, pause to consider the world around us. And one of the things that was hotly discussed was Jacinda's decision to wear Hijab.

Given her position of authority, she could have ignored the cultural aspects and shown up as she would usually have, even in the mosque. She is our prime minister after all.

However, Jacinda chose to wear Hijab and demonstrate a deep respect for the pain of the people involved, without adding to the distress on either side (male or female), as religious views and customs in these situations tend to be heightened and more likely to create tension.

From the western side, we all know what happens with family when it comes to weddings and funerals with stress and tensions, much same here, except worse, much much worse with what went on.

While I'm not the most religious bloke in the world, my older children grew up Catholic, and my wife is Hindu, and I've worked closely alongside Muslims and people of other faith's in the past, it's never been about who or what you worship, but who you are and how you conduct yourself with those around.

Today I have clients from all over the world who live here in New Zealand who I am working with, and my son goes to a school where there is more cultural diversity than I have seen anywhere else before. And everyone gets on just fine.

Yet, we have the noise, this is not us, this is us, we don't do this, we don't do that, and we should or should not do xyz. The reality is that we have a widely multicultural population.

Yes, in Auckland it is significantly more pronounced, and as you get away from the major centres, the diversity does drop off. However, the bulk of our people are from everywhere, as Kiwi's are also everywhere around the world.

So when I came across the following from Sidra Choudary, I really appreciated the time and courage it took to put what follows in writing. Moreover, for me, it has helped understand some of the finer points on why we see the Hijab in our society, in our streets, malls, and schools.

And also why it is something we need to appreciate is a personal choice, and it isn't always about oppression and virtual slavery. Yes, as Sidra mentions it is used for oppression, but not everywhere and not for the reasons we might assume from what we have seen on the news.

So thank you Sidra for both putting this together for us non-Muslim's but also for the permission to share it here.

Also, for those of the Muslim faith, please appreciate this was written for a western audience who doesn't understand, to help them understand.

I'll leave the rest to Sidra to cover.

Although I do not consider myself to be a good enough Muslim, I tried to answer according to my knowledge and understanding and as honestly as I could. It's a little long and primitive so bear with me please, remember it was for my non-muslim friends.

This is the answer to the question about Hijab since it is the most asked question and I think being a woman I should start with this.

We believe Islam is a way of life, and we are taught everything from day to day chores to issues like war and peace. Yes, hijab is part of our commandments but is it among the last of the commandments that Islam gave us. Following Islam is like climbing steps, meaning we need to start with the first commandments and climb our way upwards in our faith. This means that we are supposed to know, understand and follow everything that came before it to become a good Muslim.

Islam encourages to bring the change in yourself from inside out, that's the whole reason of having the commandment about hijab come last because it encourages us to change our inner self first and then our outer self. But for some people, it makes more sense to change their outer appearance first to start this journey. It's like when something happens in our life or we go through a breakup and we change our hair or wardrobe to feel better and different. Similarly, for these people, they need to start doing hijab to feel closer to their religion and a connection with God. Some of them did something in their life that they regret like hurting someone or breaking someone's heart and are trying to repent, some want to feel closer to their religion and God, others are trying to find some sort of deeper meaning in life. Everyone is going through something that leads to this change, so please be empathetic and understanding in their journey of understanding their life. They are at different points in their journey, some reach the hijab phase first, some later, and some never do.

Since Islam teaches us the way of life, the ultimate purpose of it is to be above and beyond the materialistic pleasures of this world and lead a simple life that is all about helping others and ourselves. When we see the Buddhist monks, we never question why they wearing the red robes and have shaven heads, its because we know that they are living in a reality where all these things are meaningless. They have a whole different frame of reference that is above and beyond these things. Similarly, that is the ultimate purpose of Islam, to live a life beyond the petty issues of this world. And hijab for a woman and beard for a man serves the same purpose, to not be obsessed with the looks, or what to wear and how to dress, these things have no real value in Islam and in life itself.

The second part is the identity part. Being a Muslim it is important for us, or at least it used to be before 9/11 that people know that we are good practising Muslims. That when we step out of our home just by looking at us from far people would know this is a Muslim woman with certain values e.g she would not be shaking hands with men, or hugging them etc which a lot of women find uncomfortable. But also a sign of pride, that we are Muslims and we are proud and we live a certain way of life.

Thirdly, it is a cultural thing, some of my far of relative women put a scarf on their head when an elderly person enters the room. It is a way of showing respect to the elders, which I found to be very sweet because its a way of making the elderly people feel respected and loved without having to do much. In most parts of my country doing hijab is considered to be what noble women do from a respectable family, which is not unheard of since even the royals are supposed to dress up in a certain conservative way as we all know. There are some parts of my country where you have to do hijab when you go out of the house, like villages because you respect the cultural value of that area.

Most women do hijab with their own free will, yes some women are forced to, but they are very few and mainly in the parts of the country where there is little or no education, and their problem is not extremism but lack of education and awareness. I have never come across a single woman in my life who did hijab and regretted it, and this is saying something because I have lived most of my life around women who do.

Lastly, with the world moving towards minimalism, I cannot emphasise on the kind of freedom and peace of mind wearing the same hijab every single day brings. People like Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs knew this sort of value and freedom when they wore the same attire every single day. I myself know many women who do hijab and they carry on with their lives with a little bit ease. They spend their time looking after their children, studying, working and doing whatever they do, without being concerned about how they are looking or what they are wearing.

It is also important to keep in mind that there are 1.5 Billion Muslims in the world consisting of all kinds of people. Do you really think there are no rowdy teenagers over there? When you tell a teenager to wear hijab do you think she will do it if she doesn't want to? Trust me that never happens, I was a rowdy teenager once and I know. Of course, some of them will be ultra conservative and on the other hand, there will be super liberal people also. Some of my best friends wore hijab and they are the most inspirational and intelligent women I know who are now working as engineers in the US and IT consultants in Sweden. It's just the way the world is, we may be different in our beliefs but we all are humans and have the same values about right and wrong. We all have a conscience that tells us what to do and what not to do, religion only guides us in making the best possible choices to live our life.

#hijab #islam #beingmuslim #freedom #livenandletlive #peace #love #sisters #strongwomen

Jon-Paul Hale

Written by : Jon-Paul Hale

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