An instructor told us a story of how one Memorial day, when she was in Washington DC, she was in a restaurant with a friend having lunch, when she saw a woman who was completely covered in wearing a black abaya at another table. She said, “I was frightened when I saw her, she was covering her face and playing with her iPhone, which is weird for me”. My friend Ragheb and I were laughing about that. We explained it to our instructor that it is normal in the culture of an Islamic country. We told her that if you had spoken with her she would have been happy to communicate with you.
Every country has its cultures, religions, and beliefs that guide how people who live in them behave. Many people only catch a limited glimpse of other countries’ ethics, and what they mean. These people use their perspective to create individual and group attitudes and beliefs about each culture. As the example involving the instructor demonstrated, sometimes these impressions are negative. This story is an example of how people consider any woman who wears the hijab, especially abaya, to be an awful scene; which is wrong. Subsequently, Muslim women who wear the hijab and the abaya look for the rights that allow them to practice religion without any discrimination in the U.S. as it is a free country, a democratic country.
What is hijab?
The hijab is a scriptural warrant that Muslim women wear to cover their hair front of men; otherwise, they can show it up. A hijab has many styles in which it can be worn such as a scarf (hijab), a veil (niqab), or an abaya, (which covers everything from head to toe). How Muslim women choice to wear the hijab, depends on the country they live in. For example, in Saudi Arabia, women wear the abaya which means the abaya has become associated with Saudi Arabia’s culture and tradition.
The reasons Muslim women wear a hijab are related to faith, protection, identity and discipline. So, every woman who covers her head believes that they are maintaining the principles and disciplines that could protect them from dangerous circumstances. Also, the hijab identifies Muslim women, and helps others know how to contact and deal with them. Therein, the Islamic religion gives women respect, consideration, and dignity. By wearing the hijab Muslim women show the whole world how to communicate with them; decently, limitedly, and kindly.
How to deal with Muslim women?
An Islamic woman is not different from other, non-Islamic women. Muslim women may make regular contact with any person who respects her. Shealso has the rights to work, study, and be an important person in the community. Furthermore, she can direct and make decisions, obtaining positions, such as, director, manager, or politician. However, the biggest difference between Muslim women and non-Muslim women is that the men who are not considering a member of her family may not touch her, shake hands or see her without the hijab. Genuinely, Islamic women need your help in accepting their appearances and the right to practice their religion freely.
Similarly like some other ethnic groups, wearing the hijab and abaya in a community that is not home, is very hard. Muslim women do not feel entirely safe and secure, like at home. They may face unexpected things that bother and hurt them when they don’t wear the hijab. Genuinely, Muslim women need your understanding to practice their religion.
Ragheb Irqasous & Shimaa Alansari
International Students studying at Dominican
A student leadership project in cooperation with LISSA’s Propose a Project Service Committee