General Question

shrubbery's avatar

What do you think when you see a Muslim woman wearing a Hijab?

Asked by shrubbery (9833 points ) May 19th, 2008

The Hijab is the veil which they wear on their head to cover their hair, neck and shoulders.

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66 Answers

iamatypeofwalrus's avatar

Nothing really. I suppose I wonder what language they speak, not all Muslims speak the same language. But I’m a geek like that…

marinelife's avatar

Hmm, the first thing that popped into my head when I read this question was why ask this question?

To answer for myself, though, the same thing I think when I see a Christian wearing a cross or holding a rosary or a Jewish person wearing a yarmulke—a person whose faith is an important part of their life.

shrubbery's avatar

I will explain why I asked after a get a few more answers :)

eambos's avatar

I see that they follow their religion very strickly, then I wonder how such traditions that discriminate against a gender are still part of many cultures in our modern world.

(sorry for the runon)

PupnTaco's avatar

I wonder if tradition or fear is at work.

phoenyx's avatar

Huh, a woman wearing a Hijab.

El_Cadejo's avatar

“Damn it must be hot under that thing”

LunaFemme's avatar

I think it looks hot & uncomfortable.

Edit: Uber beat me by seconds.

shrubbery's avatar

by the way please refrain from discussion or talking ‘at’ people for now, please wait until I’ve explained :)

Mtl_zack's avatar

i think of someone who is devoted to their beliefs. even more so because of the fear of muslims nowadays.

phoenyx's avatar

To answer what I think you’re getting at, do I see it as a sign of the oppression of women, religious tradition, or something else? That’s a hard question. If I looked around the internet for a bit I could quickly find examples that suggest oppression. However, there are a variety of reasons that women wear them. It could also be out of modesty and self-respect. Maybe it is a certain level of intimacy they want to share with their husbands. I’d probably have to ask them directly to really know.

kevbo's avatar

The same thing I think when I see any woman who is wearing clothes?

it’s my id day

AstroChuck's avatar

To be honest, when I see someone expressing their non-western faith by wearing religious garb I always wonder what other people think. I try to clandestinely watch how others react. Even in “liberal” California there are so many intolerant people who show their dislike and mistrust publicly.

shrubbery's avatar

The reason I ask is to see how many of your answers assume that the women who wear them are oppressed or not equal to men. Many women who wear the Hijab actually feel more liberated by it, believe it or not. The reason for wearing the Hijab comes from the Qur’an, but it does not state “a woman must wear a Hijab”. It merely states that a woman must dress modestly. The cultures have taken this on and in some places it is quite strict, but as I say this is the culture not the religion. The religion says dress modestly. Women choose how they want to take this on board. Wearing the Hijab is liberating because you are not judged for how you look, men may treat you equally as they do not see you as a piece of beauty they can own, they see you as a person with a mind who they can get to know and learn from. Islam actually encourages women and men to study and learn as studying Gods creation (the world) is an act of worship. Before Islam, women were treated much worse, like property, and did not have any rights to inheritence or money. Islam introduced marriage, only with the woman’s consent and she can instigate a divorce. Islam said that women can inheritent money and they can work. I’m sorry I don’t have time to post the links on here but look up ‘My Body is My Own Business’ by Naheed Mustafa and a bbc documentary ‘Islam on Parade’. I wrote this in a rush plus I’m only a highschool student so if I got something wrong let me know. now please discuss, I will be back later :)

ezraglenn's avatar

Of course oppression is always at the back of our minds because of how America (and other places perhaps, but I dont know because I dont live there) perpetuates this idea that nonwestern cultures/religions are essentially breeding grounds for oppression. (That sentence may not have made sense, let me know.) But at the heart of it, you can’t know why someone is wearing what they are wearing unless you ask, or are told.
Are women in corsets symbols of oppression?
Many women valued the effect of the corset on their body more highly than their own health/safety/comfort. And yet, the society forced many women (literally) into a shape they did not wish to be, at a great expense.
(Am I rambling?)
The same (or, “the similar”) is true of Chinese foot binding (although this is typically seen as more oppressive than corsets and Hijabs).

