Hijab: to be worn or not?

Over recent times muslims in the UK,  have replaced race by religion to being the most important markers in a secular liberal democracy. As a muslim you have the agency to make those markers visible and at the same time you can construct a secure space which you can pass into whiteness, secular, individual. The liminal world of fluidity in a post 9/11 era, has for some muslims, shaped by structure, has forced them to re-indentify their roots of origins, their race and their religious understandings. With this acceptance, the desire to wear the hijab by muslim women has become a signified act, not only as a sense of constructing identity but also symbolising rebellion or resistance to the acceptance of western values.


During the post war period, until the end of the 80s, many muslim countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Egypt went through a period of secularism and the engagement with national socialism. Where previous generations of muslims rejected strict adhere conservative islamic ideals, the new generation saw those liberal values as a tool by the west to weaken Islam. They saw the hijab as entrenching them with power and their direction of fate. In some sense the hijab, which can be reinforced on to the women by conservative religious men, or passed down by the mother to the daughter as the norm has social political connotations. The head garment rather being seen as regressive attitude to liberalism, can be seen also as expressing independence, for the muslim women, coupled with being successful, and driven.

The muslim woman has come to reconstruct the hijab in the 21st century in their own narrative. They have created fashion industries around the hijab. From Instagram to L’oreal, the hijab has become a sight of everyday life. The hijab has become a fashion statement, it also allows women or female models from strict muslims countries to parade freely, without arrest or persecution. So in some sense it has liberated those once confined to the home or behind a full niqab, where the eyes are only visible. The choice to wear the garment means liberation not only for a woman in a muslim country, but also symbolises the protest against the pressure of liberal values, to celebrate difference and to escape society.  So in fact the hijab acts as a two sided coin, to rally against anti muslim sentiments and at the same time to liberate them from traditional conservative islamic ideals. Or it can be forced.

The hijab is a piece of fabric, that can be worn and which can be shed in relation to time and space.

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