Reading a little Post-Colonial-Feminist theory this morning, I came across a sentiment I have heard all too many times, but has never been my truth nor The Truth. The fallacy is that the hijab (scarf) is an Arab thing, this being said by Arabs. Then I must be some naive convert who bought the Arab-Muslim package, right?
As an American revert to Islam, I had no doubts about the historical nature of the veil. Though I wasn’t raised Christian, when I first read about the Islamic interpretation of veiling I immediately saw in my mind’s eye the Christian iconic image of The Virgin Mary–in her veil. My Post-Colonial-Arab-Feminist scholar leaves out Mary and all other cross-cultural references to The Veil. In high academic hypocritical form, this scholar’s (like many others) biased view of her own culture is taken as Word and propagated and spread wide and reiterated and swallowed and regurgitated and uff.
If you are Muslim, it is likely you have heard this erreouneous theory before: The hijab is an Arab custom and was only commanded to the wives of the Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam). If you are non-Muslim you may have heard this too. Consider: Why then did/do Jewish women have various customs of hair covering? Why did Christian’s keep/adapt the traditions? And what about ancient Roman women? And Hindu women?
There are plenty of academic ideas applied to why various cultures sport the veil and most of them blame patriarchy and of course reject the possibilty of Divine Decrees. That last part should go without saying, but my frustration is with the problem of the Academic Truth being unquestionabley excepted as The Truth, even by people who are religious in some form or another.
My own approach to The Veil was one that grew out of an open-mindedness to look at a cross section of world religions while searching for my truth. Look at the Buddhist monk in his saffron robes or the pilgrim on hajj in his white robes. They are rejecting worldliness and vanity. I attempt to do similarly on a daily bases. I resist the urge to flaunt it while I got it and instead cover it up. Yes, my hair too. Years of styling, coloring, teasing and torturing my luscious locks were done in an absolute vanity (and submissiveness!) that I now resist.
I just ordered the text Rethinking Muslim Women and the Veil and am eagerly looking forward to a different view, one that speaks to my Truth.
* Got Katherine Bullock’s book–great, masha Allah!