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The Symbolism of Deciding to Wear a Muslim Headscarf

I knew the hijab (the scarf Muslim women cover their head with) is symbolic, but I hadn't given much thought to just how meaningful the decision whether or not to don it is until I read this piece in Slate. Especially for Muslim women living in America, covering up or not varies just as often as someone might switch jobs or leave a relationship, and it's just as life changing.

The author of the piece tells of her own decision to cover and shares other's stories, too. One woman originally covered up as an act of rebellion, a way to stand out — but decided to unveil later after being set up with potential dates who thought her hijab broadcast a submissive attitude toward marriage whereas her education had prompted her to examine roles for men and women laid out in classical Islamic law. To see it applied in modern times,


The Quran has two verses dealing specifically with women's dress. And though they seem vague to a modern ear, the rules lead 51 percent of Muslims in the United States to wear a hijab all or most of the time. One of the modern interpretations resulted in a Facebook group called "Just Because I Don't Wear Hijab Doesn't Mean I'm Not Muslim."

The author sums up the decision beautifully saying:

Wearing hijab or not wearing hijab — just like owning a gun or driving a Prius — says something fundamental about your beliefs and aspirations. And in America, at least, beliefs have a funny way of changing.

Do religions that have outwardly visible cues require a higher level of faith? Could wearing a hijab be liberating? Is wearing one a rebellion just as not wearing one is? Would you look differently at a woman in a hijab knowing she's made a conscious decision to wear it?

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