avatar, Islam and the Hijab

I was reading in We Love Hijab an article that was written in response to a comment on reactions from Muslimat and non Muslims on hijab wearers. The dialogue was not a bashing session, but more inquiring what women around the world say, asking us where we live and what types of responses/reactions we get and if it is true or not that we get more lip from muslims than non muslims.

The response I gave is that in a post 9/11 world the non muslims have asked and reacted to my hijab- but that muslims have always reacted, commented or criticized me or my hijab- for a variety of reasons in varying degrees of intensity.

The one that to me sticks out more; and I’ve spoken of this in other blog entries- is the one where I am questioned “are you [truly] a muslim”? That has always been a sore spot for me- if I dress, look, act like a muslim- then why would I not be. You know: the sounds like a duck, waddles like a duck, and quacks like a duck- then it must be a duck?!

Then again, I have to take a chapter from my husband’s world and say, “if you hear hoof beats it may be horses not zebras”.

I believe some muslims subscribe to the latter- just because you pray, wear hijab, live a halal life doesn’t make you a muslim- because you’re not from my country or my culture. In this day and age there are still muslims who have insulated themselves to a point to not see, for real, that Islam is a world religion spanning centuries, countries, and cultures. Oh, they may know it because the media tells them so -even parroting the idea to others; but may honestly believe that its just not true enough, or object to such a thing because- well -who in their right mind would want to be muslim or be known as a muslim by external factors? Especially now?

The post 9/11 world has shifted our view of the world at large and our own internal view of Islam- some proud to “show off” their muslimness reveling in it to the point of militancy; others hurrying to either hide it or disavow the external components; others have wanted to dilute Islam so it can match the views and values, not of their “home/ancestral origins”, but of their new “home/location” where they have committed themselves to blend in and adapt to varying degrees. And still others have continued to walk the fine line between their religious needs and actions, and the needs and wants in a world outside the scope of Islamic tenets- preferring to be the now often referred to moniker of “moderate”. The one thing I believe Islam has always advocated for: moderation.

Apologetic, reactive, or submissive we all may be at different times when it comes to the hijab; but it doesn’t take away that many women do or don’t use it for personal reasons. Those reasons are personal even when families push, advocate, or deny for the need to wear/be it, or when work and education may or may not put barriers to carrying it out. I say its personal because its the person who has to ultimately make the decision as to how to proceed- taking all things into account, even when things are not all equal in weight.

It does take courage and gumption to carry out a life of hijab- the scarf is but one component- the others to me are harder to define and act on based on your present location, work situation, occupational/educational dreams and goals. The questions that seem irrelevant in places like Saudi or Yemen, may not be in places like Jordan, UAE, Pakistan, or India. And most certainly the parameters change dramatically when in Australia, Europe, Far East, Africa and the Americas (north or south). But that is the dilemma of a Global religion; serving the needs of many with complicated national and cultural differences.

Islam is like the fabric of a muslimah’s hijab- varying in tonalities, textures, and lengths. It is also a tree of tremendous bending and shifting capabilities, powered by winds of unimaginable forces. It has become the shelter of many around the world; and the barrier that many seek to diminish or even destroy.

This imagery came to mind when I had the childlike pleasure of seeing the 3D movie Avatar. A world that could be seen in two ways- from the human perspective or from the native. And it was when you saw in onto the native side within the native (the convert) that this world truly came alive in living, breathing color. The lifestyle became clearer, the rituals became a life force, the system made sense. But like in Avatar, to truly live Islam you have to surrender to the feelings, to the concrete of its existence- otherwise you continue to look in from the outside, missing its nuances.

Muslims may be to some extent in the Avatar world as humans and/or as natives, not seeing their religion or way of life fully and deeply. Because we each live as individuals, that are not in the habit of believing we are an organism in communion, we may not see the things that bind us in common to our religion; preferring instead to view with critical eyes our differences so we can defend our particular situations.

The hijab is one of those markers where we set up camp to fight for, or against. Fighting against outsiders as well as insiders.


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