Monday, April 4, 2016

Why do non-Muslims want to wear the hijab?

Back during Christmas week, my wife and I visited her family near Austin, Texas, so I read a lot of Lone Star state news. One column I read was in the Dallas Morning News, and it was a Dallas writer's story about her day wearing a hijab, which is the head scarf worn by Muslim women. You see women wearing the hijab all the time in multi-cultural Rolla. They mean something to the women who wear them, according to Texas writer Jacquielynn Floyd. They also mean something to non-Muslims who see the hijab on women's heads.
Floyd described the reactions she received while she wore the hijab, mostly glares. She also talked to three Muslim women and told about the lunch they had. The women described the fear they sometimes feel when people react to their presence in the United States, especially since 9-11.
Floyd questioned them a little about the hijab as a symbol of oppression, of submission to their husbands. One of the Muslim women told the writer that the head covering is liberating because by wearing it, they don't have to live up to modern American ideals of attractiveness.
Mostly, though, the reason for wearing the hijab is this, in the words of one of the Muslim women: "It says, ‘I am a Muslim woman. This is me.’”
And Floyd liked that answer.
Then a few weeks later, I read about the Wheaton College professor who had decided to start wearing a hijab. Wheaton College is a Christian college, traditionally a conservative Christian college, so Dr. Larycia Hawkins's decision to identify with Islam was a bit awkward. Moreover, she started speaking about the similarities between Islam and Christianity and declared the two religions worship and serve the same God and thus are brothers and sisters. That was pretty much the same as what the Roman Catholic pope had said.
But Wheaton College likes to teach about the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as God Incarnate and the savior of the world, so diminishing his role and making him on the level with Prophet Mohammed didn't go over well. Dr. Hawkins had to find work elsewhere.
And now recently I read about Martha DeVries, a Baptist pastor's wife in Kansas City who has taken to wearing a hijab every Monday on her job as a high school counselor to show solidarity with Muslims, especially Muslim women. She said that she feels kinship with the Muslim women and as a follower of Christ, "My job is to love them."
Three non-Muslim women wearing the head scarves represent a number of other non-Muslim do-gooders doing the same. They're trying to be helpful, but I read another report, this one in the Washington Post, from Muslim women who would just as soon that they didn't. In an opinion piece posted back in December, two writers who described themselves as "mainstream Muslim women," said they'd rather such interfaith solidarity efforts stop.
The writers, Asra Q. Norman and Hala Arafa, went into great detail about the meaning of the word hijab and the historical use of the scarf. They said the hijab has always been optional, but in recent times, powerful Muslim organizations have started a campaign to brand it as the most important symbol of Muslim womanhood. The hijab promotes sexual harassment and abuse of Muslim women by the men, the women claimed.
Well, I don't know about that, but let me tell you what I think: I think non-Muslims wearing the hijab don't do a bit of good. The practice is probably harmless, certainly silly, but go ahead and wear one if you are inclined to do so. But it's America, so don't wear one if you don't want to.
It's obviously a religious symbol, though, so Christian women wearing it makes no sense. There's nothing wrong with wearing a head scarf. I was a child in the 1950s, and I remember Mama and Grandma and lots of other women wearing headscarves. I also remembrer seeing nuns with big scarves on their heads. Yes, it is OK for women to wear headscarves.
In the case of the hijab, though, it is a symbol of Muslim women and their religious beliefs, so a Christian woman wearing what she clearly identifies as a hijab seems a little odd to me. It makes as much sense as wearing a pentagram to show solidarity with their Wiccan sisters.
Maybe that's all right, too, so go ahead and do it.
I wear head gear myself. I rarely go out without a cap or hat. You might see me in a Mizzou Tigers cap, a Cardinals cap, an NRA cap or a Confederate flag cap. I won't bug you about your hijab or your pentagram if you won't bug me about my Rebel flag.

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