I hesitated a lot before writing this blog since I thought it might be considered offensive to some of the religious people whom I respect; but at the end I decided to write it nonetheless.
I have a very good friend; she is very beautiful, educated and super smart. A while ago, I had a big event, and I invited her to it. When she arrived I was surprised at a change she had made on herself –it was a very small change, but she looked happier than ever, more confident and shining, you could see that in her eyes.
After the event I asked one of our common friends whether the change she made was forever or only for the event, and she told me that it was for the occasion only and that before she left the house earlier that day she was very scared of actually making it, she was worried about what would people say, how would society look at her family, she even started talking to herself in front of the mirror, encouraging herself to go out like that: without the Hijab (Veil). She was saying to herself: “yes you can; yes you want it; yes you have to do just what you want with your own body”. I had always known that she never liked the Hijab, and she even told me once that according to Al-Azhar (one of the biggest centers of Islamic learning in Cairo) it’s not part of the Islamic religion. This way, despite her being a very conservative girl, she wasn’t convinced on wearing it, but, like any other girl in her village, was forced by traditions (not by religion!) to wear it, otherwise she would be considered a “bad girl”, even though she holds such a good position and has such a wonderful personality that anyone would like to have her as a sister, friend or wife.
After this event, I remembered my cousin that belongs to another religious minority: she was also forced by her husband, himself influenced by society, to cover her hair. I also remembered my amazing Jewish Haredi friend, who is the CEO for a big organization but still has to shave her hair and put on a wig instead, and to wear long clothes. Suddenly I understood that all of us, no matter to which religion we belong, are forced −in the name of religion− to control our body as women without our bodies even being a part of our different religions, and who are we to do differently? Who are we to challenge God’s will?
And here I ask myself again, is it really God’s will or is it the society’s rules that control our lives in the name of GOD? How come within the same religion we can see many groups with different codes of religious behavior? If these are really God’s orders then shouldn’t they be similar at least within the same religion? And why in hell should any family suffer from the society’s judgment because of their daughter’s “rude” behavior, as it happens in any traditional community?
I always thought, and I still think that wearing or not wearing Hijab or any other religious symbol of any religious group is a personal decision that should be respected.
I have no problem with religions or their rules, I’m a big supporter of any woman that decides by her convictions to be religious, as long as this is really what she wants; however, I have a huge problem with the social rules that only try to limit women without any logical explanations, and even if they would have one, they still wouldn’t have any right to do so. My body is only mine, I have the full freedom to treat it as I want and it’s none of the society’s problem. How I treat it doesn’t show anything about how good or bad I am. It’s only about how I feel and it starts from how I should wear my clothes and it ends in how I should shape my reality and my future.
There is an Arabic phrase that says: “a healthy mind in a healthy body”.Maybe it’s time to change it to “a free mind in a free body”?So dear society, my body is none of your business and, you know what? Nor my relation with GOD is!
Ranya Fadel, Israel
YaLa Young Leaders