Voices of Faith: 'My hijab liberates me, not oppresses me'

Youssra Abdrabou
Youssra Abdrabou

As Americans, we are given the freedom of expression. We have the right to choose how to dress and what religion (if any) to follow. However, lack of understanding in how people choose to express themselves and their ideologies can lead to misconceptions.

One example of this is the hijab.

Many Muslim women choose to cover their hair and body while in public as a way to feel closer to their religion. Unfortunately, some people do not understand this is a personal choice and believe Islam is oppressing them. This results in the negative media portrayal of all Muslim women being forced to cover themselves. However, this is not part of the religion; Islam does not force hijab.

Hijab is typically referred to as the head covering a woman wears in Islam; however, it has a deeper meaning. The word hijab directly translates to barrier and is used to signify the concept of modesty as a whole for both men and women. Although hijab is obligatory, that does not mean that it should be forced.

“Let there be no compulsion in religion” (Quran 2:256)

A person still has the choice to follow anything in Islam, whether that be obligatory or not. The Quran directly states that religion should not be forced. Although hijab is highly encouraged in Islam, no one is allowed to be pressured into compliance.

People who pressure others (even their children) may have good intentions; however, forcing and pressuring hijab only leads to a negative association with Islam. One should only observe hijab for the love of God, since God is the one who commanded it.

"Had your Lord wanted, all the people on earth would have believed. So will you force people to believe?" (Qur'an, 10:99)

Although forcing religion is expressly forbidden in Islam, it still happens in many parts of the world. This in turn leads people who do not know much about Islam to think of it as an oppressive religion.

It is important to understand that forcing hijab stems from the culture of the people, and not from the religion itself. In 2022, the Iranian law forcing women to wear a head coving was brought to the forefront of western media when a young girl was arrested and later found dead. This death brought international awareness to the way some countries take advantage of what the Quran says and use it to control women. These laws only apply to a women’s hijab. Men do not get prosecuted for not observing their hijab.

This is hypocrisy, not Islam, and plays into the stereotypes that Muslims are violent and oppressive. Unfortunately, these types of laws cause more misunderstanding and hatred to people whose only interaction with Islam is through the media.

As a Muslim woman who observes hijab, I was never forced or pressured to wear the khimar (head covering) or dress modestly. My love for hijab came from learning about its beauty. I have complete control over what parts of my body I choose to show people, and what parts I choose to keep covered. My hijab liberates me, not oppresses me.

There is no compulsion in Islam, hence hijab should only be encouraged, not forced. Not everyone will want to complete hijab. Forcing people to do so is not only oppressive, it goes against the teachings of Islam. When people or nations abuse the teachings of the Quran by forcing religion, Islam is painted in a negative light.

We are all human. We all deserve freedom of expression.

Youssra Abdrabou is a public relations intern for the Islamic Society of Akron and Kent.

As Americans, we are given the freedom of expression. We have the right to

This article originally appeared on Record-Courier: Voices of Faith: Islam does not force hijab