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Why I chose to take off my hijab: Four women speak (Part II)

What are Muslim American women concerned about today? When I polled my Muslim girl friends, they unanimously voiced their interest in better understanding why an increasing number of their peers are choosing to take off the hijab (here defined as head scarf). As a hijabi for twelve years, I relate to the rewards and challenges of wearing hijab but have no specific answers as to what drives this decision. So I sought to seek a few, through four women I interviewed, who were gracious enough to discuss why they made this decision and how it affected their lives. We continue our interviews here in Part II.

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Why I chose to take off my hijab: Four women speak

What are Muslim American women concerned about today? When I polled my Muslim girl friends, they unanimously voiced their interest in better understanding why an increasing number of their peers are choosing to take off the hijab (here defined as head scarf). As a hijabi for twelve years, I relate to the rewards and challenges of wearing hijab but have no specific answers as to what drives this decision.

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Making our case with a “pray-in”

“No, sister, you can’t go in that way! There’s a back door around the corner.” I can’t tell you how many times those words were said to me over the years as I tried to enter through the front door of many a mosque around the United States. There seems to be this unwritten, yet nationally recognized and practiced, tradition of leaving the worst space for the separate women’s prayer hall. From collecting funds to replace the soiled carpet and repaint the chipped walls, to silently walking in the front entrance and ignoring the disapproving glares as they make their way to the balcony rather than submit to the back prayer room turned childcare, through the years I’ve seen women protest against this dismissive treatment in a variety of ways.

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Beyond Purple Hijab day

When I accepted Islam in July 2006, I was welcomed with open arms by the diverse Muslim community in Atlanta. However, as I learned more and more about this beautiful deen, I also began to feel troubled by the intolerance and narrow-mindedness of many in the local and national community who chose to concentrate only on certain areas of social service, especially those that made them “look good.” Meanwhile, fellow Muslim men, women, and children are still crying for help, but being avoided and neglected by their Muslim neighbors, brothers and sisters.

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Echo of a darker age for women

There are few concepts in the Muslim psyche that paint an image as vivid and forceful as the era of the Jahiliyyah, the Period of Great Ignorance, that preceded the advent of Islam. It is considered by Muslims to be a dark, ungodly, forsaken time when men and women believed in many deities, lived lives of tribal partisanship and warfare, showed immense racism, inflicted oppression on the poor and meted out gruesome treatment to women.

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Aasiya Zubair Hassan and the Muslim male imperative

On February 12th, 2009 and the days following it, we – as Muslims, as Americans, and as citizens of the world – were shocked and overcome by profound grief when informed of the brutal murder of Sister Aasiya Zubair Hassan, general manager and co-founder of Bridges TV. We learned, incredulously, that her husband – a man who made it his career goal to dispel negative images about Islam – decapitated his wife of many years.

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How many more deaths before we take action?

The prophet (saw) said: “The sun and the moon are two signs from amongst Allah’s signs and they do not eclipse because of the death or life of anyone.” Although October was designated as Domestic Violence Awareness Month back in 1995 by leading organizations across North America, for Muslims February seems to be a pivotal month for raising awareness of the presence of Domestic Violence in the Muslim community. The tragic death of sister Aasiya Zubair Hassan on February 2009 served as a catalyst for the birth and rebirth of programs and organizations addressing this social evil.

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Rape for ethnic cleansing

To the victor go the spoils is the concept that has been used over history to legitimize wartime rape. This tradition of objectifying women during conflicts has not ceased during modern times. Despite the introduction of modern laws of warfare, armies exploit sexual violence systematically as in the cases of the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda and the current situation in Darfur.

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Part 2: Following the nations before us?

Prophet Muhammad (saw) said, in the hadith narrated by Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri (ra): “You will certainly follow the ways of those who came before you, span by span, cubit by cubit, until even if they were to enter a lizard’s hole, you would follow them.” We said, “O Messenger of Allah, (do you mean) the Jews and Christians?” He said, “Who else?!”

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