There are over a billion Muslims in the world today, including 3 to 5 million in the United States, making it the second largest religion after Christianity. According to some estimates, Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the world. Women in Islam, have obligations to respect their religion, become devoted wives and mothers, the right to be educated and work if they wish to, but also to protect their modesty by wearing a headscarf known as the ‘hijab’. There is much controversy surrounding a women’s choice of wearing a hijab, a scarf that some Muslim women wear that covers their hair and neck.
Many countries, including the United States, have taken a convoluted approach by using the media to make the population believe that Muslim women are either a threat to society or are oppressed themselves. There are many women and families who fear their safety when leaving their homes. Muslim women in the United States should have an equal right to dress as they wish and be as equally respected as anyone else.
The religious attire followed by Muslim women comes from voluntary choices and decisions rather than forced beliefs. Muslims, like any religious group, are entitled to practice their faith and religious traditions. Like most religions, there are strict, fundamental Muslims and there are Muslims who choose to be more relaxed about traditions and beliefs. A strict, fundamental Muslim would choose to wear the niqab, a veil coving the face as well one’s hair and neck. Whereas the less strict Muslim would not wear any sort of the Islamic garment.
It is not only Islam that requires its followers to be modest with their clothing, but other religions and practices as well. For example, in the Catholic Church, it is a known fact that the Virgin Mary was rarely seen in paintings without wearing a veil. Islam and Christianity are, in fact, similar and should both be respected for this reason. Orthodox Jewish women often cover their heads when doing the blessing over the Sabbath meal and possibly in the Temple or synagogue because modesty is the primary reason. This is also to proclaim their loyalty to Judaism, as Muslim women do to show they belong to Islam. This is the same for a Sikh man’s requirement to wear a turban since he would believe it to be a gift from God, and same for an Orthodox Jewish man to be required to wear a ‘kippah’, a small cap. Therefore, on the subject of Muslim women dressing how they wish, it is arguable that they should be respected and treated equally since there are many other religions and cultures that incorporate the same thing.
Islam gives specific codes of belief, one of which is the hijab. Female liberation is when a woman can choose what she wears, thus Muslim women chose to wear the hijab. Some people agree with this statement as they believe strongly in the concept of freedom of speech. They believe that people have a need to express their religions and would argue that the world is now a world of freedom. In today’s society, everyone deserves the right to incorporate their religion and religious symbols into their daily lives, and this should be respected. It is a basic human right to have freedom of speech and this should not be violated.
In Islam, the hijab is completely optional and up to the women herself. A woman who covers herself is concealing her sexuality but allowing her femininity to be brought out. The meaning behind the hijab is basically showing modestly and keeping precious beauty hidden for one’s husband, father, brothers, uncles, and father-in-law. According to Gale, it is statistically shown in the United States, 48 percent of Muslim women do not wear the hijab in public and 38 percent do. Meanwhile, 5 percent of Muslim women wear the hijab most of the time and only 8 percent wear it some of the time (Gale).
There are many Muslim women who wear the hijab and fear their safety. They are afraid to leave their homes not knowing how the Islamophobics will react. According to Slma Shelbayah, “But the freedom feels threatened in a Trump America. Keeping a hijab on may potentially cost me my safety and endanger my young daughters. I find myself worried about every trip I take outdoors with them. Thoughts of being attacked or putting my girls in harm’s way fill my head.” (Shelbayah). She later talks about how she considered taking off her scarf to avoid any violence from occurring.
This has not only happened to older women but to students as well. In California alone, seventeen percent of Muslim females who wear a hijab have been bullied at least once for it. Meanwhile, according to Berlatsky more than ten percent of American Muslim students in California schools have reported physical bullying, some of which include kicking, slapping, or punching. However, fifty percent of American Muslims students in California reported that they have been exposed to rude comments and have had rumors erupted because of their religion (Berlatsky). Bullying is not okay overall but being bullied over something as little as religion is another thing.
Most Muslim women have been subjected to false accusations by uniformed individuals. Many misconceptions are constantly given in the way of Islam. Some of which would include: Islam being linked to terrorism and the controversy of the veil. However, each culture, tradition and religion should be respected and treated equally. Some people grow so accustomed to the media creating stereotypes of Muslims and opinions for them, that their brains automatically register whatever information they hear or read as ‘correct’. Not all Muslims are extremists and not all Muslims think alike. This is the same for any other religion, every faith has extremists. The hijab is merely a symbol of Islam, and Islam is a religion of peace.
Different people will have different opinions on the topic of Muslim women dressing how they wish. Some may believe it is harmless and that Muslim women have the right to choose how they live their lives, like everybody else. On the other hand, other people may believe it is dangerous and a threat to society. We live in a multicultural society where it is completely normal to see a woman wearing the headscarf in the street. It is a mystery how it affects anybody else and how a piece of clothing can be a threat to society. In the 21st Century, people do what they like, study what they like, eat what they want, do as they wish, so why should people not wear certain clothes if they want to? People can follow any religion they want or no religion at all, and those that do should be respected and so should their culture and tradition.