I’m just gonna stop now, though.

shrubbery's avatar

Hijab (Veil) and Muslim Women
Ms.Naheed Mustafa
“My body is my own business.”
MULTICULTURAL VOICES
A Canadian-born Muslim woman has taken to wearing the traditional hijab scarf. It tends to make people see her as either a terrorist or a symbol of oppressed womanhood, but she finds the experience liberating.
I often wonder whether people see me as a radical, fundamentalist Muslim terrorist packing an AK-47 assault rifle inside my jean jacket. Or may be they see me as the poster girl for oppressed womanhood everywhere. I’m not sure which it is.
I get the whole gamut of strange looks, stares, and covert glances. You see, I wear the hijab, a scarf that covers my head, neck, and throat. I do this because I am a Muslim woman who believes her body is her own private concern.
Young Muslim women are reclaiming the hijab, reinterpreting it in light of its original purpose—to give back to women ultimate control of their own bodies.
The Qur’an teaches us that men and women are equal, that individuals should not be judged according to gender, beauty, wealth, or privilege. The only thing that makes one person better than another is her or his character.
Nonetheless, people have a difficult time relating to me. After all, I’m young, Canadian born and raised, university-educated—why would I do this to myself, they ask.
Strangers speak to me in loud, slow English and often appear to be playing charades. They politely inquire how I like living in Canada and whether or not the cold bothers me. If I’m in the right mood, it can be very amusing.
But, why would I, a woman with all the advantages of a North American upbringing, suddenly, at 21, want to cover myself so that with the hijab and the other clothes I choose to wear, only my face and hands show?
Because it gives me freedom.
WOMEN are taught from early childhood that their worth is proportional to their attractiveness. We feel compelled to pursue abstract notions of beauty, half realizing that such a pursuit is futile.
When women reject this form of oppression, they face ridicule and contempt. Whether it’s women who refuse to wear makeup or to shave their legs, or to expose their bodies, society, both men and women, have trouble dealing with them.
In the Western world, the hijab has come to symbolize either forced silence or radical, unconscionable militancy. Actually, it’s neither. It is simply a woman’s assertion that judgment of her physical person is to play no role whatsoever in social interaction.
Wearing the hijab has given me freedom from constant attention to my physical self. Because my appearance is not subjected to public scrutiny, my beauty, or perhaps lack of it, has been removed from the realm of what can legitimately be discussed.
No one knows whether my hair looks as if I just stepped out of a salon, whether or not I can pinch an inch, or even if I have unsightly stretch marks. And because no one knows, no one cares.
Feeling that one has to meet the impossible male standards of beauty is tiring and often humiliating. I should know, I spent my entire teen-age years trying to do it. It was a borderline bulimic and spent a lot of money I didn’t have on potions and lotions in hopes of becoming the next Cindy Crawford.
The definition of beauty is ever-changing; waifish is good, waifish is bad, athletic is good—sorry, athletic is bad. Narrow hips? Great. Narrow hips? Too bad.
Women are not going to achieve equality with the right to bear their breasts in public, as some people would like to have you believe. That would only make us party to our own objectification. True equality will be had only when women don’t need to display themselves to get attention and won’t need to defend their decision to keep their bodies to themselves.

Naheed Mustafa graduated from the University of Toronto in 1992 with an honours degree in political and history. She is currently studying journalism at Ryerson Polytechnic University

shrubbery's avatar

And ‘Islam on Parade’ is a Compass Episode, on ABC TV Australia. You will find the transcript here, and a couple of clips here

jstringham21's avatar

I’d hate to say it, but I think…“terrorist”.

ezraglenn's avatar

that was extremely honest of you.

psyla's avatar

I agree with jstringham21. Current events have altered our perception. In addition to wondering about concealed pipe bombs, I’d wonder what she would look like without the veil as it adds mystery to the woman.

edmartin101's avatar

I think women wearing the Hijab have gotten so accustomed to it that actually have more fun than we think. Yeah is hot in there but after wearing it for a long time they get used to it. Both sexes flirt with the opposite gender, I’ve seen Muslim women giggling and laughing about men around them. I bet they think, only us have the freedom to look at how handsome men look like when they can’t see us.

I used to think the same way as jstringham21, but I have noticed Muslim women are more peaceful and hardly any aggressive as compared to Muslim men.

susanc's avatar

I think, I wonder what we would talk about if I weren’t just passing her in the mall
and looking at her covertly while she ignores me out of politeness or disinterest.

mirza's avatar

No offense to anyone, but i find it strictly annoying. They looked like conformities to me. I try to stay calm but theres always an awkward feeling in myself.

edmartin101's avatar

@mirza It happens in every situation where if you are not familiar with your surroundings you won’t feel comfortable, you will be cautious and a bit paranoid, but you are in a familiar territory all is second nature and nothing alarms you anymore. Now, keep in mind I am not saying you can perfectly go to Iraq or Iran and have the same attitude.

wildflower's avatar

I don’t think much about the hijab – sure it’s a shame they can’t show off their hairdo, but hey, maybe they’re having a bad hair day.
Burka’s on the other hand…...I think anything from: Thank goodness it’s not me, Wonder what they’re wearing underneath, Must be roasting in that, to: Certainly wouldn’t have to worry to much about what to wear….

manaf's avatar

i am a muslin arabic boy and i say that is good to make the muslim women wear hijab tho 16+ not under that age my sis wear hijab cuz all people think she is hot!

wildflower's avatar

Gotta love that ‘head-in-the-sand’ approach to avoiding temptation….

cheebdragon's avatar

“Oh hey look there is a Muslim woman….”

hearkat's avatar

I usually notice the scarf itself, many of them are very beautiful. I am unphased by her choice of religion, and I respect it.

