The Hijab: From Oppression to Female Empowerment

When I think of the hijab, a sacred cloth worn by the women of Islam, what strikes me is a scene from the movie ‘Sex and The City’, where these four women from the west are blown away by the sight that unfolds in front of them. That being, women of Abu Dhabi having French fries while their face is covered with a burka. “A lift for every fry,” is how Carrie Bradshaw, one of the four women from the west, coins it. It is something that they would never imagine themselves getting accustomed to, however for the women of Islam, it is a tradition.

In the religion of Islam, the hijab represents the decency and modesty of women. Traditionally, this piece of cloth is symbolic, as one who wears it, is recognized as a woman of Islam and hence not harassed.

A woman wearing the hijab.

Since ages, the practice of wearing a hijab, is seen by the outside world as a symbol of oppression. For a very long time, in the Western world, the hijab represented forced silence. Going back to the French fries scene in the ‘Sex And The City’, Carrie says, “The veil across the mouth freaks me out. It’s like, they don’t want to have a voice.”

However today, the scenario is a tad different. The hijab, which started out as a sign of oppression and then as exotic, has now emerged as a strong sign of empowerment. The piece of cloth, which for long was seen as a mode for suppressing a woman’s voice, now displays the power of women.

Jiya as Burka Avenger

Wondering how? Then check out the ‘Burka Avenger.’ It is the first ever animated superhero series produced by Unicorn Black in Pakistan. The series is about a school teacher namely Jiya, whose alter-ego is the super-heroine named ‘Burka Avenger.’ She covers her identity using a burka, while she fights for justice, peace and education for all. This show sends a clear message, of how massive is the potential of female empowerment and how greatly can it affect today’s generation.

It doesn’t end there. Another television series that so far has broken stereotypes associated with women wearing hijabs, is ‘Quantico.’ In the show, Nimah and Raina are twin sisters, Raina is conservative in nature and wears the hijab. However, unlike the set stereotype, where women who wear the hijab are seen as weak and voiceless, Raina follows her passion and joins the FBI, just like her sister.

The team of Quantico. Raina standing fourth from the left.

These two characters, especially Raina, motivate and empower the thousands of women who wear the hijab, and also educate the viewers on how women who wear the hijab are normal, just like the others and are not weak or oppressed.

Hijab gained popularity not only in the field of broadcast, but also in the world of fashion. The cloth which created a lot of controversies for hiding the identity of a woman, has now emerged as a fashion statement across various platforms. Fashion designers are striving to cater to the ever increasing demands of the fashion market. However, what is unusual is the fact that, this demand is not only from Muslim’s, but also from non-Muslim’s across the globe.

First Hijab Runway at New York Fashion Week

At first, this escalating demand was seen by many as a guerrilla raid; but with time and further increase in demand, this has been proved false. While many see the hijab as beautiful, elegant and exuding class, some wear it in support of Muslim women and others wear it simply to be modest.

While empowerment through the hijab is on the rise, there are still situations where women are criticized, tormented and seen as affiliated with terrorists. For most, it boils down to one aspect, ‘it is my choice.’ A choice to not be objectified, a choice to not be judged by physical beauty, but to let the world know that what matters most, is the person inside the hijab, not her external beauty, but the beauty within her. Hijab to them is not oppression, it is liberation from societal expectations.