I teach in a school and one of my student is a salafi. As a salafi follower, her clothes are distinctive. Her robe is covered with a long veil and she wears niqab, all of which was dark in color, if not black, a dark blue. There never been any controversial stories about this student in my class. I just want to tell that she is well received. There is no exclusion, no mockery, and no ridicule. I myself treat her as she is.
At the class I often deliver open speech that I would defend the right of people to choose how to dress. Even behind her, I secretly advise the other students that there should no attitudes, words, and actions which can make this salafi female student feel humiliated and marginalized. Currently, this salafi student is in the process of completing her thesis under my supervision. During this time, my relationship with her is quite good. So good, so I can joke with her without making her uncomfortable.
One day she came to me for a consultation. I jokingly asked, “Is this Soraya [not her real name]?” “Yes sir, have you forgotten?” I continued jokingly, “I can’t see your face. You should put some kind of name tag on your chest so that I know that this is really Soraya.” I heard her chuckle behind her black niqab.
She wrote a thesis under the theme of the impression of Christians towards veiled women. It was during this consultation that she joked about how often women in niqab were labeled terrorists. I was speechless hearing her confession. I imagined how hard she was to bear that label when, actually, she has nothing related to any kind of terrorism act.
At that time I told her, “Sister, now we live in an atmosphere filled with prejudice. People no longer have the courage to open up and get to know others as they are. Other people are always defined by someone based on what is in his head. Unfortunately, what is in the head is often a heap of suspicion and accusation, not real facts.”
Where does this suspicion come from? It can come from anywhere, one of which is from environmental prejudice that is constantly internalized in us. Don’t be surprised if suddenly someone is afraid of Madurese, just because that person is Madurese. Why? Because the environment in which he grew up constantly injected his brain with the statement “Madurese is rude.”
When he meets a good Madurese, he will be surprised, “how come there are good Madurese?” The sad thing is, when he does not revise his prejudices, but the reality that is not in accordance with his prejudices is considered an anomaly. Sister, that is more or less how nowadays people look at women wearing niqab. Women with niqab are seen as terrorists. In fact, there is no connection between the niqab and terrorism.
Will the niqab covering a woman’s head send a kind of violent electrical flashes to her brain so that she immediately wants to detonate the bomb? No. Then where does that prejudice come from?
The prejudice is born from, one of them, the swift news about women with niqab involved in acts of terrorism. This news then forms an associative awareness that women wearing niqab are terrorists. Like the stereotypes of Madurese who are “abusive and evil”, women with niqab are unjustly labeled as terrorists.
So unfair is the label for women with niqab, that if there are good women wearing niqab who are open and willing to get along with all groups, tolerant to different people, and pluralists like you, it’s all considered pretense.
Sister, does this negative prejudice only befall the woman with niqab? You surely know that not all women wearing niqab have hearts and perspectives as good as you do. Not a few women with niqab [and their support groups] who, because they consider themselves to be the most righteous and holy, consider women who are not wearing headscarfs are a group of sinners.
They do not want to befriend women who are not wearing niqab and hijab because they believe that getting close with those sinful women will only drag them into the fires of hell. You must also know that many women with niqab often insult women who were not veiled, and they consider those unveiled women nothing more than despicable prostitutes. Because they are considered as prostitutes, these women frequently get derogatory insults. These veiled women consider themselves as the angel of Malik who guards the hell and have the right to torture sinners.
Dear sisters, we currently live in an atmosphere filled with hatred. People almost lose the way to resolve differences except the desire to exterminate each other. Are they bunch of people who are uneducated in religion?
That is precisely the irony. They are people who often postulate using the Holy Book verses, shouting in defense of God. They have a particular perspective on the Holy Book, but they assume that they have learned the secrets of God’s truth, so that they make their views absolute. In this way, they feel deserve to see other people who are different as demons.
Why? Because they have now turned into God.
Sister, you wear a niqab to protect your honor. Your choice must be respected by anyone. I just want to tell you, look at women who do not wear niqab and hijab, for example women wearing specific office uniforms or college students, do they automatically lose their honor as a woman? Are they depraved women? Are they worthy of being cursed at and treated like prostitutes simply because they are not veiled?
You may assume that they are sinful because they do not wear hijab or even niqab, but your belief is only one of many interpretations about being female. The truth that you believe is not the only truth because the ultimate truth belongs to God. Vice versa, if your heart hurted because you are considered a terrorist just because of a niqab, that is the same heart of women who are not veiled when they are insulted as depraved women just because they do not wear any headscarves.
Translated from the article in Indonesian version: https://islami.co/bercadar-bukanlah-teroris-tak-berjilbab-bukan-berarti-pelacur/ by Ahmad Z. El-Hamdi on Islami.co, published January 22, 2020.