Walk slowly, confidently.
Look around you, no man in sight. That’s great. You can safely cross the street now.
Egyptian women are going through their toughest phase of change. The ball is in their playground, either they kick it right into society’s crotch or just stagger to the back and demand a substitute. The social wave is now in favor of hiding as much as possible of a woman’s skin. Burka (or niqab, depends on which part of the universe you are in) –complete covering of the face- is gaining new followers, not to mention that the number of unveiled women in the Egyptian streets is dramatically decreasing, leaving place for hijab, semi-hijab, niqab and burka. The covered women are taking over and we, women who choose to let themselves be uncategorized, are becoming an extinct species. With yourself becoming a part of a minority, you stand in the cage of the accused without committing any crime other than your mere existence. You become the unwanted, the alien that everybody is astounded at. You suddenly lose your normalcy and join the freak show. Before you know it, you are a source of danger and either you join the herd, or you are labeled a taboo.
Am I unveiled? I would say of course, but it’s not just about choosing to cover one’s hair or not. Many veiled women refuse the veil to be enforced upon everybody for they fear that someday the wind will stop shifting in their favor and they will be standing on the opposite side of the gun with everybody demanding they take their veils off. A lot of courageous men have stood beside the case of “liberating the female body as well”, but the sad truth is, nothing seems to work.
As a 25-year-old, unveiled woman, I get criticized by every living creature who seems to possess a tongue and happens to pass me randomly in my workplace or sometimes even in the streets. At work I get asked questions like “Aren’t you afraid of God’s wrath?”
In the streets a woman wearing a niqab stood me up and yelled at my face that I should cover up for there are “unmarried men out there who are tortured by my sexuality”. So wearing a veil is essentially one form of hiding one’s sexuality and staying on the safe side, away from hungry men’s eyes. Let’s be honest with ourselves, this idea goes beyond woman nature, who loves beautifying and showing off her body. In the Muslim faith, a woman –and man- must fight their desires and stay away from sin so as to please God and become good individuals. Showing off your skin, when you are a woman, is considered a sin, on a smaller scale, because it takes you away from praying and supplicating to God, but on a widely accepted scale it is a sin because you are thus seducing men so if they are unmarried they will attempt to rape you or have sexual fantasies about you, which is forbidden. If they are married, they may commit adultery with you, which is a far worse sin in Islam than casual sex between a bachelor and a bachelorette.
The funny thing is; Egyptian creativity never stops. Egyptian females are very lively individuals who –despite the restrictions- love to wear bright-colored clothes, laugh out loud and enjoy their beauty out and about. So as the pressure on young females got harder and more nerve-wrecking, females have devised a “super hijab”, a hijab where you try to reveal as much as you can while maintaining the head cover. So there emerged a miniskirt hijab trend –with underlying black yoga pants- and three-quarter sleeve hijab. Other notable mentions include: leggings hijab, nude bodysuit hijab and sparkle hijab where a woman prefers to adorn her veil with a lavish headscarf and a ruffled ankle-length skirt looking more like a veiled Betty Boop than a decency seeker.
What am I trying to reach here? Hijab is bad. Nudity is an excellent thing. There’s no woman happier than the Western woman. Hell, no. Take off your clothes or wear them, it’s up to you, sista. All I am trying to say is; freedom to be yourself, whether wearing a veil or not, wearing a bikini or biker boots, is one of the greatest gifts Life has ever given you. To have that gift taken away from you, to become condemned socially for being who you are and wanting to remain the same, you would become an empty shell of a person. I cannot think of a worse torture than being forced to hide who you really are and walk about accepting people skinning you alive for choosing to be that person you can’t help but be.
For all those trying to cover me, giving me a hard time for wanting to remain the person that I am right now, I dedicate this article to you.
Written by: Jaylan Salah