When I see a woman who only has her eyes showing, I wonder if she ever feels claustrophobic underneath it, because I know I would.

theloveprophet's avatar

Well, when I see one, I usually see a bunch and I think, “There’s the Allah Aliance.” It’s either that or “ALLAHLALALALALA.”

And you mods better not delete this because this is exactly what I think.

richmarshall's avatar

I think “Hey, I can’t see that person”

cheebdragon's avatar

or “maybe they think its an invisible cloak….”

jstringham21's avatar

I wish I had a grilled cheese right now.

indicatebound's avatar

i think that I wish I could get away with wearing that, but my American culture doesn’t permit me to wear something like that, and I’m supposed to be free

hearkat's avatar

@indicatebound: I live in New Jersey, and I see people wearing different garments for their religion frequently, whether they’re Muslim, Jewish, Amish or Mennonites. You ARE free to wear such garments if you so desire. Those who do put their faith above so-called “cultural” pressure.

indicatebound's avatar

Hearkat: Indeed I am free to the extent that I could legally wear whatever I wanted. For me, it isn’t a religious matter. I like the idea of being covered, of not having to worry if my body impresses girls or what they might think, etc. And while I am free to cover myself in such a way, the reality is that being a male in his twenties who attends a conservative law school, I’m more or less expected to dress like a conservative male law student.
You absolutely have a good point though, and I definitely respect those people who put their religion above cultural pressures. Personally, I’m not religious enough or strong enough to d so.

hearkat's avatar

@ IndicateBound: You are in the perfect position to dress as you choose… Who knows better than a bunch of lawyers that they can’t discriminate against you? It takes courage to defy established practice, for sure. Perhaps you’ll find the courage within you some day.

edmartin101's avatar

@indicatebound just for the fun of it you should test the establishment by changing the dress code to casual and see the reaction in people’s eyes. I bet somebody else will have the courage to dress casual too and stop the tradition of conservative dress code

hearkat's avatar

Today I saw a young girl fully covered, and my first thought was that the scarf was gorgeous (a rich purple); then I immediately thought how hot she must be! It is well over 90•F here today, and her brother was wearing a short-sleeve polo shirt. I don’t understand why only women have to dress so conservatively…

stephen's avatar

conservative people. some religion stuff

esayexohen's avatar

I think of my girlfriend because she’s Muslim. and I’m not. and her father still has no idea I exist…........
a story for another day.

I also think they got one hell of a bad name after 9/11 and it sucks. talk about a couple bad eggs spoiling the bunch… or however that saying goes. bc there’s more Muslims in the world than any other religion.

cheebdragon's avatar

How do you figure?

esayexohen's avatar

well, not speciffically to bring up 9/11, but because of Muslim extremist acts, creating a bad name for the rest.

but if you mean how do I figure there’s more Muslims, I apologize, I was wrong. Christianitys got 2.1 billion and Islam in 2nd with 1.5 billion.
Sorry

edmartin101's avatar

There are about 6 million Muslims a year converting to Christianity every year in Africa, there are about 1.6 million Christian churches in Africa doing the job. Many clerics are dying for their new beliefs in Christ. Christian ex-Muslims are more faithful than regular Christians, huh!!

hearkat's avatar

@EdMartin101: I would imagine that anyone who converts to a new religion as an adult, or chooses a religion if they weren’t told what to believe in childhood, would tend to be more devout than those who say they are a certain religion just because it’s what their parents said they were. I never understood that… it seems like many people think you are born into a religion the way you are born into citizenship of a certain nationality. Religion is a choice, it is not genetic or geographically determined.

Usually when asked the question, I will tell people that I was raised Presbyterian, and (force-fed rose Christian ideologies because my parents were much more strict about it than most of the families in my neighborhood). I continue to say that I do not follow any religion now, because I have not found one that really fits the beliefs I have formed through my life’s experiences.

edmartin101's avatar

@hearkat you should look into this. This may be the reason you haven’t found a true church you’ve been looking for without knowing all along.

Lightlyseared's avatar

well i find it quite attractive. Mainly because I know its supposed to have the opposite effect and I like rebel.

