Bikini or headscarf -- which offers more freedom?

karachiwala

Prime Minister (20k+ posts)
  • Mother remembers summers of wearing shorts, her feelings wearing first bikini​
  • Her young daughter wants to wear headscarf for modesty​
  • Mom imagines scarf's magical powers protecting girl's unself-conscious goodness​

(OPRAH.com) -- Nine years ago, I danced my newborn daughter around my North Carolina living room to the music of "Free to Be...You and Me", the '70s children's classic whose every lyric about tolerance and gender equality I had memorized as a girl growing up in California.​
My Libyan-born husband, Ismail, sat with her for hours on our screened porch, swaying back and forth on a creaky metal rocker and singing old Arabic folk songs, and took her to a Muslim sheikh who chanted a prayer for long life into her tiny, velvety ear.​
She had espresso eyes and lush black lashes like her father's, and her milky-brown skin darkened quickly in the summer sun. We named her Aliya, which means "exalted" in Arabic, and agreed we would raise her to choose what she identified with most from our dramatically different backgrounds.​
I secretly felt smug about this agreement -- confident that she would favor my comfortable American lifestyle over his modest Muslim upbringing. Ismail's parents live in a squat stone house down a winding dirt alley outside Tripoli. Its walls are bare except for passages from the Quran engraved onto wood, its floors empty but for thin cushions that double as bedding at night.​
My parents live in a sprawling home in Santa Fe with a three-car garage, hundreds of channels on the flat-screen TV, organic food in the refrigerator, and a closetful of toys for the grandchildren.​
I imagined Aliya embracing shopping trips to Whole Foods and the stack of presents under the Christmas tree, while still fully appreciating the melodic sound of Arabic, the honey-soaked baklava Ismail makes from scratch, the intricate henna tattoos her aunt drew on her feet when we visited Libya. Not once did I imagine her falling for the head covering worn by Muslim girls as an expression of modesty.​
Last summer we were celebrating the end of Ramadan with our Muslim community at a festival in the parking lot behind our local mosque. Children bounced in inflatable fun houses while their parents sat beneath a plastic tarp nearby, shooing flies from plates of curried chicken, golden rice, and baklava.​
Aliya and I wandered past rows of vendors selling prayer mats, henna tattoos, and Muslim clothing. When we reached a table displaying head coverings, Aliya turned to me and pleaded, "Please, Mom -- can I have one?"​
She riffled through neatly folded stacks of headscarves while the vendor, an African-American woman shrouded in black, beamed at her. I had recently seen Aliya cast admiring glances at Muslim girls her age.​
I quietly pitied them, covered in floor-length skirts and long sleeves on even the hottest summer days, as my best childhood memories were of my skin laid bare to the sun: feeling the grass between my toes as I ran through the sprinkler on my front lawn; wading into an icy river in Idaho, my shorts hitched up my thighs, to catch my first rainbow trout; surfing a rolling emerald wave off the coast of Hawaii. But Aliya envied these girls and had asked me to buy her clothes like theirs. And now a headscarf.​
In the past, my excuse was that they were hard to find at our local mall, but here she was, offering to spend ten dollars from her own allowance to buy the forest green rayon one she clutched in her hand. I started to shake my head emphatically "no," but caught myself, remembering my commitment to Ismail. So I gritted my teeth and bought it, assuming it would soon be forgotten.​
That afternoon, as I was leaving for the grocery store, Aliya called out from her room that she wanted to come.​
A moment later she appeared at the top of the stairs -- or more accurately, half of her did. From the waist down, she was my daughter: sneakers, bright socks, jeans a little threadbare at the knees. But from the waist up, this girl was a stranger. Her bright, round face was suspended in a tent of dark cloth like a moon in a starless sky.​
"Are you going to wear that?" I asked.​
"Yeah," she said slowly, in that tone she had recently begun to use with me when I state the obvious.​
On the way to the store, I stole glances at her in my rearview mirror. She stared out the window in silence, appearing as aloof and unconcerned as a Muslim dignitary visiting our small Southern town -- I, merely her chauffeur.​
I bit my lip. I wanted to ask her to remove her head covering before she got out of the car, but I couldn't think of a single logical reason why, except that the sight of it made my blood pressure rise. I'd always encouraged her to express her individuality and to resist peer pressure, but now I felt as self-conscious and claustrophobic as if I were wearing that headscarf myself.​
