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The unacceptable ‘Muslim Identity’

The other day I was watching a play on one of our entertainment channels. The play had depicted a crucial aspect of today’s society of ours i.e. the behaviors of people towards those who try to follow the teachings of Islam by adopting the Islamic traditions that are directly linked with their appearances.  In this regard, there are two main aspects that I would like to discuss here in light of what I have been personally observing in our society:

  • The problematic Headscarf:

The play showed a girl belonging to an upper-middle class who chose to go against the family norms and wear hijab. Without any moral support, she sticks to her decision of adopting her new way of living despite the fact that she is looked down upon by the society including her own relatives.

Unfortunately, similar incidents do happen and such mentality does prevail in our society. I remember during my school days, at some point, I somehow felt like wearing a headscarf (for a change maybe or out of some inspiration) and I did so just to fulfill my wish. One day, one of my aunts saw me wearing the headscarf as I reached back home from school and she asked shockingly:

“What happened beta? Why are you wearing headscarf? Is everything alright?”

Being a kid I was quite confused to see her reaction and could only answer:

“Yes everything is okay. I just felt like wearing it.”

After getting my answer she expressed her condemnation through her face expressions only and turned her face to the other side without saying anything further.

In an another incident, one of my highly intelligent friends after graduating from university had a real hard time finding a job in a city like Lahore only because she was a ‘hijabi’ and hiring her wouldn’t have had fulfilled the very purpose of hiring a female for a particular position. Such mentality only goes to show how certain employers exploit the very statement that they mention while hiring i.e. “Females preferred”.

Another friend of mine – who always covers her head with a dupatta – was advised by one of her aunts to leave that habit and warned her of dire consequences i.e. she might not be able to secure a nice rishta (proposal) for herself if she remained to appear the way she does. Not only that, even her own family members would often tell her not to cover her head at least while attending any family gatherings or other similar special occasions.

  • The weird Beard:

The same play I referred to in the beginning showed a guy who chose to grow his beard in order to follow the Sunnah. After completing his studies from the West, he gets back home only to find his family in a state of shock to see his new appearance. After several attempts made by his parents to convince him to get back to his ‘normal’ appearance, he chooses not to get rid of his beard. Ultimately his arranged marriage commitment comes to an end as his in-laws refuse to accept a guy with a beard as their son-in-law.

Again, this unfortunately is a true depiction of our society today. I have witnessed a similar thing happening in my own social circle where a proposal for a girl was rejected by her family despite the guy being a very good match in all respects. The only sin of the guy was that of keeping a beard.

We can find many such examples in our surroundings. The irony is that such mentality is more prevalent in our so-called well-educated class. Pakistan being an ‘Islamic Republic’ which was created in the name of Islam, for the Muslims of the sub-continent is today not being able give due respect and freedom to the people who choose to be identified and appeared as a Muslim. And this all has to do with our thinking only.

Today we talk about giving rights to the minorities. We raise our voice against discrimination on the basis of religion but are we really giving due respect to even Muslims? Why do we really have to look down upon those who want to develop their appearance as per the teachings of Islam? We can’t expect our society to be kind towards minorities if we can’t be encouraging towards the rightful acts of the majority first. We blame the religious groups for creating a sectarian divide in the society but can we do the same for the discrimination we ourselves are giving rise to through our attitudes just on the basis of appearances?

We make hue and cry when the West bans the headscarves and the Muslims with beards are considered suspicious – only because they (the West) are non-Muslims who take actions against the Muslims. But alas, we ourselves aren’t doing any favor to the Muslim community either. Indeed, we need to reprogram our mindsets.

In an attempt to westernize ourselves, abandoning our own values is something that only a society suffering from inferiority complex would do. Are we that kind of a society? We need to ask this question!

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