Muslim Women Students Proud of Attire PDF Print E-mail
By Sana W. Hamed - Black College Wire   

To you, they may seem oppressed, suppressed and silenced. But are they, really?

They cover themselves for modesty as set by Allah (God) through the Quran (Holy Book), yet they are judged by other people not to be free.

Sana W. Hamed
Brenda Miray wears the full-cover niqab.

Some cover with the hijab, others with the niqab. The hijab is a headscarf used to cover the head and neck, while the niqab covers everything except the eyes. According to Muslim women, the reason they wear the hijab is because Allah, through the Quran, made it a required act of worship for them. Muslim women are required to cover their bodies with modest clothing that does not reveal their figures to male strangers.

Wearing the hijab is seen as an act of submission to Allah. The hijab represents modesty; it is an act of worship and protection against lustful looks of others. The niqab is not required but it is just an extra degree of hijab.

Sana W. Hamed
UVI student Aimee Asad wears the more common hijab.

UVI has a small population of Muslim women, but they are noticeable in numbers. Brenda Miray, a sophomore, who is pursuing a degree in psychology, is a Muslim convert. Miray first wore the hijab and then decided to wear the niqab. She said she been searching for a religion for two years and when she found Islam she "knew it was the truth."

Her family was supportive, but when she decided to wear the niqab there was some resistance from her family. Her sister said she would lose her identity. Instead Miray says she feels "empowered" when she goes out.

Influenced mainly by her family, Amiee Asad, a junior in English with a concentration in creative writing, has been wearing the hijab for a year. In her freshman year, she looked just like any other college girl, and then during her sophomore year she decided to wear the hijab. Asad's friends and teachers were shocked when they saw her wearing the hijab. She said, "I feel normal, just like how I felt when I didn't wear it. It's just like an accessory, like a hat."

The women say wearing either the hijab or niqab has its advantages. "When people speak to me, they really listen to what I am saying and they don't judge me by what I look like or if I am wearing the latest fashions or anything. They judge me by what I say and my actions," Miray said. But there are always some misunderstandings. Asad has been looked down on, she said. The same people she knew before wearing the hijab looked at her differently after she put on the hijab.

Wearing the niqab, Miray gets similar reactions. People in general fear her, but children are even more afraid, she contends, because they don't know why she is wearing the niqab or what it stands for. "The niqab is not meant to be a symbol of fear or oppression but it is a symbol of freedom," she said."Many people have the misconception that niqabis [women who wear the niqab] are forced to wear it by their husbands and fathers, but, in truth, most women choose to wear it."

She added, "A lot of women who wear the niqab experience hostility from their family because of their choice, but most of them stick to it." Miray said she believes the "half-naked women" the media is pumping out images of are not liberated. "Women become slaves to the media trying to be a certain way and fit a certain image of what a woman is supposed to look like," Miray said. "Muslim women are saved from this type of oppression by wearing their hijab."

Miray said she does not think negatively of women who do not cover themselves. She believes that people should be able to dress in whatever way they feel appropriate for them.

Asad said she sometimes regret wearing the hijab. When seeing others dress freely and she is fully covered, regret shadows her. But despite those feelings, she said she will never dress conventionally. Though Asad and Miray do not cover to the same degree, they both agree that others should not judge them by what they wear. They both want to send a message out to non-Muslims.

"Don't judge people by what they wear," Asad said. "If we don't judge you like that, don't be a hypocrite and judge the book by its cover."

And Miray urged tolerance: "I think that other people should extend freedom to Muslim women who choose to cover up."

Sana W. Hamed, a student at the University of the Virgin Islands, writes for the UVI Voice. To comment, e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Posted October 13, 2007

Posted Oct. 13, 2007
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