A large number of Muslim women around the world wear headscarves as part of a partial fulfillment of the hijab. Observing hijab is about much more than just dress code, and is by no means confined to women alone. Wearing the headscarf does make Muslim women very visible – and with that comes many questions and comments. FATIMA MOOSA rounds up some of the funny and not funny things headscarf-wearing Muslim women hear.
Many Muslim woman around the world wear the headscarf for a number of reasons. Muslim women are not a monolithic group of people. Some people wear it for modesty, others wear because that’s their observation of the hijab, while some might wear it as a political statement. Above all, it’s a personal choice for most women – not to be policed by anybody. Muslim women are individuals and each one of us practise our religion differently.
Questions about whether we have to wear it are extremely irritating. Many different people read and interpret the religious scriptures differently. For some – like me – I think it’s obligatory for me to wear it. Others might not think so. It’s all up to the individual and what they chose. If I don’t get to ask you about your life choices – don’t ask me about mine.
During winter earlier this year, I was adjusting my headscarf in the bathroom, when a woman walks in and says: “Oh it must be very nice to wear that in winter but I’m sure it gets very hot in the summer.” Completely nonplussed at the comment, the only reply I had was: “There are cooler materials for the summer.” All I could think was that comment completely missed the point of why I wear the headscarf. Yes, that’s what it’s for: keeping warm.
A fan favourite question is whether you are forced to wear it, followed by: are you married? While some Muslim women are forced to wear the headscarf and there is no denying their experiences, many women wear it out of a personal choice: a choice that is made separate from any man in their life. Many Muslim women who are married don’t wear headscarves and some of them do. Wearing it has nothing to do with one’s marital status. Seeing my hair also doesn’t mean we have to get married. It’s not a readymade proposal or marriage bind.
Ever walked around and wondered if the Muslim women you see with a headscarf on has hair under there? Chances are she probably does and even if she doesn’t, it’s not your business. And we do wash our hair. Wearing a scarf does not give us an instant head wash. Basic hygiene is something that is still a thing. Now that we’ve established Muslim women do have hair under their scarfs: don’t ask to see it. It’s covered up for a reason – respect that.
And no, wearing the headscarf does not exempt us from Bad Hair Days. Ask any headscarf wearing woman about Bad Hijab days. They are the worst! There are days when your scarf pins goes missing, when working out the angles to get your scarf to sit right feels like an extremely difficult geometry equation, and when you choose the wrong material for your scarf and your whole day is ruined. Trust me, it’s an extreme sport.
A weird phenomenon I’ve encountered is people feel like they can’t swear in front of me or even talk about “rude stuff”. When people swear in front of me, it’s often followed by an apology and a statement that usually goes like this: “Sorry, we don’t want to corrupt you.” Obviously it would be beyond comprehension that I would ever swear. Maybe it’s because people think I’m the halal police – I honestly don’t know.
Where do they make them is another fascinating question. Actually, Becky, they come from the scarf section at Woolworths and Mr Price. Or did you think they come a factory which manufactures halal food and where people are plotting how to spread Sharia law around the country? As long as it’s aesthetically pleasing, and covers our head, Muslim women get their scarfs from anywhere and everywhere.
Wearing a headscarf is just one small part of what defines Muslim women who do wear it. It might be the first thing that catches your eye when you see a headscarf-wearing Muslim woman – but it is vastly problematic to assume that’s all there is to her. The next time you see a head-scarf wearing woman: ask her a question about herself. Chances are she’ll answer you, as long it’s not about any of the above.