In the Food Lion parking lot, the heavy summer air smothered my skin. I gathered the damp hair on my neck into a ponytail, but Aliya seemed unfazed by the heat. We must have looked like an odd pair: a tall blonde woman in a tank top and jeans cupping the hand of a four-foot-tall Muslim. I drew my daughter closer and the skin on my bare arms prickled -- as much from protective instinct as from the blast of refrigerated air that hit me as I entered the store.​
As we maneuvered our cart down the aisles, shoppers glanced at us like we were a riddle they couldn't quite solve, quickly dropping their gaze when I caught their eye.​
In the produce aisle, a woman reaching for an apple fixed me with an overly bright, solicitous smile that said "I embrace diversity and I am perfectly fine with your child." She looked so earnest, so painfully eager to put me at ease, that I suddenly understood how it must feel to have a child with an obvious disability, and all the curiosity or unwelcome sympathies from strangers it evokes.​
At the checkout line, an elderly Southern woman clasped her bony hands together and bent slowly down toward Aliya. "My, my," she drawled, wobbling her head in disbelief. "Don't you look absolutely precious!" My daughter smiled politely, then turned to ask me for a pack of gum.​
In the following days, Aliya wore her headscarf to the breakfast table over her pajamas, to a Muslim gathering where she was showered with compliments, and to the park, where the moms with whom I chatted on the bench studiously avoided mentioning it altogether.​
Later that week, at our local pool, I watched a girl only a few years older than Aliya play Ping-Pong with a boy her age. She was caught in that awkward territory between childhood and adolescence -- narrow hips, skinny legs, the slightest swelling of new breasts -- and she wore a string bikini.​
Her opponent wore an oversize T-shirt and baggy trunks that fell below his knees, and when he slammed the ball at her, she lunged for it while trying with one hand to keep the slippery strips of spandex in place. I wanted to offer her a towel to wrap around her hips, so she could lose herself in the contest and feel the exhilaration of making a perfect shot.​
It was easy to see why she was getting demolished at this game: Her near-naked body was consuming her focus. And in her pained expression I recognized the familiar mix of shame and excitement I felt when I first wore a bikini.​
At 14, I skittered down the halls of high school like a squirrel in traffic: hugging the walls, changing direction in midstream, darting for cover. Then I went to Los Angeles to visit my aunt Mary during winter break. Mary collected mermaids, kept a black-and-white photo of her long-haired Indian guru on her dresser, and shopped at a tiny health food store that smelled of patchouli and peanut butter. She took me to Venice Beach, where I bought a cheap bikini from a street vendor.​
Dizzy with the promise of an impossibly bright afternoon, I thought I could be someone else -- glistening and proud like the greased-up bodybuilders on the lawn, relaxed and unself-conscious as the hippies who lounged on the pavement with lit incense tucked behind their ears. In a beachside bathroom with gritty cement floors, I changed into my new two-piece suit.​
Goose bumps spread across my chubby white tummy and the downy white hairs on my thighs stood on end -- I felt as raw and exposed as a turtle stripped of its shell. And when I left the bathroom, the stares of men seemed to pin me in one spot even as I walked by.​
In spite of a strange and mounting sense of shame, I was riveted by their smirking faces; in their suggestive expressions I thought I glimpsed some vital clue to the mystery of myself. What did these men see in me -- what was this strange power surging between us, this rapidly shifting current that one moment made me feel powerful and the next unspeakably vulnerable?​
I imagined Aliya in a string bikini in a few years. Then I imagined her draped in Muslim attire. It was hard to say which image was more unsettling. I thought then of something a Sufi Muslim friend had told me: that Sufis believe our essence radiates beyond our physical bodies -- that we have a sort of energetic second skin, which is extremely sensitive and permeable to everyone we encounter. Muslim men and women wear modest clothing, she said, to protect this charged space between them and the world.​
Growing up in the '70s in Southern California, I had learned that freedom for women meant, among other things, fewer clothes, and that women could be anything -- and still look good in a bikini. Exploring my physical freedom had been an important part of my process of self-discovery, but the exposure had come at a price.​
