By Rab’ia Keeble
I’ve toyed with this idea knowing that my identity as a muslim woman was going to be called into question. If someone can’t pigeonhole you, they are not comfortable. My brown skin identifies me as black, my features identify me as feminine, but nothing else about me would tell you I am Muslim except perhaps in male company I am somewhat subdued still because years of pulling my energy back to not offend men is hard to retrain. I wore hijab for twenty years. Most of the time I struggled with it. Essentially I put it on at first to be “like” other Muslim women, not because I felt the Quran or Hadith insisted I do it, which they don’t. I understood the idea of covering during prayer, many Christian and Jewish women do it, and Hindus, it is not just Muslim women who cover, but, it is just Muslim women who insist on making this Hijab an emblem of Muslim femininity. Many mistakenly believe it is like the nun’s habit, when it is nothing like that. Nun’s take oaths, they take oaths to live and wear medevil style clothing based on the orders that rose in those times and earlier when it was natural for women to cover, not for religion but for cultural reasons. Some Muslims try to point to the Virgin Mary and say look, she covered…we really don’t know that, but what we do know is that people like Micheangelo depicted her in robes and scarf to convey virginity, and purity. There is nothing in the Bible or Torah that says women have to cover their heads at all, there is something in the New Testament where the Apostle Paul bids women to cover their heads when they “pray” or “prophesy” but that could not be construed to mean “all the time.” I also stopped wearing the hijab because it gave the wrong message most of the time. When a woman in the Western world is single hijab makes her look unavailable. In a close society, where marriages are made behind closed doors and people can be matched up by families, parents, friends, a lone single black woman wrapped in hijab has no chance of finding a man, especially a Muslim man, who tend these days to be as elusive spoiled and standoffish as any animal on the list of disappearing beasts. I tend not to be attracted to men who hold themselves above anyone else anyway, but there’s that. Those who will preach from the minbar that Muslim women can only marry Muslim men, are basically creating a vast network of 40 something and above healthy women, in captivity with no hope of marriage let a lone a kiss. We are human after all and though i do believe in God my god is not a cruel exclusionary task master who believes only young nubile girls with white skin and green eyes deserve a husband. I took off the scarf because I realized it has no place in this society unless you are married or in a group where your needs will be tended to. Outside those trappings you are only a lone wolf, in a scarf. People who are non Muslim who celebrate hijab are meddling in very tricky territory. They don’t know what they are doing, and they don’t know how they are helping to perpetuate this idea that hijab means someone is Muslim, and that without it, someone is not. That is none sense and it needs to stop. The new Congresswoman from Minnesota wears hijab and it is complicated and person why she does, Islam does not make her do that, in her case it is more to do with marketing, her clan connections and interpretations of Islam through the lens of Somali ancestry. I would hope that she will quickly make a statement that her hijab is not something that is up for discussion but to focus on the needs of migrants, detainees, victims of school and other mass shootings, to fix our climate and other important issues. Yes, I am done with hijab and yet I am not against anyone who wants to wear it in a an informed way. Don not try to say it is an obligation it is not. It is not a command from God, and it says nothing about the woman at all if she decides to not wear it. What I also know is that there will be some who will try to tell me I’ve made a mistake, usually Muslim men whose vulnerability around hijab is telling and disgusting. I will cover when I want, when I pray, when I enter into contemplation, but that’s up for grabs too. I feel now fully me, and fully free.