Call Out to All Muslim Women

Call Out to all Muslim Women Who Practice Hijab (Muhajabah): Representation in the Media

By Zainab Mahdi

We all need to get more involved within mainstream media in order to accurately represent ourselves to the biggest audience…”

Hijab is defined as, “a head covering worn in public by some Muslim women”. This is the definition given by Oxford Dictionary. It is also categorized as a noun. We as practicing Muslims know it ought to be referred to as a verb.

Some Muslim women utilize the hijab in the form of a noun and only that. It is this action that the media choose to reflect on heavily, while inferring it as“oppression” against Muslim women and something foreign to the Western world. It however is not foreign to the Western world, as Nuns in the Christian faith have and practice similar characteristics of hijab.

It is my desire to see hijab practiced and understood as a verb. Hijab is not merely a physical covering of the body to protect ones modesty, although that is one of the major requirements of it. It is also action, and a way of life a women chooses to live. This way of life is not that of sitting at home behind closed doors being forced to cook, clean, raise children and be silent, but to be able to choose to do that at free will and/or still be a full participant in community and society. The visual hijab as I mentioned before is the physical dress adorned by Muslim women. The action of hijab is something that the media chooses to refrain from discussing and highlighting. Hijab is a behavior and a uniform of respect and dignity. Hijab allows one that dawns it the opportunity to be ones true self in the sense that her mind is evaluated not her body and physical allure. The responsibility of wearing hijab is far greater than not, because instantly one is recognized as a Muslim. The actions of that person is watched and judged, and especially due to the portrayal of Muslim women in the media, it is watched and judged critically.

Muslim women who practice hijab need to represent it better and who can they look up to in regards to this other than Bibi Zainab (sa). Bibi Zainab (sa) spoke out against injustice and was the voice of the righteous and innocent. Her speech at the court of Yazid (la) was not filled with hate, but with praise for Allah, his martyrs and his complete religion. She was a student of the Holy Prophet of Allah, her Grandfather, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and a teacher to others. She was known to be literary advanced and coined as the “narrator of traditions”. This was following her narration of her mother, Bibi Fatima’s (sa) sermon of Fadak. What I take away from the attributes of Bibi Zainab (sa) is that we as practicing Muslim women who practice hijab should educate ourselves within our religion and also general knowledge. We must stand up for ourselves and educate others on matters not only in Islam, but of social, economic, cultural and academic issues as we process them. We must educate ourselves and become experts not only in our own religion, but of the former motioned realms as well.

Being a Muslim woman does not limit us to stations in life that are behind the scenes. This to me is our actual downfall. We as muhajabah women need to be available and ready to reflect on ideas, philosophy and general subject matter; this is to be critical and valuable participating citizens within the society. We live in an era where tangible and visual media is mainstream and popular. These outlets are where most people gain knowledge and are influenced easily. This is where the attention of the society is, and is also where unfortunately negative and false information is dispensed towards Muslims. If we as Muslim women who practice hijab actually “practice hijab” in the way Bibi Zainab (sa) did, this problem would cease to exist if not diminish greatly. The only ones who can show the light to those who have been covered in darkness are those who posses it. We all have the torch, it is about time that more of us turn it on and illuminate the path for those who lack it. We all have the ability to obtain knowledge and represent ourselves the way Islam intends, we must come out in the open, in popular culture and media to reflect it the way it is intended.

 

When the media does try to shed positive light on hijab, it focuses on the fabric itself, if the women was forced to wear it, how do they feel walking the streets of North America with it on etc. How about we have Muslim women actively take part in discussions on television on topics that have no relation to religion or culture? I have yet to see that actively. I want to see an educated Muslim woman who wears hijab discussing matters such as politics in North Korea, or the Oil spill etc. on like CBC, CTV, ABC, CBS etc. We have to start being the experts on matters and dare I say gate keepers and agenda setters of the media, rather than constantly being the same topic of discussion over and over again. We need more active involvement within the media!

 

(A discussion between myself and another sister in Islam)

Zainab Mahdi is a 4th year student at York University, and is a former vice-President of TMA.

4 thoughts on “Call Out to All Muslim Women

  • Excellent article and well phrased. I definitely agree with the fact that the media has outlined the fabric and goes about educating and infiltrating young/uneducated minds about Islam on Hijab.

    The thing is that we as muslims are to blame as well,by not taking part where we should have taken a long time ago..by letting these uneducated people educate others about OUR deen is the reason why we are in the backseat. Also,those who have defined hijab as a definition of their flexibility of the religion have also caused numerous amount of confusion and misunderstandings.
    The point remains,however, that we as an ummah have to act and we as the ambassadors of Islam have to illustrate the real picture by actually clearing away doubts.

    If we ACCEPT islam at heart and fully submit to it the way our Prophet SAW and his followers did then we will be successful and like you said in the end, take active role in such places where we can reach a mass audience and simultaneously clear misconception.

  • Zainab, I couldn’t agree with you more. I think it is so important for us as muslim women to make ourselves heard and not allow others to speak for us.. when we let that happen, it merely magnifies the very problem that media loves to focus on: that we are opressed. But we need to stop talking about it and actually DO it. I actually work at CTV and you would not believe how many times there have been stories about so called “muslims” and the reporters always turn to the same people to get the “muslim opinon” (many of whom have very problematic outlooks on Islam.. ie Tarek Fathah) But the reason they are the ones being heard is because they MAKE THEMSELVES AVAILABLE. They constantly send out emails, call into the news station, write letters to the editor, letting everyone know that they are available to speak “on behalf of muslims”. So we cannot only blame media for not giving us a space to be heard.. the space is there, we just have to take an active role to claim it.

  • ^Amen to that Ginelle. Its definitely our responsibility to take the initiative and seize that “space.”

    Great article Zainab! I really like how you stressed on the other attributes of hijab. The Hijab would not be as importance and purposeful if we just wore it as a piece of cloth and forgotten it’s other attributes. Like you mentioned, being aware of our actions while being under the veil are just as important and this is what’ll create a good Muslim identity. I think this is one of the core concepts girls need to grasp when they wear the hijab. Since now they’re wearing hijab they have a whole Muslim identity to uphold upon their shoulders and their demeanor will reflect this.

  • It’s definitely high time we started actively participating in society and representing the Religion of God in a positive light.

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