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From the Chariman

Having an insatiable curiosity, I had a really interesting conversation on Twitter recently. I saw a mention of wearing hijab, something I have never really understood, with my North European/Western upbringing. Hijab has always seemed unfamiliar, strange even. So I thought I would find out more (perhaps slightly rudely). We'll call the person I was talking to "DC". Here is our conversation:

ME: I don't understand why Muslim women want to cover their hair.

DC: Muslim women cover hair and body to practice modesty. But I, too, don't understand why non-Muslim women spend $$ + hrs doing their hair? If a women can choose to walk around in a bikini, she can choose to walk around covered from head to toe.

ME: Thanks! Respect personal choices completely, of course. [Could you] explain why showing your hair is not modest? Hair is hair?

DC: It's not immodest. But hair does add to a woman's beauty. Hijab allows a women to be respected for her intellect at face value. As for spiritual or religious reasons, it's a form of worship. E.g. A nun covers her hair, thus observing God's decree.

ME: Beautifully put. I understand now. Thank you.

DC: You're very welcome! We learn something new every day :)


I completely empathise with why a woman (young or otherwise) who wouldn't want to be judged by her appearance, or for religious reasons, might choose to wear hijab. Would we in the West tell a nun not to wear her wimple? No, of course we wouldn't.

Women in western culture are all too often judged, at least in part, by how they appear rather than by "the content of their character", to borrow Martin Luther King's immortal phrase. But truthfully, which is better? To judge someone by how they appear or by who they are?

Hijab, then, is something that I should respect. The Western version of "right" isn't always necessarily right, as in this case. Western pre-conceptions don't always work.

In regard to this and so many views, I need to ... listen with respect.

School councils are all about ... listening with respect to other views. They have a valuable role to perform, helping to explain and understand cultural differences. May it always be so.