Friday, 15 February 2008

I can feel the sun, the wind, and more!

White, blue, canary yellow, phosphoric green, red, orange, pink .. plain and patterned. I have scarves of almost all colors and materials. I loved them and I still do. They had always made me feel safe and some people thought they never kept me from looking ‘elegant.’ I had wrapped my scarf around my head every time I had left my apartment, opened the door, or gone out on the balcony. For four thousand one hundred and ninety five days of my life. It never bothered me or kept me from doing what I wanted. Even by the sea. I always kept it on and had my way of enjoying the water and the fresh air.

After six months of intensive reading about several issues in religion, I now have my own personal beliefs regarding many of them. Those beliefs are not the primary reason for my decision. When I honestly think about it, I know I only did this because of a growing feeling within me that what I have in my heart and mind doesn’t go any more with what I put on my head. My decision stemmed from a ‘growing discomfort.’ This is the simplest way I could put it.

I know I’m going against what almost every practicing Muslim believes to be an obligation just like the everyday five prayers. It’s the only visual distinction between us and non-Muslims. So by taking my veil off, I, as a Muslim female, threaten what the authoritarian religious masses are trying to do – resisting change imposed by the west and going back to fundamentalism because it’s the only solution. Feeling weak as a nation in chaos, the best thing to do is to cover up their women because they are the honor of family and society. To them, I am blemishing the image of purity and make men’s life more difficult because I represent temptation. I am that girl who, with the help of Satan, has been deluded by her own sick mind into taking off her veil. I will commit sins with every hair I have on my head every time a man sees it. On the Day of Judgment, I shall be dragged to Hellfire by this hair. This all explains why a colleague’s jaw dropped to the floor when she saw me unveiled and recited a verse in Quran used when disasters happen.

I also know that I’m putting myself and my family through painful social pressure. I live in a neighborhood with a Muslim majority; many of them are bearded, veiled or even face covered. We’ve lived here for over quarter a century and have always had the reputation of a ‘decent family.’ So how come my dad and brother let me do this? Yes, it’s their fault in the first place because they allowed me to travel alone, study a lot and work in too liberal environments. They should have tried to get me a husband earlier before I reached that stage. I’m in my late twenties and being the way I am, chances of getting suitors , religious suitors, are reduced.

In the middle of all this I hear “You’re our only daughter. We want you to be happy and we’re sometimes worried about you. Don’t listen to anyone. I’ll never allow anyone to talk about you or judge you. People should learn to mind their own business. One neighbor saw you this morning and I was on the balcony especially for that. She looked up to our balcony to see if we were there and I just gave her this yes-we-know look.” my mom said when I phoned to tell her how much I loved her and felt blessed to have her and my dad as my parents. I realize how hard they are trying to hide their worries. But I can just feel it there in their hugs. I hear it in their prayers. I sometimes wish I were a typical Egyptian daughter, just for them.

All this headache! I wish I could tell the whole world that it’s much simpler than it may seem to them, that I am not interested in being different, that I still love my religion. It’s just the way I am. This is ME.

8 comments:

Cedric said...

Wow. I will make no comment whether I approve or not of your decision, because that's irrelevant: it's yours and no one else's. But I will say this: I admire the courage you had to do it and your honesty with yourself and the ones around you.

It's a big step, standing for who you are and in accordance to what you think, not letting social pressure dictate it to you.

This is also my second point: often, social pressure is more important than what one deeply believes in.

At some point you said the veil is "what almost every practicing Muslim believes to be an obligation". This may be true in some parts of Egypt, but far from true in other places, like Turkey or Lebanon, let alone Europe.

What is that verse "used when catastrophes happen" ? :o)

Anonymous said...

It's simply incredibly beautiful! So true, honest and genuine. I'll be the first to buy a book you'd write.
Yalla, I can't wail :)
marwa

kholkhal said...

Cedric:
- I realize I'm strong when I hear comments like yours and this does help reduce my sensetivity to the music I've faced for three days now... and more to come :)
- The verse is

Marwa:
- I'm really glad to receive such a positive feedback from you. I'm flattered actually.
- I've always been sure there were open-minded people out there and here you are confirming it!

kholkhal said...

Oh , Cedric , the verse! It's 2:156

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to leave a note to let you know that I admire your independence of thought, and that 'the music' will eventually become just background noise.. just be patient and smile in the face of criticism :)
N.

Anonymous said...

I always thought there were very few "open-minded" people and I never shared my thoughts, but when I had the courage to, I surprisingly found out that there LOOOOTS of them out there (who are afraid and thinking the same too!). I believer, if everyone voiced their thoughts and beliefs, it'll be a totally different society.
At the end, "others" accept and let go when genuine people like you stand up for their beliefs and the voice within them - their truth simply because they probably have those very same struggles, but not brave enough to put them out. Let's hope for more integrity in the world.
Keep writing :)
Marwa

Anonymous said...

I am proud of you for practicing what you believe vs. what others' believe. You are my heroine!
T

Anne said...

I know nothing of the courage and strength it took - and takes, surely - to have followed through with what felt right to you in this matter. So I won't even try to express my admiration here, just know that it is great.

I will say - though I have no doubt that you looked every bit as beautiful and elegant with your scarf as you do without - that you have really, really pretty hair :)

That, and as the Jedi (and my Uncle Paul, for whatever reason) say: "May The Force Be With You!"