Since that day in Venice Beach, I'd spent years learning to swim in the turbulent currents of attraction -- wanting to be desired, resisting others' unwelcome advances, plumbing the mysterious depths of my own longing.​
I'd spent countless hours studying my reflection in the mirror -- admiring it, hating it, wondering what others thought of it -- and it sometimes seemed to me that if I had applied the same relentless scrutiny to another subject I could have become enlightened, written a novel, or at least figured out how to grow an organic vegetable garden.​
On a recent Saturday morning, in the crowded dressing room of a large department store, I tried on designer jeans alongside college girls in stiletto heels, young mothers with babies fussing in their strollers, and middle-aged women with glossed lips pursed into frowns. One by one we filed into changing rooms, then lined up to take our turn on a brightly lit pedestal surrounded by mirrors, cocking our hips and sucking in our tummies and craning our necks to stare at our rear ends.​
When it was my turn, my heart felt as tight in my chest as my legs did in the jeans. My face looked drawn under the fluorescent lights, and suddenly I was exhausted by all the years I'd spent doggedly chasing the carrot of self-improvement, while dragging behind me a heavy cart of self-criticism.​
At this stage in her life, Aliya is captivated by the world around her -- not by what she sees in the mirror. Last summer she stood at the edge of the Blue Ridge Parkway, stared at the blue-black outline of the mountains in the distance, their tips swaddled by cottony clouds, and gasped. "This is the most beautiful thing I ever saw," she whispered. Her wide-open eyes were a mirror of all that beauty, and she stood so still that she blended into the lush landscape, until finally we broke her reverie by tugging at her arm and pulling her back to the car.​
At school it's different. In her fourth-grade class, girls already draw a connection between clothing and popularity. A few weeks ago, her voice rose in anger as she told me about a classmate who had ranked all the girls in class according to how stylish they were.​
I understood then that while physical exposure had liberated me in some ways, Aliya could discover an entirely different type of freedom by choosing to cover herself.​
I have no idea how long Aliya's interest in Muslim clothing will last. If she chooses to embrace Islam, I trust the faith will bring her tolerance, humility, and a sense of justice -- the way it has done for her father. And because I have a strong desire to protect her, I will also worry that her choice could make life in her own country difficult. She has recently memorized the fatiha, the opening verse of the Quran, and she is pressing her father to teach her Arabic. She's also becoming an agile mountain biker who rides with me on wooded trails, mud spraying her calves as she navigates the swollen creek.​
The other day, when I dropped her off at school, instead of driving away from the curb in a rush as I usually do, I watched her walk into a crowd of kids, bent forward under the weight of her backpack as if she were bracing against a storm. She moved purposefully, in such a solitary way -- so different from the way I was at her age, and I realized once again how mysterious she is to me.​
It's not just her head covering that makes her so: It's her lack of concern for what others think about her. It's finding her stash of Halloween candy untouched in her drawer, while I was a child obsessed with sweets. It's the fact that she would rather dive into a book than into the ocean -- that she gets so consumed with her reading that she can't hear me calling her from the next room.​
I watched her kneel at the entryway to her school and pull a neatly folded cloth from the front of her pack, where other kids stash bubble gum or lip gloss. Then she slipped it over her head, and her shoulders disappeared beneath it like the cape her younger brother wears when he pretends to be a superhero.​
As I pulled away from the curb, I imagined that headscarf having magical powers to protect her boundless imagination, her keen perception, and her unself-conscious goodness. I imagined it shielding her as she journeys through that house of mirrors where so many young women get trapped in adolescence, buffering her from the dissatisfaction that clings in spite of the growing number of choices at our fingertips, providing safe cover as she takes flight into a future I can only imagine.​
Krista Bremer is the winner of a 2008 Pushcart Prize and a 2009 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Award. She is associate publisher of the literary magazine The Sun, and she is writing a memoir about her bicultural marriage
 

