Growing up we all heard the phrase ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ but for myself and other Algonquin women this expression has a bit of a deeper meaning to it.
I’m talking about the hijab; an Islamic head garb some Muslim women wear when out in public.
With France’s recent ban on the hijab (head covering) and Quebec’s ban on the niqab (face covering), it seems that every day brings a new challenge for hijabi women everywhere.
What a woman chooses to cover or not cover her body with shouldn’t be up for discussion amongst government and media, but unfortunately it is.
But with the rise of hijabi pioneers like Linda Sarsour (women’s march organizer), Noor Tagouri (American-Libyan journalist), Ibtihaj Muhammad (olympic athlete), Halima Aden (first hijabi supermodel), and the release of the first ever hijabi Barbie, the hijab is more popular now than I have seen in my whole lifetime.
But what about women who aren’t breaking barriers and shattering ceilings? What about your classmate, coworker or neighbour who simply wears the hijab and often gets looked past?
At Algonquin specifically, it is not rare to spot a hijabi or two while walking around campus. So for something that has become quite common, there are still misconceptions, misinformation and misrepresentations spread about the hijab.
For Algonquin students and sisters, Kauthar and Nour Katheer the hijab is more than just a covering, it is a way of life.
You wear a hijab because of men:
The hijab often gets mistaken as a piece of cloth that is used to shield and cover a woman in the presence of a man, but it is much more than that. “It’s not about a man, they’re not the ones wearing it, it’s about a woman and how she carries herself” said first-year public relations student, Nour Katheer.
Hijab oppresses women:
Another misconception about the hijab is that it is oppressive to women. It’s actually quite the opposite. Looking back in Islamic history, you will find that to observe the hijab is an honourable and noble act. Nothing about a head scarf restricts a Muslim woman from expressing her views, opinions and thoughts. “It’s such a common thought that people have, that we’re forced to wear it,” said second-year human resource management student Kauthar Katheer. “I can’t imagine not wearing it, I feel safe in my hijab and I know peoples intentions more clearly because of it too.” she added.
All Muslim women wear a hijab:
“I wish people knew that not every Muslim woman wears a hijab, nor are we required to. It’s meant to be a personal choice,” said Nour Katheer. People and countries that force women to cover themselves do it behind political and cultural motivations, not religious ones.
Hijabi women can’t play sports:
“I feel like people have this preconceived notion about hijabi’s and sports,” said Kauthar Katheer. “When I was on the rugby team in high school, I was on the starting line up. My hijab was challenged so I had to work twice as hard to make the team.” she added.
The connection a woman feels to her hijab is something that is indescribable.
And so, the understanding and interest of people who do not observe the hijab are vital to the growth and development of modern society.