Students Answer Questions about Muslim Veiling
by Cynthia Tintorri,
In observance of World Hijab Day, a panel of Northampton Community College students presented information about the wearing of hijab on March 3 in NCC's Student Life Zone.
Annisa Amatul Muqtadir explained that the wearing of hijab -- the headscarves worn by some Muslim women -- is in response to a call from the Quran for women to cover their heads and chests in public, as one would hide a treasure. "The literal translation of hijab is 'veil,'" she said, "but the meaning behind it is about modesty, and covering your beauty."
Muslim girls may begin wearing hijab at puberty, but Muqtadir, who has been veiling since she was 10, stressed that no woman should feel forced to do so, it must be her own decision to wear the hijab. "For me, coming from a family where my mother has always worn the hijab, it began as just something I did. It wasn't until I was 15 that I got a deeper understanding and put more thought into it."
Sasha Abdullah presented a different perspective, that of a Muslim woman who chooses not to wear hijab. "I personally don't feel confident enough to wear hijab," she said. "It takes a lot of confidence to do it. I tried once in 6th grade, and someone ripped the hijab off my head." She said that when she does veil to go to a mosque, she likes the "feeling of being protected."
Chrissy Gonzalez, a 2015 convert to Islam, said for her the hijab is "empowering. It lets me choose what I want to show to the world -- I control who sees what parts of my body." Wearing the hijab, she attests, has changed her life.
Although detractors see hijab as symbolic of the oppression of women, none of the panelists found that to be true. "It's not an obligation," Muqtadir stressed, "and it doesn't make someone who wears it more Muslim than someone who chooses not to." She said she's often asked if men in her religion have a dress code as well, and that, while the Quran requires men not to show their navels or wear pants above their knees, headcoverings for men are more of a cultural rather than religious expression.
The panelists showed a slide presentation of 10 different religions in which women cover their heads, including Amish, Mennonite, Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Orthodox Judaisim, and others. To demonstrate how difficult it is to determine a woman's religion by her headcovering, Muqtadir invited the audience to take an online quiz together. There were few correct answers.
A question-and-answer session followed the presentation. On Wednesday, the Muslim Student Association invited all women at NCC to don the hijab for the day, and provided free headscarves and instructions in how to wrap them.