Unveiling the myths of the hijab
Published: Monday, September 24, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 24, 2012 00:09
Layla Aysheh, a senior majoring in public health and president of Sisters United Muslim Association (SUMA), loves to shop at Forever 21 and Hollister. She likes to match cardigans with jeans, and color-coordinates her outfits.
Aysheh also wears a hijab, a veil that covers the head and neck, which has resulted in a flurry of questions from passersby on campus:
“Do you take a shower with it?”
“Are you bald under there?”
“If I see your hair, do I have to marry you?”
But she doesn’t mind the questions. She prefers them.
On Saturday evening, Aysheh, along with SUMA, hosted a hijab fashion show and bazaar in the Marshall Student Center, where USF students hit the runway to model trends from local vendors selling hijabs and other “modern, but modest” attire.
Nikhut Siddique, a senior majoring in biomedical sciences, said putting on a hijab usually takes her about five minutes every morning, and hoped all who came by left with a new understanding of what a hijab is.
“We wanted to show how just because a Muslim women covers herself, it doesn’t mean she can’t look good or be pretty or wear nice clothes,” Siddique said.
Hajjah Kamara, a senior majoring in international studies and a model for the event, said she hoped to prove that Muslim women were not victims of oppression.
“We wanted to debunk the misconception that just because we cover, we can’t be fashionable,” she said. “Everyone sort of sees the head covering we wear as a symbol of oppression or other negative stereotypes about the role of Muslim women.”
While she couldn’t quite put a word to what her sense of style is, she said she enjoys the challenge of coming up with creative outfits to match her headscarves.
“There are certain things I can’t wear, like short sleeves or low-cut tops,” she said. “It’s a challenge, but it’s a really awesome challenge — color-coordinating cardigans or long sleeves, color-coordinated scarves and outfits.”
Kamara said the experience of modeling was exhilarating.
“It was a little nerve-wracking,” she said. “I describe myself as an awkward turtle duck, and I was wearing four-and-a-half inch heels, so my main concern walking down the runway was, ‘Oh my gosh, please do not fall.’ But it was really exciting. We got to try out some really, really nice outfits. The room, the music, the lights, the crowd ... it was really cool. Backstage was really crazy, and I kind of got a glimpse of what it would be like to be in a fashion show in New York or Paris or any of those fancy places like that.”
Aysheh, who has worn a hijab since she was in eighth grade, said she chooses to wear it.
“The media portrays a really (wrong) image about Muslim women, saying they’re oppressed and forced to dress like this,” she said. “In reality, it’s a personal decision. Yes, Muslim women are required to wear (a hijab) at some point in their lives, but it’s totally up to you when you want to wear it. Nobody forces you to wear it — not your parents or any family members, nobody.”
Her decision, she said, is one that represents her.
“I choose to wear (a hijab) because it represents who I am and what my religion is,” she said “I’m not afraid to show people that my religion is Islam and I’m OK with that. I feel most comfortable wearing it.”