Among the choices of women’s apparel, some articles of clothing represent a deep-seated way of life.
Two Oklahoma women who wear head and neck coverings said they do so to represent their faith in Islam.
Imen Amiri, a speech pathology senior, said wearing the coverings, known as hijabs, is a personal choice and one that shouldn’t be rushed.
Amiri, the cultural officer for the Muslim Student Association at Oklahoma State University, said she was on-and-off with wearing her hijab after first putting it on at 12. She dedicated herself to wearing it, though, at 14 after living in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates for two years.
“When I came here, back to America, and I started growing up and I started realizing the atmosphere and what was going on, this was more of like a political statement for me,” Amiri said. “Obviously it’s religious first, but second, it’s like I want people to know I’m Muslim. I want that to be the first thing that people think of.”
The word hijab is Arabic for “veil” or “covering” and can refer to wearing a headscarf or covering a woman’s whole body. Many Muslim girls begin wearing hijabs when they reach puberty.
For Sana Mesiya, a University of Central Oklahoma student, the hijab was part of her school uniform growing up.
“I didn’t realize the importance of wearing it,” Mesiya said. “Everyone else was doing it, and it was just a part of our uniform as girls, but now I do. … It’s a symbol of dignity, honor and respect to me.”
Mesiya said the tradition began in Arabian society as a sign of wealth and nobility. When Islam was founded, wearing the hijab became open to women of all classes.
Some predominantly Muslim countries, such as Iraq, now require women to wear hijabs, where women must cover their heads and wear loose-fitting clothing. Saudi Arabia requires a long cloak for all women and a head cover in public.
Other countries have banned forms of hijabs. France and Belgium banned the full Muslim veil, and Tunisia, where Amiri’s family is from, has prohibited headscarves and full veils in public since 1981.
“A lot of people do fear being themselves, and I get that hopefully with things being so open now and people are being more (active) and more just outspoken, hopefully that will give them the power to fight for who they are,” Amiri said.
In a time when women’s bodies are often sexualized, wearing a hijab can be empowering, as it forces society to look past appearances, Mesiya said. Ultimately, the decision to wear it is a personal decision that should be considered carefully.
“Look deep within yourself, and really research it and think about it practically, as well,” Mesiya said. “Is this something you will keep up? Because I think it’s better to only start wearing it when you’re ready rather than wear it then take it off and feel conflicted. It’s a very personal and important decision in your life.”