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In the past few years the country has seen a change in attitude towards the Muslim community. From mob lynching, to beef ban, to bulli/sulli deals, now the hijab ban. However, watching the recent hijab controversy in Karnataka, I could no longer remain silent as someone who confidently wears her hijab.

Many liberal Muslims and certain historians believe that hijab is not a part of Islam and that it is alright if it is banned. They are of the opinion that hijab wearing girls should instead opt for an all girl’s institution to study. Though I completely agree that education must take priority, I do not feel this is the right answer to the problem at hand.

Others believe that these women wearing hijab are either oppressed or intellectually poor to have made this decision. They think that education and hijab do not go hand in hand. The notion is, “if at all these girls were educated, they would know better.” If this is how everyone around is classifying hijab clad women, I find it hard to place myself. I am the black swan who doesn’t exist for the world.

I am 29 today and I started wearing hijab at the age of 19 – perfectly legal age to make a sound decision. My parents, both PhDs in their respective subjects never forced me to wear a hijab or enforce any other aspect of Islam. Until the age of 50 my mother had never worn a hijab. I am sure there are many women like me out there.

I am a nobody, but let me bring forward a popular quote from Nobel Peace Laureate Tawakkol Karman when asked about her Hijab by journalists and how it is not proportionate with her level of intellect and education, Tawakkol Karman replied politely:

“Man in the early times was almost naked, and as his intellect evolved, he started wearing
clothes. What I am today and what I am wearing represents the highest level of thought and civilization that man has achieved and is not regressive. It’s the removal of clothes again that is regressive back to ancient times.”

It is a popular notion that women wear hijab due to their conditioning and under patriarchal
oppression. A woman wearing a hijab is seen as a symbol of oppression that needs to be
emancipated. No one ever speaks to them to find out what their personal views are. If a girl wearing hijab is due to her conditioning, then encouraging girls to cook is also part of our conditioning, making them believe that they need to serve their husband and in laws is also conditioning, expecting them to dress up in a saree for Diwali, or wear sindoor for a festival is also conditioning, women wearing bangles for certain days after wedding is conditioning, women not allowed to set out of the house for 40 days postpartum is also conditioning, girls not allowed into the kitchen during their period is conditioning. We are who we are as a result of our surroundings and conditioning. There is no one size fits all. People who make hijab an issue of “conditioning”, my request to you, kindly help these other oppressed women as well!

Feminism cannot be simply achieved by lifestyle minus patriarchal conditioning. In the process of achieving feminism by this formula we are denying women their right to choose. My grandmother wore a saree all her life, as she aged it became difficult for her to manage the day with a saree. After trying enough, we couldn’t convince her to wear a salwar suit. What would you call this, her conditioning or her choice?

My saree is my choice, my bikini is my choice, and my hijab is my choice.
For those arguing that leave hijab at the gate to get an education or we wear saffron shawls, my humble answer to them, I wear a hijab because of my belief and faith, it gives me security and calm, the way I dress (with hijab) gives me confidence to walk and talk. If you feel that wearing a bindi, mangalsutra, a cross or a saffron scarf gives you the same kind of content, I encourage you. But if this is just to prove a point (or gain political advantage) I can only pity. Unfortunately, you are oppressed by your conditioning!

Author Details
Sara Fatima
Twitter – saramirza14

Also read: Reform on hijab important but where it’s coming from is more important