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Hijab In The United States - Islam for Muslims - Nairaland

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Hijab In The United States by Deen4me(m): 9:02am On Jun 13, 2010
An article from the NY Times on Hijab



HEBAH AHMED assessed the weather before she stepped out of her minivan. “It’s windy,” she said with a sigh, tucking a loose bit of hair into her scarf. Her younger sister, Sarah, watched out the window as dust devils danced across the parking lot. “Oh, great,” she said, “I’m going to look like the flying nun.”

Hebah, who is 32, and Sarah, 28, do wear religious attire, but of the Islamic sort: a loose outer garment called a jilbab; a khimar, a head covering that drapes to the fingertips; and a niqab, a scarf that covers most of the face. Before the shopping trip, they consulted by phone to make sure they didn’t wear the same color. “Otherwise, we start to look like a cult,” Sarah explained.

When Hebah yanked open the van’s door, the wind filled her loose-fitting garments like a sail. Her 6-year-old daughter, Khadijah Leseman, laughed. Hebah unloaded Khadijah and her 2-year-old son, Saulih, while struggling to hold her khimar and niqab in place.

The wind whipped Sarah’s navy-blue jilbab like a sheet on a clothesline as she wrangled a shopping cart. Her 3-year-old son, Eesa Soliman, stayed close at her side, lost in the billowing fabric.

Most people in the parking lot stopped to stare.

If the sisters were aware that all eyes were on them, they gave no signs. In the supermarket, they ignored the curious glances in the produce section, the startled double takes by the baked goods and the scowls near the cereal. They glided along the aisles, stopping to compare prices on spaghetti sauce.

Two Hispanic children gasped and ran behind their mother. “Why are they dressed that way?” the girl asked her mother in Spanish. “Islam,” the woman said, also telling the child that the women were from Saudi Arabia.

Hebah, who is from Tennessee, smiled at the girl, but all that could be seen of her face were the lines around the eyes that signaled a grin. After nearly a decade under the veil, she and her sister know full well that they are a source of fascination — and many other reactions — to those around them.

Hebah said she has been kicked off planes by nervous flight attendants and shouted down in a Wal-Mart by angry shoppers who called her a terrorist. Her sister was threatened by a stranger in a picnic area who claimed he had killed a woman in Afghanistan “who looked just like” her. When she joined the Curves gym near her home in Edgewood, N.M., some members threatened to quit. “They said Islamists were taking over,” Ms. Ahmed said.

Her choice to become so identifiably Muslim even rattled her parents, immigrants from Egypt.

“I was more surprised than anything,” said her father, Mohamed Ahmed, who lives in Houston with her mother, Mervat Ahmed. He said he raised his daughters with a deep sense of pride about their Muslim background, but nevertheless did not expect them to wear a hijab, a head scarf, let alone a niqab.

Raised in what she described as a “minimally religious” household by parents who wore typical American clothes, Hebah used to think that women who wore a niqab were crazy, she said.

“It looked like they were suffocating,” she said. “I thought, ‘There’s no way God meant for us to walk around the earth that way, so why would anyone do that to themselves?’ ” Now many people ask that same question of her.

HEBAH AHMED (her first name is pronounced HIB-ah) was born in Chattanooga, raised in Nashville and Houston, and speaks with a slight drawl. She played basketball for her Catholic high school, earned a master’s in mechanical engineering and once worked in the Gulf of Mexico oilfields.

She is not a Muslim Everywoman; it is not a role she would ever claim for herself. Her story is hers alone. But she was willing to spend several days with a reporter to give an idea of what American life looks like from behind the veil, a garment that has become a powerful symbol of culture clash.

All that’s visible of Ms. Ahmed when she ventures into mixed company are her deep brown eyes, some faint freckles where the sun hits the top of her nose, and her hands. She used to leave the house in jeans and T-shirt (she still can, under her jilbab), but that all changed after the 9/11 attacks. It shook her deeply that the people who had committed the horrifying acts had identified themselves as Muslims.

“I just kept thinking ‘Why would they do this in the name of Islam?’ ” she said. “Does my religion really say to do those horrible things?”

So she read the Koran and other Islamic texts and began attending Friday prayers at her local Islamic Center. While she found nothing that justified the attacks, she did find meaning in prayers about strength, piety and resolve. She saw them as guideposts for navigating the world.
Slide Show
The Veil and the Challenges

“I was really questioning my life’s purpose,” Ms. Ahmed said. “And everything about the bigger picture. I just wasn’t about me and my career anymore.”

She also reacted to a backlash against Islam and the news that many American Muslim women were not covering for fear of being targeted. “It was all so wrong,” she said. She took it upon herself to provide a positive example of her embattled faith, in a way that was hard to ignore.

So on Sept. 17, 2001, she wore a hijab into the laboratory where she worked, along with her business attire.

