So, lately I have found myself wishing I could wear hijab more. It sounds like it should be so simple. Want to wear hijab more? Wrap it round and off you go! Go to the shops, grab the groceries, wander around the office, attend customer sites, go to the park, library, beach etc. Just wear it and go!
It isn’t that simple though. I know, as I write this, that some people will read this and judge with thoughts of ‘she’s just making excuses’ and ‘If you believe and have faith, then you would do it in spite of the difficulty’. You know what? That’s ok. If you feel the need to judge where I am at in learning Islam and my current capacity to get through challenges, then I guess that is just where you are in your place and space of life. I am somewhere different.
Current Challenge 1 – Local Cultural Attire
When the clothes people wear is so normal to them, they hardly realize that they do have a cultural dress.
I live in Australia, on the Sunshine Coast. It’s a typical beach lifestyle here year round, so the cultural dress of the area is board shorts/shorts, bikinis or a one piece suit is typical. For women no longer in their 20’s, t-shirts, thongs/sandals might be a little more common. If you are not at the beach, summery clothing is usually short sleeved or sleeveless with straps or strings. Shorts, short skirts, etc. This is just the cultural dress of the area. Evening wear, if you are going out to a restaurant or something, is usually a T-shirt of some sort and jeans/long pants OR if you are a lady you can wear the shirt/pants combo or a nice dress or skirt and shirt. That’s just (in general) what people here will wear.
YES there are other types of clothing options worn by people, no I’m not saying EVERY Sunny Coast person dresses like they are about to surf a wave. Merely I’m stating that this is the most common dress and sets the standard for what is ‘normal and acceptable’ social wear.
SO, the cultural clothing is also MY cultural clothing. I’m white Australian. While I wasn’t raised here on the Sunshine Coast, I was raised on the Australian Coast, I swam at beaches, I hung out in Tshirts, shorts and Thongs. I’ve worn bikini’s and feel very comfortable in swimmers that show plenty of arms and legs.
It is a very large shift to go from Bikini’s, short and tshirts, to modest clothing and hijab.
And to be honest? I think that it’s extreme. Seriously, if I were to suddenly go from traditional local attire to full, modest, Islamic attire, I’d argue that I had become an extremist and Allah is against extremism.
I am still Australian, I’m still part of this amazing beach community and becoming Muslim isn’t going to remove me from that. So how do I achieve both? How can I be a casual, beach Aussie and be Muslim? I don’t yet have an answer for that.
Current Challenge 2 – Access to appropriate attire
With that cultural clothing demographic in mind, Muslim women stand out, regardless of how ‘casually’ I dress, it stands out. Put aside the Hijab scarf for a moment, and consider the rest of the attire. Long loose pants or a long skirt you could get away with. A little trickier in an office environment that dresses a little more ‘office smart’ rather than ‘social worker casual’, but still wouldn’t raise too many eyebrows.
Wearing a long sleeved anything? People will think you’ve lost the plot, gone bonkers, misplaced your mind, etc. Also, most of the clothing readily available in stores around these parts are marketed to the prevailing majority of clothing culture. The casual, beachy, Aussie lifestyle.
Dressing so vastly differently from everyone else is a challenge. Challenge in access to the style of clothing, challenge in choosing situation appropriate clothes, etc.
Current Challenge 3 – wearing a ‘scarf’ in the QLD heat
THEN ontop of the odd/hot clothing choices you add a scarf and you stand out. Everyone is barely clothed and you might as well be wrapped up in a blanket with a neon sign above your head that flashed ‘very different’.
Now, if someone asks ‘aren’t you hot?’, I’d simply respond “of course! The weather is 35 degrees” (Celsius, for those who need the Fahrenheit equivalent it is 95).
I would still be ridiculously hot without the scarf, but the scarf does keep the burning hot sun off my head, ears and neck, so aside from avoiding sunburn I also have a shade source that goes everywhere I do. Winter isn’t too bad (the 4-8 weeks of slightly cool weather), but mostly it’s hard.
Current Challenge 4 – Face of Islam
I don’t want to be ‘the face’ of Muslim people. When I dress modestly and wear hijab, every word, action or inaction that I make is a reflection on the Islamic community as a whole, and vice-versa. I am Muslim, true, but my actions are mine and mine alone. I don’t see someone yelling at their child and go ‘oh, all those atheist’s just yell at their kids’ or see a Christian jay-walking and extrapolate that all Christians ignore the road rules. No, I see THAT PERSON is making the choice to yell and THAT PERSON is making the choice to jay-walk.
I feel, when I wear hijab, that every action I take, every time I don’t smile broadly and welcomingly at everyone, is deemed a critical assault against that person and that Muslim people are just not friendly.
I’m sure most people I walk past probably don’t care too much about my hijab. I am SO grateful to those people, for making my life just a little easier with their kindness.
Current Conclusion – I do what I can, when I can
I mostly wear Hijab and proper dresses/long attire when I attend prayers etc or a Muslim community event.
If I am having a really positive day, I’ll go out and about and run errands etc. in hijab. At those times I feel like I’m doing my bit to promote Islam and the Muslim people as nice, friendly and regular people.
With all that said, the majority of Australians are laid back and casual, don’t particularly care how others live their lives. Though I do pick and choose carefully where I will and won’t wear a hijab for my emotional safety. For example, I won’t be going to any late night things in hijab, or attending any professional events in hijab.