NuGoonie23's avatar

for one….all those who think terrorist, or terrorism or rather what “theloveprophet” thinks…

GROW SOME KNOWLEDGE…
1.
Allah means god in Arabic…maybe you didnt pay attention in world history when learning about Islam.
And another thing, the same god that jewish people pray to and christian people pray to…yes god, not jesus or anyone else, im talking about god…That god is the same god Muslim’s pray to…Yup that’s the similarity of the monotheistic religions…
Come on people open your eyes and embrace the cultures around you, geez

And when i see a muslim woman wearing a hijab, i see a woman who is faithful

cheebdragon's avatar

Who are you talking to?

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

@shrubbery, The same thing I think when I see a man wearing a yarmulke. This is a person of faith.

jholler's avatar

In all honesty, I feel very tense. I am trying to control my emotions better, but after spending a year in Iraq, well, it’s become instinct to be immediately suspicious of arabic people, especially ones wearing clothing that can hide intentions OR weapons. (Yes, I know the difference between a burka and a hijaab.) I know intellectually that not every arabic person I meet is a militant muslim who thinks they’ll enter paradise by killing me, but I still experience automatic responses when I see muslim dress. I can feel my pulse elevate slightly, my blood pressure increases, my vision narrows, and my muscles tense involuntarily in response to adrenaline created by my “fight or flight” reflex. I know I probably need to relax, but look at it this way: Imagine a habit you’re trying to break, such as smoking, swearing, biting your nails, tapping your foot, etc…think of how hard it is to break an ingrained habit, then imagine that habit was what kept you alive for 12 months. I will probably always have an intense dislike and distrust of islam, but I am trying to stop projecting that onto all Arabic people.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

@jholler, you may want to see if the VA has some sort of counseling that can help; my neighbor was just talking about having a similar problem after Vietnam.

shrubbery's avatar

Thankyou for your honesty, jholler, and I am sorry that you cannot shake those feelings.

ezraglenn's avatar

@jholler: There was a story about the very same condition in another young Iraq war vet on This American Life a few weeks back, and the man in that story ended up becoming vice president of the Muslim Students Association! You can do it too! I will find a link tomorrow.

Siren's avatar

I think wow, this person has risen above our innate desire and nature to fit in just to follow her own beliefs. That’s willpower.

tiffyandthewall's avatar

same as marina,
i see it often and i don’t think much into it besides that they’re representing their religion/culture.

tiffyandthewall's avatar

@jholler, i’m sorry that’s your initial feeling. i can imagine that you would feel that way, and it says something positive about you that you understand that it’s a generalization and that you’re working on changing that. and that you’re honest. [=

hatinspace's avatar

I realize that I am not supposed to see her elbow, for example… or I will be in big trouble?

bea2345's avatar

Actually it is a very becoming garment. It occurs to me now, it also has the effect of distancing the woman, possibly from the opposite sex, or from strangers.

Excalibur's avatar

Nothing much except that she comes from a different culture from me and we are not likely to have much in common.

malevolentbutticklish's avatar

They wear it so they don’t get stoned in their home country. Nice to know we want to accept their culture here so eagerly. I hope women don’t mind getting their clits chopped out soon as is common in Muslim culture. Hope gays don’t mind execution for their crimes against Allah.

bea2345's avatar

One of the reasons that school children wear uniforms is partly to reinforce the idea that persons in such attire may not be employed in certain ways – you hardly ever see a schoolgirl serving in a shop, for example, but you would see the same child sitting behind the counter doing her homework. The hijab, I think, serves the same purpose, as do the other rules for male dress in Islamic societies. The opposite sex is off limits until marriage (and now there is even evidence that premarital sex is actually harmful as it inhibits the urge towards monogamy).

Pandora's avatar

Four things will usually spring to mind.
1. What @uberbatman said (it must be hot as heck under that)
2. She must be Muslim
3. If I’m having a bad hair day, I wish I had a ligit reason to cover my hair where no one would ask me why.
4. Sometimes its a little creepy. But I feel the same about people covered in a hoodie or people who have long hair covering their faces. I think that is more a primal reaction.
Other than that, I really don’t care. Its their choice how they live.

bea2345's avatar

What is happening here is this; a lot of women, young and old, are wearing the scarf because it makes them pretty. There are so many styles. In fact, if the purpose of the hijab is to distract the opposite sex, it succeeds brilliantly: only not in the way intended by the moralists.

MeinTeil's avatar

That men should be deeply offended that it’s believed that women must be completely covered in order for men to control themselves in the company of the opposite sex.

amazonstorm's avatar

I think nothing off it. I just see a woman who is connected to her faith and admire the scarf, as they’re often quite lovely and I smile, compliment them and go on my way.

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