Many people ask me about Islam and what it is like to be a Muslim woman. I would like to address that question in this article.
The question most often asked is about my dress: many say “Why do you wear that scarf on your head?”
The answer to that question lies in the teachings of Islam. It says in the Muslims’ holy book, the Qur’an that Muslim women should draw their veils over their bosoms when they go out so they will not be molested.
The scholars of Islam have described that to draw the veil over the bosom means to cover the chest. A woman is also told that her natural beauty should only be seen by her immediate family, such as her husband, father, brother, uncle, etc.
These areas that should be covered are the neck, ears, and hair, as well as her bosom and body shape. I, as many other Muslim women do, wear a scarf that covers the ears, hair, and neck and goes down the front to cover my chest. I then wear a dress that covers me from the neck down, and that is loose fitting so as not to reveal the shape of my body. This is the typical (and recommended) dress for a Muslim woman, to protect her modesty.
This is to discourage any molestation by men who are not her family members. I, as a Muslim woman and a convert to the religion, remember that when I was younger and not yet a Muslim, my wearing skimpy clothing attracted many negative comments and lewd gestures. Since I have been Muslim and started covering my body, I have not seen this to be the case. I find it liberating that I am taken much more seriously as a person and valued for my mind as opposed to my body.
As a Muslim woman, I like knowing when I put on the Jilbab (a dress like an overcoat that covers from the neck down to the feet) that I am totally covered and no one can see what my body looks like. This was a personal decision that I made to cover and I am proud to have made such an important choice for my well-being and myself.
For the most part, I find that when I explain the reasons for why I wear the clothing and why I believe I should, that most people are rather accepting and some even comment on how logical the whole idea is. The whole stereotype that all Muslims are forced to dress like this is completely false. There are some Muslim women who do not choose to cover up, and this is their decision. There are, however, many successful Muslim women who do a cover-up and have managed to become absolutely wonderful in their fields and still maintain the modesty that they chose to uphold.
So you see that it is a choice to dress and act the way we do, and maybe the next time you see a Muslim woman, you may have a newfound respect for her and the religion of Islam.