by Banu Dinani-Suleman (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania) while commenting on the just-released documentary ‘Hijabi influencer? Removing my veil!’ (https://youtu.be/O76PhC3Zriw)
t is time to discuss this topic out in the open, as for many women and I say women, not young girls it is a real struggle for all. The world around us is changing and so is the extent of demonisation or subjugation both internally as well as from the outside.
“Who do we look up to?” questions Yasemin Kanar in her recent documentary, and I wholeheartedly agree with this fundamental question. The answer for many would be: the hijab influencers. These women are just like regular people who face the same challenges as we do, and I believe that once you are in the spotlight, it is difficult to keep up because there is an unspoken pressure building up inside you to join this competition of who has the most followers and numbers, and what can I do to beat that post, etc.
If we all followed one rule in life, we would cease expecting people to behave saintly and instead treat what they give us as a learning opportunity.
As more and more younger women get exposed to the overwhelmingly judgemental and imposing world out there, the obvious outcome of loss of identity or a lack of self-belonging creeps in. Of course, there is a clear message here: do women remove their hijab because they believe it is preventing them from attaining their goals? Or do they remove it simply because they could not figure out why they were wearing it in the first place?
As a Muslim, I am well aware that we are continuously criticized, whether we like it or not, for how we dress, what we do, and how we do it. Is it not true that someone or another (in our own community) is continually reminding us that we are not wearing the Hijab correctly? If not in front of our faces, then behind our backs?
Perhaps the community as a whole was one of the factors that prompted those influencers to remove their hijabs? For always passing judgment on them for making the hijab fashionable? It is possible that convincing people that they were wearing Hijab for the correct reasons was a part of their struggle? And, as Berek Hussein points out, even the most powerful people are swayed by what others think and say about them.
If we are able to ask these influencers who have removed their hijab, would they really be able to name a reason? Because there could have been a slew of minor factors that contributed to that, right? We may never know why, but it is critical for women and young girls to understand that they are ordinary individuals who are introducing a trend to you, one that you can follow or reject.
They demonstrate how to make Hijab a part of ourselves and how it does not prevent us from reaching our goals; they display confidence in how they wear it. We need to ask ourselves if we are wearing the hijab because we want to or because it is the right thing to do. Is it just because it is what identifies you as being a Muslim? Or do we believe it protects us? The Niyyah of our wearing the Hijab is what is important here just like anything else in Islam.
There are so many struggles we face in all parts of the world whether it is praying/ wearing our hijab/ performing certain rituals, and some of us struggle more than the others, some just never reveal their struggles and will go with the statement It is what it is, is it not important to question? Is it not better to fully understand that the struggles we face and another person faces are indeed real? Did we as a community make it possible for that person to slowly come up to what we feel is the right HIJAB? Or were we the ones who told these young girls that Hijab must look like this without necessarily addressing the real-life situations faced by the women of our communities? This subject has so many questions, questions that are unanswered and sometimes never touched