“A co-worker said, ‘You need to wrap a big ol’ American flag around your head so people know what side you’re on,’ ” Ms. Ahmed said. “From then on, they never let up.”

Three months later, she quit her job and started wearing a niqab, covering her face from view when in the presence of men other than her husband.

“I do this because I want to be closer to God, I want to please him and I want to live a modest lifestyle,” said Ms. Ahmed, who asked that her appearance without a veil not be described. “I want to be tested in that way. The niqab is a constant reminder to do the right thing. It’s God-consciousness in my face.”

But there were secular motivations, too. In her job, she worked with all-male teams on oil rigs and in labs.

“No matter how smart I was, I wasn’t getting the respect I wanted,” she said. “They still hit on me, made crude remarks and even smacked me on the butt a couple times.”

Wearing the niqab is “liberating,” she said. “They have to deal with my brain because I don’t give them any other choice.”

Her first run-in with public opinion came, ordinarily enough, while driving.

“A woman in the car next to me was waving, honking, motioning for me to roll down my window,” she said. “I tried to ignore her, but finally, we both had to stop at a light. I rolled down the window and braced myself. Then she said ‘Excuse me, your burqa is caught in your door.’ That broke the ice.”

Her sister Sarah started wearing a niqab around the same time, while completing her engineering degree at Rice University. The learning curve was steep; both sisters found they needed to carry straws for drinking in public, but eating was another story. Once Sarah forgot she was wearing a niqab and took a bite of an ice cream cone. “Humiliating,” she said, shaking her head.

Breathing wasn’t as difficult as they had imagined, but Hebah had a hard time contending with all the material around her.

“I kept losing things or leaving them behind,” she said. “But it’s like when you first put on high heels or a bra. It’s not the most comfortable thing, but there’s a purpose, and you believe that purpose outweighs the discomfort.”

WOMEN who cover totally, called niqabis, make up a tiny sliver of the estimated three million to seven million Muslims in the United States, yet they have come to embody much of what Westerners find foreign about Islam. Hidden under yards of cloth, they are the most visceral reminders of the differences between East and West, and an indisputable sign that Islam is weaving its way into American culture.

In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy is backing a bill to ban women from publicly wearing the niqab and its more conservative cousin, the burqa, which covers the wearer’s eyes with a mesh panel. Similar legislation is being considered in Canada and Belgium.

In the United States, there have been flashpoints: in 2006, Ginnnah Muhammad, a plaintiff in a small claims case in Detroit, refused the judge’s request to take off her niqab during court proceedings and so her case was thrown out. She later found herself in front of the Michigan Supreme Court, arguing for her right to wear the niqab in court. The high court upheld the judge’s action.

Ms. Muhammad and five other American niqabis were interviewed for this article, in addition to the Ahmed sisters. All of them made the decision to wear the niqab when they were single. And, although the Muslim faith does not require women to cover their faces, all believe the niqab gave them a bit of extra credit in the eyes of God. “The more clothes you wear, the closer you are to God,” Ms. Muhammad said.


Re: Hijab In The United States by zayhal(f): 7:43pm On Jun 13, 2010
May Allah reward these women (and the like of them) abundantly and make this life easy for them, and above all, grant them al-jannah firdaus.


Re: Hijab In The United States by Nobody: 5:04pm On Feb 28, 2013
simplicity of islam ....may d almighty increase our faith


Re: Hijab In The United States by Nobody: 3:07am On Mar 04, 2013
I cant believe this doesn't have more replies being so old. I covered for over 1 year and it was hard. These girls and others like them are stronger than me.


Re: Hijab In The United States by zayhal(f): 10:29am On Mar 04, 2013
Thought it's a new topic until I opened it to find that I'd earlier commented on it.

You used the past tense which presupposes that you no longer cover. Do you mind sharing your challenges while in it and your reason(s) for taking it off?
Re: Hijab In The United States by ghazzal: 1:25pm On Mar 04, 2013
a beautiful and open writeup. people with intentions of doing things for islam during its trying period....... where do i fall! what are we doing in similitude
Re: Hijab In The United States by tbaba1234: 1:45pm On Mar 04, 2013
SniperInADiaper: I cant believe this doesn't have more replies being so old. I covered for over 1 year and it was hard. These girls and others like them are stronger than me.

Wearing the Hijab is a Jihad but it is not beyond you or anyone else. Allah says He does not give us a burden greater than what we can bear. I believe Allah. The key is to look at what your challenges were and figure out what could have been handled better. Sometimes, it is just a mental thing. You are definitely strong enough to handle it.

I pray you get the courage to put it back on.

1 Like

Re: Hijab In The United States by deols(f): 10:26am On Mar 05, 2013
May Allah make it easy for you.

I see sisters who go a mile forward and then a step backward. it isnt very easy esp if people in ur family arent those to encourage you.

I think sisters should get each others back and help lift each other up.


