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Lifestyle Header image fustany lifestyle living hijab harrassment and bullying by society and family mainimage

| by Farida Abdel Malek

What Happens When Women Want to Take off the Hijab or Choose to Wear It

For a really long time the hijab has been associated with a women's beliefs, morals and personality. As I grew up around my hijabi friends, I started to notice how much these stereotypes and assumptions take a toll on them. It is frustrating to feel like with your choice comes certain expectations of you and with these expectations comes the horror they face if one day they choose to take it off. A lot of women also face judgments for wanting to wear the hijab and people feel the right to intrude on the reasons behind it, if it fits their identity and if they look good in it.

We talked about women being bullied for their career choices and now we're tackling a topic that is dear to my heart because of the pain I've seen my friends and family suffer from this form of abuse and bullying. We talked to some women who have had negative experiences when it came to their choices with hijab.

We want to thank these brave and inspiring women for sharing their important stories with us and women everywhere.

"I had an incident at work, it happened twice. One of my colleagues kept looking and staring at me and then asked me, 'have you ever thought of taking the veil off? Don't you want to think about it? I think you're going be a lot prettier without it.' I thought to myself, why are you even thinking so much about that and what makes you think you can make me this uncomfortable by addressing something like that. I was angry at the fact that this is a personal matter and we weren't close enough for him to bring it up like this. I was also confused by the notion that he's indicating that my beauty can be unveiled if I take it off. I told him I didn't know if I should take it as an insult or a compliment and he's said it was a compliment, I smiled and left. The exact same incident happened again with the same guy and even though he meant it as a compliment, I still found it bizarre and unnecessary."

"When my best friend took her veil off, my dad came and talked to me to make sure I wasn't 'influenced' by her. I told him it's not like an infection and that if I wanted to take it off I would do so myself."

"When my friends want to go clubbing, we're forced to find a place that fits everyone because a lot of bars and clubs don't accept hijabis and sometimes we just want to have fun and enjoy dancing together. Even when I want to go on a date with my boyfriend, I get concerned about whether that place will allow me in or not and that always makes me feel embarrassed."

"My concern most of the time when I felt like taking it off was not religion but society, what would people at work think or say. I don't want people to start talking about me."

"When I told my dad that I wanted to take my hijab off, he almost had a heart attack and told me that he felt like he was losing his daughter. My parents used religion to pressure me. My sister even assumed that this was me wanting to go wild, start drinking and wearing revealing clothes. People make wrong assumptions just because of the veil I have on. I'm a hijabi so I must be a hard worker, who doesn't talk to boys or have any fun. They get shocked when they talk to me and notice how liberal I am. When I started to get close to a male friend of mine he told me that he changed his perspective of what a 'hijabi girl' is like when he got to know me."

"I have a friend who was a hijabi but took it off a while back and when I told her I was thinking of taking it off, I got the vibe from her that she doesn't think I should because we have different reasons for wanting to take it off. This is what's most frustrating for me when a women who doesn't even wear it judges me, my decision and the reasoning behind it, making me feel guilty about something she doesn't even follow."

"I get a lot of 'It's such a waste to let go of all these past years of wearing the hijab!' It drives me crazy."

"I've been a hijabi since I was 12 and at that age I didn't really understand what I was doing. When I grew up, I started to realize it wasn't who I am and I didn't find comfort in it. It actually started to affect my mental health and in turn my physical health as well. I started to even feel trapped and like I can't breathe properly when I have it on. My family was very judgmental and didn't agree with me wanting to take it off. I found that they didn't show any concern regarding my mental health and how it was affecting me deeply to have it on when I didn't want to. I needed their support and all I got was them caring about their image in front of people and they didn't want to hear things like 'OMG, she took it off!' from society. I started to take it off when I was traveling or going out with friends, after a while I started to realize that people became accustomed to it and they did't act weird or address anything."

"When I get into an argument while driving or show a bit of frustration or anger, people usually scold me saying that I shouldn't act that way because I'm a hijabi."

"My husband used to get a lot of comments saying, 'I never thought you'd marry a hijabi.'"

"It’s so strange for me to find the comments coming mostly from girls not boys. Shouldn’t we, females, push each other forward rather than putting each other down? We are humans, it’s normal to change our minds. What may make us feel comfortable today, might not make us at ease tomorrow. The fact that I wanted to try out covering my hair for some time and then realized after a while that I just couldn't do it anymore, is a decision that is totally up to me. To be honest, the support I got from my loved ones specially my parents was more than enough to make me feel inner peace. I’ve witnessed some of my friends going through the experience of taking off their hijab, and getting really negative reactions."

"For some people, if you decide to show your hair after you have been covering it for a while, that clearly means that you decided to give up on your manners or morals. Some would even accuse you of trying to grab attention and hook up with someone because you’re bored of being single."

"At college a lot of people thought I was christian because of my name. When I decided to wear the hijab people automatically assumed I did it to end that confusion."

"There was one reaction I got when I took my hijab off that I will always remember because of how odd it was. I received a phone call at 2 a.m. from an old friend whom I didn’t hear from in like... 2 years. She called me asking why I took off the hijab, and telling me that she just “needs” to understand why I decided to look like ‘this’. She was making sure I wasn’t mentally unstable! She kept expressing how she used to look up to me but now she just doesn’t anymore."

"I always felt like I couldn't find clothes that spoke to my personality and fit hijab wear so I decided to make my own brand for hijabi clothes and when I realized that I wanted to take it off, I was hesitant because I didn't want to come off as a hypocrite who makes clothes for hijab but took it off."

"One day, I called my husband and told him that I'm going out now and I won't be wearing the hijab. People were shocked when they saw that I actually did it and I got a lot of negative reactions like, 'You don't look nice' and some of my closest friends stopped talking to me and  would see me and pretend they don't know me."

"When I traveled abroad and was wearing a veil, people would treat me really badly and some wouldn't even answer me when I talked to them."


Main Image Credits: Instagram @marwaatik

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Tags: Hijab  Bullying  Living  Hijabi  Veil  Arab women  Inspiring women  Women  Women empowerment  Women rights  Women's health  Mental health  Fighting violence against women  International day for the elimination of violence against women