Hijablogging: “Hijab Undecided”

By Jillian C. York

The topics discussed and debated in the “hijablogosphere” are always wide-ranging, but a succession of recent blog posts delve into one particularly tricky topic: what happens when a woman decides to take off her hijab.

First, a post in late May from Egyptian blogger Nadia Elawady caused a stir in the blogosphere and collected hundreds of comments. In the post, Nadia tells us about her “dirty little secret”:

I experimented last week. I took off my hijab — the headscarf many Muslim women wear to cover their hair.

I have been wearing a headscarf when I leave the privacy of my home for 25 years, since I was 17. That’s a long long time in human years.

I took my hijab off during a recent trip to Europe. I wanted to know what it would feel like. I wanted to know how people’s perceptions of me would change and how my perception of myself would change.

Woman in desert near Sharm el Sheik, Egypt. Image by Flickr user DavidDennisPhotos.com (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Nadia goes on to tell readers about why she made her decision and how it felt, describing in succinct prose the process that led her to it. She concludes:

I’m back home in Cairo, wearing my hijab. I don’t feel regret for having experimented. And I don’t currently feel like I want to permanently take off my hijab. There are a few reasons I feel that way. I don’t expect people’s reactions to me taking off the hijab in Egypt — people I know — to be positive or supportive or we-could-care-less. There would be lots of drama involved and I don’t know that I’m up for that. There’s also a part of me that still feels that the hijab might be obligatory. Maybe God really does want me to cover up from head to toe. I still need to figure that one out.

More recently, Fatma Emam also in Cairo, wrote about her recent to remove her hijab permanently. In discussing how she came to such a decision, Fatma explains:

I felt I was imprisoned in a narrow vision, which saw the world, power relations, modesty and women agency is a very parochial way, I felt that I need to read other visions, by that time I never thought my theoretical beliefs will lead to me to any personal decisions, it was for me a theoretical battle to prove that there are diversity in the Islamic paradigm .

Shani Pathan understands their feelings better than most. In a post entitled “Hijab Undecided: Keep it On… Take it Off… Keep it On…” she explains how she put on then removed hijab after just a month. Shani then discusses what she sees as disconnect between the act of wearing hijab and the broader concept of modesty:

Before even considering wearing a Hijab think twice about it, although it’s obligatory to dress modestly and also a sunnah of the Prophet SAW. Can you really represent the Hijab correctly? Will you be able to change your ways and wear it for the right reasons.

There’s no point in wearing the Hijab just to cover your head if you can’t behave like a modest woman. I may not represent the whole religious side of things correctly but what I do know is I can walk proudly on the road being modest as well as not tarnishing the value of the Hijab.

This post by Jillian C. York first appeared at Global Voices

Photo by _Faraz


Lindsey DTSW
.7 years ago

I've often wondered why Muslim men don't care enough about modesty to cover their heads and faces in public. Surely modesty in a man is as important as modesty in a woman. And if men think that women don't feel sexual attraction to them through viewing a luxurious male mane of hair or a handsome face, then they're not living in the real world. If the idea is to promote modesty and to avoid sexually attracting the opposite sex, then the standard should apply to both sexes - not merely women.

Elizabeth Koenig
Elizabeth Koenig7 years ago

Siusaidh C. wrote:

With the rise of very aggressive anti-Muslim zenophobia in Europe and North America - promoted by the likes of Dutch politician Geert Wilders - it can take real courage for a woman to wear hijab.

And yet, it is Geert Wilders who needs 24-hour-a-day security to protect him from *Muslim death threats*.

Wilders is not threatening any women for wearing Hijab--but teenager Aqsa Parvez was murdered by her family in Toronto in 2007 for being too "Westernized" and refusing to wear the headscarf.

Beth S.
Beth S7 years ago


If you stuck to the truth and facts, then there would be little disagreement. :)

The French law on secularity and conspicuous religious symbols in schools bans wearing ANY conspicuous religious symbols in French public.

Thus, Christians can't wear crosses on the outside of their clothes, Orthodox Jews cannot wear yarmulkes, etc. If Muslim women feel obligated to cover their hair and necks, they can do so in clothes that do not denote a religious affiliation. For example, tucking their hair up inside secular type of hat and wearing a secular-type scarf or turtlenecks to cover their necks.

The "no compulsion" is de facto not true. In virtually every Islamic country women must keep their hair and more covered. What's more, the women and girls ARE FORCED TO do what their male relatives want, with deadly consequences if they do not obey.

