Sunday, June 19, 2011

the latest decision : Taking the veil off

When you take a decision , it always better to be fully aware of all its consequences  and it is preferred that you should be in the state of mind that enables you to take the decision without falling under the pressure of the any unwanted influence .
This year I took a decision I was thinking about for long time,  the decision is taking off my veil ,  almost two months ago I took off my veil , after wearing it for 14 years . my story with the veil varied in many situations, in the beginning , I decided like many young girls affected by Amr Khaled to wear veil . then I saw myself in my Hijab , in accordance to the so called "Islamic code of dress " and in accordance with the modest Muslim girl . 
Furthermore,  I started to read other discourse questioning  the prevailing idea of obligation of Hijab,  like the book of the Hijab of Gamal el Banna , where he deconstructs the claim saying Hijab in religious obligation , and he return back to trace the emergence of the idea and how it gained its strength.  El Banna also asserted that the  Hijab as social and cultural phenomena and it is not only religious . later on the interpretation and application of Prof Amina Wadud and her reading to the veil issue was another lighting proof .
 I have to admit that I did not find this discourse catchy in the beginning and I was manipulated by the main stream discourse who raise verses and Hadith with  one and only unified interpretations . 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 .
I have to say that when I started to be informed in the issue of Hijab and the dilemma of its  obligation or banning  in many Muslim countries like Turkey, Iran,  Saudi Arabia and Tunisia . I came to consideration in each single case the dynamics of disciplining  women in the public sphere is different and it belong to the social, cultural and religious contexts , which has unique shape in each case.
Then I grow up and I witnessed personal experiences that shaped my perspective , like living abroad where the code of dress is dramatically different and also my relationship to non Hijabi girls in Egypt and the stories of their daily struggle to contest the decorum of this hard headed society. I came to a deep belief in 2008, that I am double faced and I am gaining agency through bargaining on my beliefs with my community and my society. The idea of taking it off came an go through with time , but it was never urgent, that in the end of the day, I am "empowered " I chose my work, I hang out with my friends and I travel and to sum it up I was enjoying freedom more than the average middle class girl in my age.
My turning point was the revolution , I felt that if we can fight for a country, and cannot fight for ourselves , then we are not free. I came to a point where I hated my hypocrisy . I knew that this decision will open the doors of hell, but I was not wise enough and I unveiled myself.
I want to say that what struck me the polarization of the Egyptian society , that on a side the conservative powers , which includes my family , my extended family , neighbors , and many others categories of the Egyptian society , and on the other hand the progressive   powers which includes the Human rights defenders , academics and journalists who constitute my social cycle . I hated unstopping nagging and the covered threats of my family and I hated the extra warm congratulations of my progressive friends . my feeling now that I am shaping my new way , I do not feel liberated or gained a right , rather I feel that I reconciled with my belief. 
Finally what I want to assert that Hijab is not a verse or a hadith and it is way beyond a woman fitna , it is about disciplining the system and drawing the guidelines and borders .
Global voices article, quoting me : find it here