#VRAIESMEUFS wear the hijab

Halima Aden for CR Magazine

Halima Aden for CR Magazine

“The covered up invasion”, “Shameless islam”. For a few years now, a category of women have been particularly and regularly attacked by the media : muslim women, especially veiled muslim women. A debate, fuelled by terrorist attacks and the rise of terrorism, has been stirring opinions over the last year with several municipal by-laws banning the wearing of the burkini. Hijab = submission ? Should we save these women from the grip of their families and religion? Questions were raised, reports were filmed, debates were launched but it seems like it was all for nothing. You’ll also notice that muslim women are the subject of the debate, yet they are completely absent from it, relegated to being viewers. What if, finally, we let them speak out ?

“I’ve been embracing religion since childhood. My mother is religious and she raised us in the respect of religion without imposing anything on us. It is thanks to her and Allah that I am now a proud muslim woman. My religion is deep in my heart and I couldn’t live without Islam.
I first started to wear the hijab in may 2015. I always knew I would wear it eventually, but I was feeling too young, and thought I should enjoy life and wait to get married for that. Yet, some stuff happened in my life making me want to wear it more and more. My best friend wore it before me, she gave me a lot of advice and help. Eventually, I started wearing the hijab, just like this, I went out wearing it and I never took it off. 

My mother was very shocked at first, she was quite surprised. In fairness to her, I was wearing ripped jeans and a tank top just the day before, and I also hadn’t told her I wanted to wear it right away. Now she is used to it. Nobody has imposed me anything, my mother and sisters don’t even wear the hijab.

I am proud of my veil, and can’t picture myself without it, it is a part of me.

I have a small family and friends circle, there is a lot of talk, some of them are happy for me, others are hypocritical. If I had paid attention to what people say, I would have taken it off two weeks later. I actually don’t care about what people might think, I dust off remarks. Despite all the media hype and noise, despite laws, we will keep on practicing our religion.

I never felt represented in France. Quite the opposite, I feel like I am a threat and a target for the government. I don’t get why the hijab is shown as a synonym for submission : as long as it is a personal and free choice I don’t see how that could be. Showing off on TV, wearing a bikini or being half naked : isn’t that an example of submission of women ? I also think that wearing the hijab doesn’t make us better or worse than other women.
I once read something that struck me, as it depicts perfectly my way of thinking : “I wear the hijab, I let you see what I want you to see, isn’t that true freedom?”

credits : Sanaa K.

credits : Sanaa K.

“I was born in religion, and I’m trying to practice more and more every day. I’m quite moderate in my practice, trying to remain quiet in this country where the hijab is always pointed out. I wore the hijab for the first time in the summer of 2014 if I remember. I made this decision by myself - I knew I was supposed to wear it, my parents knew too, but they never forced it upon me. I am very thankful for that, as, if they had forced me, I would have worn it without knowing why and it would have been very contradictory. As every woman in my family is wearing the hijab, it was a natural thing for me to wear it too, they didn’t even notice it ! My hijab gave me extreme confidence over the years - I was shy and it helped me open up to the world and overcome my complexes. The media hype had no impact on me, except making me stronger and making me wanting to wear it even more. I didn’t want to take it off, I wasn’t afraid to keep it. Anyways, hijab or not, there are always going to be people staring and commenting, and all these mediatic scandals just confirmed my identity.

I think representation of veiled women has two opposite sides : mainstream media, news channels, politicians on the first hand, and on the other hand we start being represented in haute-couture, modeling or on social medias.

Still, I think there is a hype for the hijab growing, and I am a bit saddened as I wish the religious aspect should prevail on the look of it. And to the ones associating the hijab to submission, I would say : in Europe - Middle-East being a whole different thing with cases of women forced - if women were actually forced to wear the veil then we wouldn’t even see them walking on the streets right now.”

Bluetooth Hijab , by Meriem Bennanni

Bluetooth Hijab, by Meriem Bennanni

“Being born in a family of muslim confession, I was always bathed in this environment. My parents have always taught me the rules and the importance of faith.

Over the years, the idea of wearing the hijab grew on me but I wouldn’t dare. I admired veiled women, I found them beautiful, soft and serene with it.
Growing up, I knew it was a religious obligation but that was all I really knew, so I read books and accounts of people, to understand the purpose of it. It was a period of doubt and deep questioning. When I arrived in high school I really wanted to wear it but I was too afraid to take it off before classes. So I decided to wait a few more years.

I met a girl after high school whom then became a close friend, she helped me in my spiritual journey and comforted me in my choice. The hardest part was simply to get into it - you have all sorts of fears, backup and support was what I needed to do it. Hearing other girls’ experiences comforted me too, so I did it.

I started wearing a “veil” a year and a half ago, I write “veil” because I first wore a turban - certainly in fear of the way people would look at me, and trying to get there step by step. I had told my parents before starting to wear it and they didn’t quite approve so there has been hard times. I’d want to take if off to relieve pressure from my family who would tell me they were afraid I couldn’t find a job or that I would be aggressed as it was just after the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack.

Let’s say all the noise from the media didn’t help a thing. Especially the way people stared in public transportation. It really upset me, I was accused of not “being French” and pointed out for barbaric acts which are condemned by the muslim community.

Despite that, I held on and for a few months I had to hide in my hallway to put it on. Looking back I see it as an ordeal, a path full of trials and tribulations and questioning but that’s just life. It was probably part of my destiny…as today, my parents accept it as they saw me blossom and become a better person. I never faced front remarks but it has been very difficult in the work industry : no answers after an interview, no internships…

Today I feel a bit more represented by a new generation of English speaking influencers/bloggers such as Halima Aden, Habiba Da Silva or Mariah Idrissi. Even though they are less of them in France, it feels good to feel represented by girls in the fashion industry for instance.

The veil isn’t a synonym for submission as some people might think, it isn’t just a piece of cloth, it is something much bigger : a decision I thought through, a part of me, a source of appeasement which made me confident as ever.”

translated by Virginie