By Saima Sheikh
National Spokesperson for Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA
Islam was founded more than 1,400 years ago. It is not an alien religion, but a continuation of the Abrahamic prophetic line from Moses to Jesus to Muhammad(PBUH). Speaking of the mystery of Islam, the concept of hijab or veil in Islam is not new to other religions. In fact, women have donned the hijab since ancient times.
Classical Greek and Hellenistic statues sometimes depict Greek women with both their head and face covered by a veil. Veiling is mentioned in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. After seeing Isaac, as stated in The Old Testament, Rebekah proceeded to take a headcloth and cover herself” (Genesis: 24: 64 and 65).
If that wasn’t enough, The New Testament states, “but every woman praying or prophesying with her head uncovered dishonors her head — it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a woman will not be covered, then let her be shorn! But since it is disgraceful for woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered” (1 Corinthians: 11: 5, 6). Let’s not forget that the most traditional depictions of Mary, the mother of Jesus, show her veiled. Oh! And what about those Catholic nuns? Yep. They cover their hair as well.
Not enough info for you? Okay, let’s take a look at Judaism, where the women actually have different ways of veiling depending on how strict a woman adheres to Jewish or Torah laws. Orthodox Jewish women and Hasidic women dress modestly and cover their hair when they go out in the public. According to Jewish law, all married women have to cover their hair either with a tikhel (scarf) or a sheytl (wig). They also dress modestly by wearing long skirts and shirts with long sleeves and high necklines.
Education is the key to removing misconceptions and stereotypes. That’s why the efforts by the True Islam campaign, a grassroots public awareness program is extremely important. The True Islam and the Extremists campaign seeks to clarify 11 major points of contention most Americans have about Islam such as terrorism, Shariah, and most importantly, the rights and role of women in Islam.
Wearing a hijab is not a restraint on Muslim women. Hijab wearing Muslim women are your doctors, lawyers, engineers, TSA agents, teachers, etc. As a hijab wearing Muslim woman, I am saying that I shouldn’t be judged by my appearance, but by my intellect.