Raaz

(50k+ posts) بابائے فورم
Yesterday I was reading , that in Quran Allah Talla said , ( the main idea was)

Shaitan fears you with death because of hunger , and advice u to be vulgar ( Fahashi)

And Allah Calls u to be pious and will bless u a lot...
 

abduttawwab

MPA (400+ posts)
Why I Shed Bikini for Niqab: The New Symbol of Women's Liberation

I am an American woman who was born in the midst of America's "Heartland." I grew up, just like any other girl, being fixated with the glamour of life in "the big city." Eventually, I moved to Florida and on to South Beach of Miami, a hotspot for those seeking the "glamorous life." Naturally, I did what most average Western girls do. I focused on my appearance and appeal, basing my self-worth on how much attention I got from others. I worked out religiously and became a personal trainer, acquired an upscale waterfront residence, became a regular "exhibiting" beach-goer and was able to attain a "living-in-style" kind of life.
Years went by, only to realize that my scale of self-fulfillment and happiness slid down the more I progressed in my "feminine appeal." I was a slave to fashion. I was a hostage to my looks.
As the gap continued to progressively widen between my self-fulfillment and lifestyle, I sought refuge in escapes from alcohol and parties to meditation, activism, and alternative religions, only to have the little gap widen to what seemed like a valley. I eventually realized it all was merely a pain killer rather than an effective remedy.
By now it was September 11, 2001. As I witnessed the ensuing barrage on Islam, Islamic values and culture, and the infamous declaration of the "new crusade," I started to notice something called Islam. Up until that point, all I had associated with Islam was women covered in "tents," wife beaters, harems, and a world of terrorism.
As a feminist libertarian, and an activist who was pursuing a better world for all, my path crossed with that of another activist who was already at the lead of indiscriminately furthering causes of reform and justice for all. I joined in the ongoing campaigns of my new mentor which included, at the time, election reform and civil rights, among others. Now my new activism was fundamentally different. Instead of "selectively" advocating justice only to some, I learned that ideals such as justice, freedom, and respect are meant to be and are essentially universal, and that own good and common good are not in conflict. For the first time, I knew what "all people are created equal" really means. But most importantly, I learned that it only takes faith to see the world as one and to see the unity in creation.
One day I came across a book that is negatively stereotyped in the West--The Holy Qur'an. I was first attracted by the style and approach of the Qur'an, and then intrigued by its outlook on existence, life, creation, and the relationship between Creator and creation. I found the Qur'an to be a very insightful address to heart and soul without the need for an interpreter or pastor.
Eventually I hit a moment of truth: my new-found self-fulfilling activism was nothing more than merely embracing a faith called Islam where I could live in peace as a "functional" Muslim.
I bought a beautiful long gown and head cover resembling the Muslim woman's dress code and I walked down the same streets and neighborhoods where only days earlier I had walked in my shorts, bikini, or "elegant" western business attire. Although the people, the faces, and the shops were all the same, one thing was remarkably distinct--I was not--nor was the peace at being a woman I experienced for the very first time. I felt as if the chains had been broken and I was finally free. I was delighted with the new looks of wonder on people's faces in place of the looks of a hunter watching his prey I had once sought. Suddenly a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I no longer spent all my time consumed with shopping, makeup, getting my hair done, and working out. Finally, I was free.
Of all places, I found my Islam at the heart of what some call "the most scandalous place on earth," which makes it all the more dear and special.
While content with Hijab I became curious about Niqab, seeing an increasing number of Muslim women in it. I asked my Muslim husband, whom I married after I reverted to Islam, whether I should wear Niqab or just settle for the Hijab I was already wearing. My husband simply advised me that he believes Hijab is mandatory in Islam while Niqab is not. At the time, my Hijab consisted of head scarf that covered all my hair except for my face, and a loose long black gown called "Abaya" that covered all my body from neck to toe.
A year-and-a-half passed, and I told my husband I wanted to wear Niqab. My reason, this time, was that I felt it would be more pleasing to Allah, the Creator, increasing my feeling of peace at being more modest. He supported my decision and took me to buy an "Isdaal," a loose black gown that covers from head to toe, and Niqab, which covers all my head and face except for my eyes.
Soon enough, news started breaking about politicians, Vatican clergymen, libertarians, and so-called human rights and freedom activists condemning Hijab at times, and Niqab at others as being oppressive to women, an obstacle to social integration, and more recently, as an Egyptian official called it--"a sign of backwardness."
I find it to be a blatant hypocrisy when Western governments and so-called human rights groups rush to defend woman's rights when some governments impose a certain dress code on women, yet such "freedom fighters" look the other way when women are being deprived of their rights, work, and education just because they choose to exercise their right to wear Niqab or Hijab. Today, women in Hijab or Niqab are being increasingly barred from work and education not only under totalitarian regimes such as in Tunisia, Morocco, and Egypt, but also in Western democracies such as France, Holland, and Britain.
Today I am still a feminist, but a Muslim feminist, who calls on Muslim women to assume their responsibilities in providing all the support they can for their husbands to be good Muslims. To raise their children as upright Muslims so they may be beacons of light for all humanity once again. To enjoin good--any good--and to forbid evil--any evil. To speak righteousness and to speak up against all ills. To fight for our right to wear Niqab or Hijab and to please our Creator whichever way we chose. But just as importantly to carry our experience with Niqab or Hijab to fellow women who may never have had the chance to understand what wearing Niqab or Hijab means to us and why do we, so dearly, embrace it.
Most of the women I know wearing Niqab are Western reverts, some of whom are not even married. Others wear Niqab without full support of either family or surroundings. What we all have in common is that it is the personal choice of each and every one of us, which none of us is willing to surrender. Willingly or unwillingly, women are bombarded with styles of "dressing-in-little-to-nothing" virtually in every means of communication everywhere in the world. As an ex non-Muslim, I insist on women's right to equally know about Hijab, its virtues, and the peace and happiness it brings to a woman's life as it did to mine. Yesterday, the bikini was the symbol of my liberty, when in actuality it only liberated me from my spirituality and true value as a respectable human being.
I couldn't be happier to shed my bikini in South Beach and the "glamorous" Western lifestyle to live in peace with my Creator and enjoy living among fellow humans as a worthy person. It is why I choose to wear Niqab, and why I will die defending my inalienable right to wear it. Today, Niqab is the new symbol of woman's liberation.
To women who surrender to the ugly stereotype against the Islamic modesty of Hijab, I say: You don't know what you are missing.

Article by Sara Bokker
Source: http://www.albalagh.net/women/0097.shtml

Sara Bokker is a former actress/model/fitness instructor and activist. Currently, Sara is Director of Communications at "The March For Justice," a co-founder of "The Global Sisters Network," and producer of the infamous "Shock & Awe Gallery."