Are Muslim Women Oppressed? Ask One

Aman Ali, a BoingBoing guest blogger, is the co-author of 30 Mosques, a Ramadan adventure taking him to a different mosque in New York City every day for a month. My last post generated an interesting discussion (268 comments and counting) on Muslim women covering their hair. But it seemed kind of silly to talk about the subject, without hearing viewpoints from Muslim women. My friend Mariam Sobh has graciously agreed to chime in. She is editor in chief of Hijabtrendz, the original fashion beauty and entertainment blog for Muslim women. Here's what she had to say:
It's the age old debate that quite frankly I'm sick and tired of. Muslim women and their "oppression". Oppression is such a loaded word and it conjures up all sorts of negative images, but what people don't seem to want to understand is that Muslim women are just like any other woman. We come in all shapes and sizes, and all sorts of beliefs. You can't paint us all with the same brush. I'm as American as anyone else, I watch movies, I read celebrity gossip, I shop at Victoria's Secret, I work outside the home, I'm pursuing my dreams, the only difference is that little piece of fabric I wrap around my head. Big whoop. I'm not harming anyone by wearing a piece of material on my head so what's the big deal? I myself wear the headscarf and I do so because it's something I believe is mandated in my religion. No one is forcing me and it has no political significance (I have no idea why people keep thinking it does). Believe me if I didn't think it was required I WOULD NOT be wearing it. I hate being bullied all the time by the press or some ignoramus about my scarf. It takes a toll on you emotionally and eventually you have to develop a thick skin. But words will always hurt no matter what.
I believe God asked us to cover our bodies and that includes our hair. Look at other religion where people try to practice their beliefs and it's very similar; think of the Amish, Mormons, even Hasidic Jewish women. They all cover up in some way to preserve their modesty. Now, I'm not here to judge anyone. If you want to walk around outside naked, go for it. But I'm not going to reprimand you or try to psychoanalyze you, or even tell you that what you're doing is wrong. That's for you as an individual to figure out. So why is it, that whenever it comes to people who prefer to live more conservatively everyone is up in arms? OH MY GOSH SHE'S COVERING HER CLEAVAGE! So what? Why do I have to share my goods with you? I choose who gets to see me and who doesn't. Is that what is so bothersome, that I actually have a choice? I'm seriously trying to figure this out. Some Muslim women wear the headscarf and some women don't. Some Muslim women choose to wear their headscarf in a way that conforms somewhat to today's fashion and some prefer to go old school. It all comes down to personal interpretation and understanding and that's perfectly fine. We're all adults, we're all responsible for our own actions. I'm not holier than thou. My headscarf does not make me some religious expert, it's just a small part of my life. It's a testament to myself that I want to be a better person and that I'm struggling to do good in this world by following what I personally believe God wants me to do. For those who talk about women being forced into submission, that occurs everyday all over the world regardless of religion and it's very sad indeed. If people try to use Islam as a way to manipulate women then those individuals are sick and twisted. At the end of the day I'm thankful that I have the life I do, where I can practice what I believe and not worry about anyone forcing me to do something against my will.