She Speaks We Hear

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For Almost 30 Years I Wore A Headscarf

Image courtesy of Khashayar Elyassi

Image courtesy of Khashayar Elyassi

For almost 30 years I wore a headscarf.

For almost 30 years I believed it was an integral part of my faith and I would be disobeying god by not wearing it.

For almost 30 years I believed that if I didn’t wear one, I would be constantly harassed and pursed by men – my beauty needed to be concealed.

For almost 30 years, I was misguided.

I cannot pinpoint when I decided or started to doubt my headscarf. I think it was when I was watching my cousin coming up to the age of 9 – the obligatory age for wearing it. A few years prior to that, I saw my cousins and the family around them start the brainwashing process

“ooh you’ll have a big party with lots of presents when you start to wear one”

“you’ll be more like mum, I will start treating you as a grown-up”

“It’s haram you have to”

And I could see my poor little cousin, she wasn’t having any of it. I could see her sorrow at being the only girl in her school wearing a scarf. I watched her in silence, and decided to do my own research. And that’s the beginning of the journey.

“This is the first misconception when wearing a scarf – a woman is so beautiful that she must be covered.”

My first realisation. I am not beautiful.  This is the first misconception when wearing a scarf – a woman is so beautiful that she must be covered. I watched my western friends, they didn’t dress immodestly. They just got on with their day. And most importantly, they weren’t harassed. Did I really believe I was more attractive than all of them?  No, I am not. So why was I wearing it?

I put my theory to the test, one day whilst at a conference in Vienna, I stepped out of my hotel room with no headscarf on.  I looked around. Nobody could care less. I was actually quite taken aback, where were the wolf whistles? The harassment? Why wasn’t every man in the room looking at me? In fact it was far worse – why was everyone IGNORING ME. I just blended in.  I am not used to that. When I enter a room, a bus, a train carriage, a shop, everyone looks at me. But nobody did. And I tried hard to make eye contact, yet nobody looked my way. I was moments away from going up to the nearest man and shaking him and asking him “why haven’t you fallen madly in love with me?” Until I pulled myself together. I was dressing how I always dress. I just lost the headscarf and the world around me changed. My scarf was meant to make me gender neutral, a eunuch. But it didn’t, it made me stand out even more. I walked through the lobby then out in the street. I put on my shades and walked to the nearest supermarket – everyone was getting on with their day. No stares. No pointing. I grabbed my shopping and went back to my room, and put my scarf back on.

It took a few more months after that to fully remove the veil, and the reactions, stories that follow are too detailed to put into this article. So there is more to come. However, it is a decision I never regretted. I am still not fully out – I still live a double life. Many people still don’t know. I put it on in community and family based events. My cousin is still being pressured to wear it. At times I think I should say something to save her. At times I think I should keep quiet and let her find her own words to fight her battles.

by The Undercover Feminist

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.

Image Courtesy of Khashaya Elyasi on Flickr  

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All Women Who Cover Their Heads Are Nadiya Hussain

Nadiya Hussain on winning the Great British Bake Off

Nadiya Hussain on winning the Great British Bake Off

Nadiya Hussain. There you go – crystal clear. If I had written it, nobody would have believed me. Nobody could see her skill. Nobody can see past the fact that she wears a headscarf. Muslims and non-Muslims alike. If this isn’t the proof then nothing is. When you wear a headscarf – nobody can see past it. Your intelligence, humour, talent, beauty is nothing. You wear a headscarf.

So I have been following the media intensity around the Great British Bake Off winner myself. For my personal Muslim friends on Facebook, it’s all “yay, a Hijabi won”. For the mass media, “congratulations, a Bangladeshi Muslim woman has won”. And now the backlash, the media scrutiny of the BBC, was it a political move. Was it a politically correct move? Move over: she won because she was the best baker, but does anyone even care? Did anyone even notice? Did anyone even notice that the other two contestants massively screwed up on the day? Nobody noticed at all. The headscarf masked that all.

Nadiya Hussain isn’t the only one. Yvonne Ridley is treated the same when she decided to cover up. Award winning journalist – well that was back then, before the head scarf came on. Now, you’re just a good obedient wifey. No? Really? You are still involved in journalism? Well it’s just your hobby then? The only women who are successful in their headscarf appearance are those who are politically involved, or post vlogs about the latest headscarf fashions. Those fighting for equality and human rights, or those shovelling it onto their faces. And even then they are not taken all that seriously in comparison to their non-veiled counterparts. And where do the rest of us “in-betweeners” sit?

Women already have it hard, and it’s hard for them to be taken seriously. Just today Theresa May had to defend her “like” for trendy clothes, and that it was ok to be a fashionista politician. But the headscarf makes it harder. You’re not even seen as a woman then; you’re only seen as a scarfy.

“Nobody cares if you’re great at your job, or doing something pivotal in your society. You are masked by the veil; the head covering that speaks louder than your actions.”

The point I wanted to desperately portray in this article is that all women who cover their heads are Nadiya Hussain. Nobody cares if you’re great at your job, or doing something pivotal in your society. You are masked by the veil; the head covering that speaks louder than your actions. And let’s not blame our “white society” for this. The “black” community are just as guilty. So the veil is more than that, it’s not just a head covering. It sends out a message loud and clear. I wear a headscarf. And for your society around you, whether it be white or black will always judge you by your headscarf, and it’s never going to be a positive empowering image they portray.

