Ever since I’ve begin wearing a head scarf, I’ve been receiving the looks of friends and strangers alike: looks of admiration, looks of curiosity, looks of reprisals. Those looks are, in most situation, reinforcement of the purpose of my hijab. I feel protected and empowered, but, more importantly, I feel closer to God than ever.
The comments I receive also range from extremely positive to negative. Some, however, are meant as neutral and they can cause me the most pause. One of those comments came through a conversation about my scarf: “what about our right to feel safe?” The reality is that my headscarf is not a weapon or a threat, it does not propagate hate speech or discrimination of any kind. What it does threaten is the ability for others to see and judge my body.
In North American societies in this age of information, people seem to assume they have a right to all information including information about my body and hair: it’s shape, look, feel…
How is that a right? If anything, it should be my right to allow that information to go out! As a woman, I have seen men appropriate “rights” to my body: At bars, when they consider my dancing in public an invitation to touch, on the street when they consider my wearing heels to be an invitation to cat-call, on the internet, where having a picture of myself is an invitation for men I do not know to befriend me or at the very least comment on my appearance. If I refute their rights by pushing them away, telling them to back off, I receive comments and get name called. Names that are reseved for women when they refuse to provide “information” which men expect to be their “right”.
Everytime I put on my veil, I am reminded that information about my body is my right to disclose or to cover. For now, I choose to cover, but if one day, I chose to disclose my body, it would by no means change ownership to that right.
I respect that you may not feel safe when you see a Muslim in a hijab, but if you do perhaps it would be better to look at your own islamophobia rather than at my right to cover my hair and body because the only “right” you have is over your own actions and emotions!