Hijab Envy - Part 2

Not only do hijab-clad women look classy, they also act in a sophisticated manner. Last summer, Jeremy and I went to a Kazim as-Saher concert in Lattakia. It was the end of August – peak season for hanging out at the beach and swimming in the Mediterranean. The concert took place in the evening, but it was still very hot and humid. A lot of the women in attendance looked like they had come in from Lebanon – at least, they were almost certainly not from Syria. Tight, revealing tank tops and short skirts were everywhere, along with overdone makeup, garish gold jewelry, and extreme hairstyles. Yes, these women were technically beautiful, but in such a worldly and ostentatious way. About halfway through the concert, several women came in and took their seats in front of us. They were all wearing the hijab. I couldn’t help but compare them and their sophisticated appearance to the more scantily clad ladies around us. Amount of exposed skin notwithstanding, the hijab ladies were definitely more attractive and seemed more composed, mature, and graceful as a result.

Hijab women, if they smoke at all, never smoke in public. They’re long-suffering in summer: just when your instinct is to wear as little clothing as possible, they’re still layering it on, committed to their promise. And they always outsmart us non-hijab ladies when visiting famous mosques (like Omayyad or Seida Zeinab). While I have to shroud myself in a raggity old black sheet handed out by the guy at the gate, they walk in serenely, already appropriately dressed for the occasion. The whole time we’re in the courtyard or prayer room, I’m constantly worrying that my hood will slip back or that too much of my arm is sticking out of the sleeve. Meanwhile, they’re busy enjoying the peaceful atmosphere.

Veiled women are careful to be discreet and avoid unnecessary contact with unknown males. That’s why you’ll often see three or four hijab-clad women packed into the back of a taxi so that nobody has to sit in the front seat next to the driver. Other times, they have a younger, unveiled sister sit up front, or even a small child. On services and buses, men are conscientious enough to shuffle the seating arrangement to allow veiled women to sit alone or next to other women, and not have to share a bench with an unknown man. Sometimes the driver will even call out instructions from the front, orchestrating the arrangements so that there’s an acceptable seat available for a waiting hijab woman. As an unveiled woman, I am not always extended the same courtesy. The hijab also offers protection from shabaab, the young men who love to hassle women on the streets by catcalling and making kissy noises. I’ve never seen a hijab woman get tough-guyed walking across the President’s Bridge, or whistled at when she passes a group of idle security guards.

Women who wear the hijab are good moms, students, and sisters, or so I’ve observed from watching TV. The moms in commercials who send their kids off to school with a good lunch, tidy the house, go to work, and still have dinner ready in the evenings always wear the veil. And their children are always well behaved. I’m always telling my husband that when we have kids, I need to be like a hijab-mom. Once I saw a commercial where an unveiled woman complained of being tired and run-down all the time. Who did she turn to for advice but her hijab-clad neighbor? We unveiled women are usually relegated to superficial roles in cosmetics or perfume commercials.

The hijab simply allows a woman’s inner beauty to be obvious to all. When you interact with them, you realize that you’re dealing with a real person, not a certain brand of clothing or a certain level of wealth or status or attention to personal appearance. We in the western world can learn a lot from these women who don’t show a lot of – or any – skin, yet still manage to be excellent, upstanding examples of beautiful, feminine, extremely capable women.

Girl at Petra, Jordan

Hijab Envy - Part 1