Hijab Hypocrisy

How Muslim women battle society’s stereotypes with their hijab

by Robert E Flores, Parker Roy, Madiha Ali, and Dorian Branch

Most people are under the impression that wearing a headscarf (hijab) restricts women from being themselves or that they are forced to wear it. It is seen as a symbol of oppression. In this case, that is not true at all because these women chose to wear it.

In Islam, being a hijabi is about modesty, purity, proclaiming your faith, and growing closer to god. These Muslim American women, though following tradition, have different goals when they put on their hijab.

Sohair Elmowafy sitting outside her apartment at the University of Houston. Elmowafy praying in her bedroom. Hedaya Kelani sitting beside her paintings.
Kelani sculpting in her workshop. Madiha Ali sewing in the courtyard. Ali’s sewing gloves.
A piece of Ali’s sewing work. Hijabis enjoying their free time between classes.

Alia Siddiqui lived in Pakistan for two years, born and raised in Saudi Arabia and has been living in Houston for the past twenty years. She’s majoring in English creative writing with a concentration in poetry. As a Pakistani hijabi, she loves to dance, listen to music, and read. To Siddiqui, her hijab is not just a piece of cloth that covers her head. Instead it means much more to her as a Muslim woman.

“For me it’s part of my skin.” Siddiqui said.

After graduation, Siddiqui wants to be an editor for a literary magazine or a creative writing professor.

Sohair Elmowafy, also an English creative writing major, moved here from Egypt. She loves dancing, music, and poetry. For Elmowafy, her hijab is a part of her and makes her stand out from others.

“It sets me apart from a crowd. It’s an essential part of my identity. I want to represent my religion in a way that challenges all the stereotypes that people address to it.” says Elmowafy.

After graduation she wants to be a university professor for linguistics. She currently works at Glass Mountain as an associate editor for the poetry section

Faizza Raza, a grad student studying law, says her hijab is a means of getting closer to her faith and to God. Her hijab is the strength she needs to face her struggles.

Tahira Raza is a Psychology major, her hijab means a lot to her and showcases the fact that she is proud of being a Muslim.

Madiha Ali is a first-generation Muslim American for her family, born and raised in Houston, Texas. Though her family is Pakistani, Ali is commonly mistaken for Middle Eastern. Her major is English creative writing concentration in poetry. She loves to sew, read and write, and listen to music. In her spare time, Ali creates art with her sewing. After graduating, she wants to have a business of her own creating threadwork, get published, and have the career she’s always dreamed of.

While being a minority does not stop them from accomplishing their goals, they represent themselves and their identities that oppose common belief. Every Muslim woman wears the hijab differently and expresses themselves in a different way; whether its patterns, solids, or even handmade. There are even videos of different ways to wear it on YouTube. Alia Siddiqui represents complex ideas with her bold voice. Yet she is concerned about her weight. Tahira Raza has a strong voice that demonstrates in who she is along with her attire that represent self-expressions Sohair Elmowafy and Madiha Ali who are self-conscious of people, are an introvert and have a shy voice.

These Muslim women are not any different than those around them. They want to make a change and be empowered by the things that they want to do along with their faith. They go to a women’s gym and make the choice of not wearing their scarf. ­­To these Muslim women, the hijab gives them confidence. They stand out, they feel different, and walk proud with their heads held high. They do not let the hijab hold them back in doing things that other girls would do.

Lately, society’s opinion of hijabis has changed. Brands like Nike and H&M have begun to sell sports headscarves in their stores. Nike even came out with a “modest collection” of athleisure wear for Muslim women and hijabis. There are even such things called Burkinis for women to wear at the beach, which is a modest bathing suit for women that are hijabis or cover themselves up. This is an empowerment for Muslim women that the world is embracing them with acceptance.