‘’I’ve become more feminist through my faith’’ Zaheda said. Something you may not have expected to hear from a woman who’s wearing a hijab. This 23 year-old from Rotterdam, the Netherlands, spent the first 9 years of her life in Afghanistan but had to flee the country because of the ongoing war. Now, she’s a motivated medicine student who at the same time tries to fight the bias against hijabis. Because what do you think when you see a woman covering her hair? Do you see oppression or freedom?
Zaheda’s story of why she chose to wear a hijab might be one of many women. Initially, she was afraid to wear it and of what people would think of her. Even her father discouraged it because he too was afraid of possible discrimination she’d suffer from. And she does face this discrimination. For example, in her field of medicine, the chances of becoming a surgeon are really quite small for her because the specialization trainers choose the people they want in their team and they tend to want people who fit into the group. People who can ‘’let loose and maybe just take off that headscarf’’. Think about it, how often have you been treated by a doctor who’s wearing a hijab? Luckily, Zaheda wants to go into pediatrics or urgent care so she can avoid the bias, but still it’s sad that it’s happening and it shows the presence of institutionalized discrimination. Furthermore, there is a lot of diversity among women who wear a hijab. You can’t tell what someone is like just by looking at her (as for any woman).
Back to the reason why Zaheda is wearing a hijab. Before wearing it she was a girl who really enjoyed doing her hair, but she was inspired by her faith* and her priorities had changed. Now, she’s a strong young woman who wants to inspire other girls to not be afraid to wear a hijab and to challenge the prejudice people have about the hijab. But on the contrary of what many people may believe and the stereotypes they hold, she doesn’t feel oppressed by wearing a hijab, it releases her from the idea that she always has to look pretty. ‘’I’m now more concerned about how I act and come across than what I look like. It’s more important to; for example, help someone who’s in a wheelchair than to be bothered by my appearance’’ Zehada says. She’s indirectly challenging others to judge her on her merit rather than on her looks and the well-known stereotypes, something most women – no matter the religion – desire but sadly don’t experience enough. A woman’s worth is after all, in this modern society, still mostly measured by her beauty. Such a shame for all the smart, bright and resilient women out there.
”There is a lot of diversity among women who wear a hijab.”
So, how do you feel about this way of setting yourself free of vanity? Zaheda loves it and wants to encourage you to not be afraid to wear whatever you want. ‘’Nobody should force you to cover up but also not to uncover’’, so you should also feel free to wear a hijab. No matter what you wear though, if you focus on your merit and on what really matters to you, your beauty will shine through. Whether you find freedom in wearing a hijab or in a short skirt, the amount of skin you show doesn’t define you.
*“The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best morals, and the best of you are those who are the best to their women.” – Quran
“Paradise lies under the feet of mothers”, announced the Prophet (swa). With this instruction, a Divine law, it became a religious responsibility, a praiseworthy act, to respect and honor women.” – Quran