Re: Hijab In The United States by ghazzal: 2:33pm On Mar 05, 2013
Dont just act because others around you do, that way, when you get elsewhere, it may look like a burden..... kind of

Sisters should please understand the reasons behind using a Hijab and be convinced about it. It is not just a symbol for being a muslim it is more than that. With the conviction, there will be no reason to step backwards except ofcourse- being Lazzy. May God in his mercy guide/guard us aright.

1 Like

Re: Hijab In The United States by abdulkayus(m): 4:53pm On Mar 07, 2013
Nice one, may Allah improve our iman. Amin summa amin.
Re: Hijab In The United States by Kslib(m): 4:56pm On Mar 07, 2013
I been wan talk something before but my number 6 con tell me say for this kain thread UNSEEN FORCES dey ban innocent users till 2099... I never ready to create another user name first...


Re: Hijab In The United States by freecocoa(f): 4:58pm On Mar 07, 2013
Sniper you are a muslim?shocked
Re: Hijab In The United States by JoannaSedley(f): 5:11pm On Mar 07, 2013
I love those that cover the noses like those ones egyptian belly dancers wear.
Gosh, sweet!!!!!!
Re: Hijab In The United States by Nobody: 5:13pm On Mar 07, 2013
For centuries, Islamic scholars have said that Muslim women must cover their hair. But many Muslim women don't.
There are about 1 million Muslim women in America; 43 percent of them wear headscarves all the time, according to the Pew Research Center. About 48 percent — or half a million women — don't cover their hair, the survey found.

Abdelnabi explains why she stopped wearing the hijab.

She says that Islam teaches modesty — but wearing the hijab is taking it a step too far.

"I've done my research, and I don't feel its foundation is from Islam," she says. "I think it comes from Arab culture."

The headscarf can be a divisive issue among Muslims.

Abdelnabi describes the response some people have to that idea: "It's like, 'How dare you question God's will. How dare you?' " she says.
Re: Hijab In The United States by IleIfe2(m): 5:16pm On Mar 07, 2013

We all know the wearing of nigab or hijab is a show of political power, dominance and discrimination. nothing spiritual about it, it's just religious/for show.


Re: Hijab In The United States by mmmustapha(m): 5:16pm On Mar 07, 2013
Ibn sultan: simplicity of islam ....may d almighty increase our faith

1 Like

Re: Hijab In The United States by huninaija(f): 5:17pm On Mar 07, 2013
Aaawww what a beautiful narrative to the life of these two beautiful sisters... Ever since the terrorist attacks people have looked at islam in a bad light.

But as a christian i know better, ignorance is bliss, the americans tend to live in it, thereby distorting there view of the wonderful cultures and religions around the world!


Re: Hijab In The United States by ebamma(m): 5:17pm On Mar 07, 2013
Absolute rubbish,
Re: Hijab In The United States by DukeNija(m): 5:22pm On Mar 07, 2013
Who cares about Islam?
And Y is there a warning for us to follow? U ppl sef!
Re: Hijab In The United States by kemiola89(f): 5:22pm On Mar 07, 2013
akpanbaba: Hijab ko hijab ni.Does this stop muslims from killing in the name of Islam.Nothing entices me about this religion of violence and bloodshed.
must you comment, since you've got nothing better to say.
@topic! I must commend those sisters for taking such bold step. It Quite challenging wearing not just the khimar kind of ijab but the niqob. Though i feel more comfortable using the khimar. May Allah make it easier for us all.


Re: Hijab In The United States by naptu2: 5:27pm On Mar 07, 2013

Re: Hijab In The United States by Ejine(m): 5:28pm On Mar 07, 2013
Creation Date: Jun 13, 2010
Frontpage Date: Mar 07, 2013

Damn... History has been made, ladies and gentlemen.

"The Longest Time Interval Between A Thread's Creation And Its Frontpaging"

Over 2 phucking years! Wow!


Re: Hijab In The United States by naptu2: 5:29pm On Mar 07, 2013

Re: Hijab In The United States by nikkypearl(f): 5:29pm On Mar 07, 2013


Re: Hijab In The United States by Nobody: 5:29pm On Mar 07, 2013
ebamma: Absolute rubbish,

I take it thats your Last Name


Re: Hijab In The United States by huninaija(f): 5:29pm On Mar 07, 2013
Ejiné: Creation Date: Jun 13, 2010
Frontpage Date: Mar 07, 2013

Damn... History has been made, ladies and gentlemen.

"The Longest Time Interval Between A Thread's Creation And Its Frontpaging"

Over 2 phucking years! Wow!

OMG! Didn't even notice at all! shocked uncle seun and his mods why now??
Re: Hijab In The United States by SEYIKP(m): 5:30pm On Mar 07, 2013
Re: Hijab In The United States by Nobody: 5:31pm On Mar 07, 2013
Do you know wearing of hijab in hot weather can affect your health?

Re: Hijab In The United States by naptu2: 5:31pm On Mar 07, 2013

1 Like

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