The Islamic revival symbolized by the current resurgence of the hijab is often considered as an attempt of Arab Muslims to restore their pride and identity which have been repeatedly undermined by colonization and economic retardation. Man has always had a conservative tendency and reacts against which is new and unfamiliar without realizing whether it is good or bad for him. Some people still think the Muslim women insist on wearing hijab which is the “very symbol of the oppressed situation because they are enslaved by the tradition and are not sufficiently aware of their lamentable situation. “If only”, they probably think, “the movement of the women’s liberation and independence awakes those women’s mind, they will take away the hijab.”
Such a naïve point of view is shared by the people who have little knowledge of Islam. They, who are so accustomed to the secularism and religious eclecticism, are simply unable to understand that the teaching of Islam is universal and eternal. Anyway, there are more and more women, beyond the Arab nationality, all over the world embracing Islam as the true religion and covering the hair. The hijab is surely a strange object for non-Muslim people. For them, the hijab does not cover the woman’s hair but also hides something to which they have no access, and that is the real reason as to why they feel uneasy. From the outside, effectively, they can never see what is behind the hijab. Every Muslim devotes his or her life to God. It is a wonder as to why why people who say nothing about the “veil” of the Catholic nuns criticize the veil of the muslima, considering it a symbol of “terrorism” or “oppression”.
“Why hide the body in its natural state?”, you may ask. But think it was considered vulgar fifty years ago in Japan to swim in a swimming suit.1 Now one would be able to see the Japanese swim in a bikini without shame. If you swim, however, with a topless, people would say you are shameless, but go to a South France beach, where many women, young and old, take a sun-bath in a topless. If you go to a certain beach on the west coast in America, the nudists take a sun-bath as naked as when they are born. On the other side, at the medieval times, a knight trembled at a brief sight of a shoe of his adoring lady. It shows the definition of women’s “secret part” can be changed. How you can answer to a nudist if she asks you why you hide yours busts and hips although they are as natural as your hands and face ? It is the same for the hijab of a muslima. We consider all our body except hands and face as private parts because Allah defined it like this. Its why we hide them from male strangers. If you keep something secret, it increases in value. Keeping a woman’s body secret increases its charm.
Even for the eye of the same sex, the nape of a sister’s neck is surprisingly beautiful because it is normally covered. If a man loses the feeling of shame and starts to walk naked and excrete and “make love” in the presence of other people, he would then become no different than an animal. The problem of sexual harassment which is discussed very frequently proves how men are weak to resist to this kind of attraction. We could not expect prevention of sex harassment only by appealing men’s high morality and self-control. A short skirt might be interpreted by men to say : “if you want me, you may take me”, a hijab means clearly, “I am forbidden for you.”
The Muslim woman covers herself for her own dignity. She refuses to be possessed by the eyes of a stranger and to be his object. She feels nothing but a sense of pity for the Western women who display their private parts as sexual objects for male strangers. If one observes the hijab from outside, one will never see what is hidden in it. Observing the hijab from the outside and living it from inside are two completely different things. We see different things.
This gap explains the chasm separating those from the understanding of Islam. From the outside, Islam looks like a “prison” without any liberty. But living inside of it, we feel at peace and experience freedom and joy that we have never known before. We choose Islam against the so-called freedom and pleasure. If it is true that Islam is a religion that oppresses the women, why are there so many young women in Europe, in America, and in Japan who abandon their liberty and independence to embrace Islam ? A person blinded because of his prejudice may not see it, but a woman with the hijab is so brightly beautiful as an angel or a saint with self-confidence, calmness, and dignity. Not a slight touch of shade nor any trace of oppression is visible on her face.
“They are blind and cannot see” says the Qur’an2 about those who deny the sign of Allah(T), but by what else can we explain this gap on the understanding of Islam between us and those people ?
- Nakata Khaula, “A Japanese Woman’s Experience of Hijab” in Radio Islam International
- Qur’an, 2:18