Message to liberals: I do not need rescuing from my hijab

Anjum Anwar. Pic: Facebook

Blackburn activist Anjum Anwar sends a clear message to western and Muslim liberals – stay away from my hijab!

How strange that a piece of cloth can instigate riots. Yes! That’s right, the hijab is seen as “oppression” by some of those who do not wear it and they must liberate those poor oppressed women, like me, who do wear it.

The recent death of a woman in Iran (Mahsa Amini) has once again opened up the debate on hijab. But we must not forget that it was not that long ago that we, here in England, had to respond to Jack Straw for his “unfortunate” remarks about his conversation with women wearing the veil.

Sadly, hijab has been politicised over the years and has been represented negatively, not only in the Western Media, but has been discouraged (in some circles) in a country like Pakistan where it is seen as a sign of “backwardness” and not in touch with modernity.

However, the covering of the head is of course not specific to Muslim women. Women of other faiths – Jewish women, Christian women, Hindu women – have all used the head-covering.

As a Muslim woman who wears a headscarf I have to say that for me it is now second nature and I would not be seen, in public, without my hijab.

Protestors take part during a demonstration in front of the Iranian embassy in Brussels, Belgium on Sept. 23, 2022, following the death of Mahsa Amini. Editorial credit: Alexandros Michailidis / Shutterstock.com

Does it make me any less of a woman that I am? No, it gives me strength, dignity and of course more importantly, I am adhering to the command of Allah SWT. It is my basic right to adopt the attire that I feel comfortable in, just as it is the right of those who do not wear it.

The problem is that the do-gooders of liberalism feel that it is their duty to “rescue” women like me, who are “burdened” with a piece of cloth. It makes me wonder who is actually liberated? Why do these women, and no doubt men, feel that they need to liberate me from the Dark Ages?

I, and my sisters, who wear the hijab do not need rescuing, nor are we oppressed at any level. However, I am discriminated not only in the Western world, at times, because of my headscarf, but also in some Muslim-majority countries.

I will never forget an incident in Pakistan when I was visiting Karachi. I was at a restaurant with a few friends, and yes, I was wearing a headscarf, and speaking in Urdu, my mother tongue.

The next table was occupied by a bunch of young women and men who spoke English with a Pakistani accent, and made some grammatical mistakes which made me cringe. I wondered why they were speaking in English, in the first place, because they looked very much residents of Karachi who probably knew Urdu better than I did.

The waiter approached us and spoke to us in Urdu and I responded in Urdu too, and as I was ordering I heard a young man say in English “God women wearing ‘washing clothing’ on their heads?”

I was shocked but didn’t respond as they continued to discuss my attire in English and I continued to speak in Urdu. I believe at some point they assumed we were some women from some remote village in Pakistan who were out painting the town red.

As I got up to leave, I politely went over to their table and spoke in the Queen’s English and gave them a few quick lessons in English and corrected their spoken grammar. The young woman asked where I was from (maybe because my Urdu probably had an accent) and I said from England; and she said “well it doesn’t look like you are from UK!!!”

I guess I should have been wearing a mini skirt!

My headscarf is my identity and I am extremely proud that I can wear it when I want and how I want, and the last thing I need is some governmental agency telling me when and how I can do that.

What happened in Iran was appalling and should not have happened, neither should our politicians in the UK talk about “letter-boxes” when referring to the veil. My headscarf my right!

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