In the beginning, it didn’t seem so sound so bad or degrading to me. When you are looking into converting, no one tells you that as a woman you are required to cover everything but your face and hands for a man’s benefit. On the contrary, hijab-in addition to being a mandate- is supposed to be empowering for women. Adopting it will give you a sense of dignity that is absent in the ‘materialistic’ and sex-saturated culture of the West. It even becomes a revolutionary and feminist act. In adapting Islamic standards of modesty, I’d be giving a finger to the man. In covering I’d divorce myself from the ‘Girls Gone Wild’ culture. Not only would I please Allah, I would also dramatically and vehemently take a stand against the sexual objectification of all women. Men would have no choice but to recognize and appreciate me based on intellect and character alone.
And then I actually took my shahadah.
After that, hijab wasn’t just about my dignity and respect as a woman. It became about men and keeping them from temptation. Because men were so weak and the female form so tempting, it was my responsibility as good muslimah to make sure I didn’t cause them to stumble. Sure, the Quran admonishes all Muslims to lower their gaze. But my reality was that the burden was placed on me, the woman. Anything that could possibly turn a man on or attract him in any way was a no-go. My body, the same body that my Creator had endowed me with, began to feel like a nuisance. It restrained me. I was expected to go to all these lengths and subject myself to these restrictions just to keep men from getting horny. Questions started to form in my mind. Why should sisters have to do all this, I began to ask myself. Why is there so much emphasis placed on our bodies and hardly any placed on men controlling themselves? How is it that men can be given authority over all things but not be expected to keep their desires in check?