By the Undercover Feminist

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website. The copyright remains with the author, any reproduction of this post should accredit She Speaks We Hear.
Image courtesy of the BBC


Why don’t you make your mother wear the Hijab?

by Inayah Zaheen


Inayah pictured with her mother; image courtesy of Inayah Zaheen

Inayah pictured with her mother; image courtesy of Inayah Zaheen

A few months ago we were invited to someone’s house for dinner where I was asked a question by one of the guests:

“Why don’t you make your mother wear the hijab?”.

I love wearing the headscarf – to externally be dressed in a way that enables me to maximise on worship (stop, drop, sujood almost anywhere!), but also to be able to walk down the street and very visibly be noted to be a Muslim woman. I chose to wear it not only to follow the wisdom and instruction of my Creator, but also because I believe it represents something greater: that I am not defined nor measured by social standards of beauty. I won’t lie and pretend it isn’t difficult at times, but I love to reflect on the story of Ibrahim AS, (a prophet mentioned in the qur’an), and how he was willing to sacrifice his own son in his love for, and faith in Allah. While I can by no means equate covering my hair in public to a sacrifice so great, for me this difficulty was made easier when reminding myself that although I love my hair (not that I’m now bald), my love for Allah has always been, and should always be far greater.

I am 22 years old, and I started to wear the headscarf when I was 19, after many months and years of contemplation, consideration and prayer. It is not wholly unusual in my extended family to choose to wear a headscarf, but it is also not the norm. When faced with the above question however, my answer was prompt: my mother is a million times a better Muslim than I am, when I reach her level, I’ll find myself in any position to give her advice.

My mother, wears hijab in every single aspect of the concept and word – without physically wearing a headscarf. My mother lives and breathes Islam, she has the most beautiful sabr and patience that I have ever seen, after her first child died, she grew in imaan and faith in Allah’s plan and in love for Allah. She is also beautifully humble, modest and loving and of course – Jannah is beneath her feet! She works as a mother with all her passion, and as a doctor with all her dedication. Her determination, strength and beauty are wonderful, and I love her dearly. She is not the only one I know like this – there are many friends of mine who are so humble, modest, kind, wise and genuinely representative of Islam in their every action and word without physically wearing the headscarf, that I find great role models in them, and aspire to have that degree of wonderful character and piety. I am by no means undermining the headscarf and outer hijab, but at the same time I have a request for my Muslim sisters and brothers: please do not undermine the equal importance of inner hijab.

Image courtesy of Kasha Halford

Image courtesy of Kashi Halford

It only takes a few seconds to scroll on instagram and see the array of hateful and judgemental comments against sisters – headscarf-wearing and non-headscarf-wearing. Sometimes it truly makes me want to cry – at which point did we decide we could demean and belittle others, based on our perceptions of their practise of Islam? Headscarf, no headscarf, half-headscarf, or even bikini – nothing legitimises being rude and disrespectful to any human being, let alone a Muslim sister. Of course, giving advice is important – but when we are so obsessed with Islam’s teaching on dress, why do we not extend this to observing Islam’s teachings on etiquettes in giving advice? On top of this, while Allah is the best judge of intentions, ask yourselves this: is my intention by writing this “advice” in a comment to make a point, boost my ego, or truly inspire hearts and minds with the words of Allah and the Prophet Muhammed SAW?

Instead, let us take lessons to always learn from one another – such an approach can only seek to increase our humility. Instead of: what can I point out about this sister that is bad/worse than me, let us ask: what is this sister doing that is better than what I do? How is she practising Islam in a way I can learn to practise Islam? Perhaps she gives more charity than I do, perhaps she listens with more sincerity to others, perhaps she never backbites. When I look at my mother, there is an infinite list of things I can learn from her, and I love that about her.

Ultimately, Allah is the judge of everyone, and He is the most JUST of judges. All I’m asking is, let’s increase in love for one another, seek out to find the good in one another, and always remember that Allah knows us all infinity times better than we know ourselves.

To those who have been faced with similar questions, perhaps your answer will be different to mine – and that’s fine! But to those who have ever felt demeaned because of comments about hijab, know that no one can claim to speak on behalf of Allah, and He knows best what is in the heart. To those of you who genuinely give advice, keep it up. I’m sure you already do, but also take some time to listen to, learn from, and appreciate the story, the struggles and the heart of the sister you are speaking to.

So why don’t I make my mother wear the hijab? Because she already does. If Allah wills it for her, the beaming example of her inner hijab may one day manifest into outer headscarf, but for the moment, she is my mother, and heaven is beneath her feet.

I end with one of my favourite hadiths:

Taqwa is not in the length of your beard, or in the layers of cloth you wear. The prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said, “Taqwa is here,” and he pointed to his chest. (Reported by Muslim)

And one of my favourite verses of the qur’an:

Indeed, your Lord is most knowing of who has gone astray from His way, and He is most knowing of the [rightly] guided. (Surah Qalam: Verse 7)

Inayah Zaheen, I’m 22 and I am a 4th year medical student in London. I take a keen interest in interfaith, community work and volunteering and I love learning about other people. She blogs at

Images credit: Inayah Zaheen and  Sarajevo, Bosnia from Kashklick

Disclaimer: the opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.