Women wear business pants suits, jeans, longish skirts, long sleeves, button-up shirts. There are many ways to remain visually unobtrusive and modest, without resorting to singularly Islamic look.

Another crucial difference: Muslim men think untented women are fair game. In many Muslim countries, even fully tented women are liable for harassment and rape if they are simply unaccompanied.

No women's choice in clothing ENTITLES men to harass them. Men who think that way are puerile, craven and have no REAL respect for women.

surjit k.
surjit s7 years ago

Ameer T." So when are the nuns in the Church and monasteries going to take of theirs.? " They are part of the Church and monasteries and only wear it as Beth S, says. Where as muslim women wear it because they are made to do so by their family ,relations, and community and religious men./ Imams. Tell us where in the Quran or Hadiths it says that Muslim women have to have hijab, bukha, niqab? As far my understanding goes it has nothing to do with religion. see www.rawa.org
Becky L, " ..but I know so many muslim women who see it as a mark of pride and beauty " Are you telling us that those women who don't wear hijad have not mark of pride and beauty? Are you one of them? read my other comments. see www.thereligionofpeace.com Islam is the only religion which has no equality between men and women according to Quran and Sahih Burkari

AbdulAziz A.
AbdulAziz A7 years ago

No Anne O, French want to give Muslim women no option. They want them to bare all if possible and that will make them all equal.

Beth of course is back at her best attacking every thing Islamic. Please note therevis no compulsion in the religion and nop one is or should be forced to do anything. Beth will forcefully disagree again but believe me or ask the ladies wearing what they wear and what for what reason.

I can say the Western women are forced to wear short skirts and reveal their cleavage and other body forms in skimpy clothing. Prove to me they are not. They are praised more if they reveal even more. This is pure lust and results in a huge number of other crimes.

Imagine a lady going past in modest clothing and another in nearly nothing on, who will attract attention and of the wrong type? They go about half naked that's ok as long as no one forces others to copy their action.


Camila K.
Kamila A7 years ago

Good to hear that there is a conversation going on about this matter. Ameer, nuns have taken off their headgear. Some still wear it, but its rarer than ever, from what I understand, and they wear it for certain times and reasons.
The hijab is NOT a requirement of faith. The prophet's wives had to wear it, but it is not a requirement for others.
In my perspective, being modest means keeping a low profile. If a woman wears a hijab, it could be interpreted as her saying, immodestly, that she is better that others in purity, and that is anti-modest. Its all in how you spin it.
The hijab should be worn optionally. Girls should not be forced back into burning buildings by police because of ridiculous "modesty" laws. That is pure evil.
Like the bound foot of old Asia, the high stilletto of the Western dress, the hijab is a way of keeping women under control. She cannot be comfortable in the heat, she is stuck not able to enjoy the sun and swim with the public (unless she goes in looking and feeling foolish), and she is separating herself, defining herself as a Muslim---is this necessary?
Each woman should decide, no one should legislate or condemn this.
Its time for women in every culture and creed to declare themselves equal to men, capable of making decisions about what they ought to wear. It is past time.

Elena Arutiunova
Elena Arutiunova7 years ago

Thx for the post

Myriam G.
Myriam G7 years ago

It takes some courage to take the hijab off in countries like Egypt. I guess some of the women that wear the hijab in North America are also courageous, but I don't think they are modest. Modesty isn't something you can flaunt, and the hijab is very ostentatious. When a woman is the only one in a crowd wearing a hijab, she can be seen a hundred feet away. It's like she's saying: 'Look at me, and see how modest and pious I am!' Doesn't that go against the very concept of modesty?
I do believe that people can wear whatever they want, but to me, wearing a hijab in North America means being proud of your Faith... which is good, but it's not modest.

kerrie b.
kerrie brown7 years ago

I have trouble with both sides of the coin.,so until I walk a mile in her hijab I reserve my judgement

Deborah Kampfer
Deborah Vitek7 years ago

Organized religions, all of them, based on myth and lies. Why do people continue to follow them? Why isn't appreciation and awe of the miracles and mysteries we see every day enough? I don't know any "religious" people who can admit that we do not know. We do not have any real proof of why we are here and why we have been given "gravity" so we can hurtle through space and not fall off! Our entire existence, planet, universe are amazing mysteries. Stop following these silly religions made by man to control people, especially women. Do your historical research and you will learn how they all "came to be" and every religion has it's beginnings with a "prophet".....a man who wanted control and power.