The Freedom in the Veil

This is a guest article.

Five years. It’s been five long years since I hid behind the screen that would forever hide me from the world. One would think I’d get used to it, not the fabric hugging my lips or the wind never reaching my cheeks; those things I got used to by day three. Even the soup always finding its way onto my veil didn’t bother me so much. No. It was the glances, almost scowls that came to faces at the sight of me, those I could never get used to. I switched instead to what any other intelligent person might do in the same situation; I ignored it until it became a passing event. And so the scowls became like the trees and the birds, natural and unalarming.

I don’t regret it. I never looked back to the day I decided to do it and think why. It’s like that woman who decides she wants a baby. So she goes through all the terrible struggle and pain to finally have a roaring, stubborn infant in her lap who would then destroy every dress she owned. But she doesn’t once regret the child. Even when he bawled her in a tamper or threw her out of his home thirty years later, the woman would never look back and wish ‘if she hadn’t’. Weird and totally out of term, but that’s what it meant to me; Never turning back. The decision that you know will change your life, will change you, but you stick to it like a lunatic to a suicide plan.

freedom to veil is a woman's right to practice her freedom to dress as she likes
English: Woman in the niqab (face veil) and abaya (long outer-garment) in Aleppo, Syria Français : Femme portant la niqab (le masque) e le abaya (la grande robe) à Alep en Syrie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Transformation. Revolution. Call it what you want. All the words in the Noble Oxford Dictionary would fall short. A piece of cloth can change everything. I sat back and watched ugly girls powdered and heavy with makeup pout at me pathetically wondering if I had a skin condition that required ‘shawling up’ or if I was too ugly to possibly show my face in public. Furious, I wanted to shout back at them, show them my faultless features, my slender nose, my full mouth. I was double them with all of Loreal on their face. I did have the flawless skin that was golden against the sun and the hair that became fifty shades of brown in the light, just no audience to tell the story. I don’t want to sound bitter or narcissistic but hell how my blood boiled over at their horrid pity.

Best friends became enemies. Relatives became strangers. I could be in a crowd of hundreds and be the loneliest person in the room. What was worse was the fact that I was still the same person behind the veil; girly, stupid, opinionated, loud. I laughed senselessly and almost forgot that the world did not see ‘me’, just a clot of fabric that bothered them. My face flushed and singed when I heard the snide remarks or people turned their heads to smirk at me. Before the ‘shawling’ to those who knew me, I had been a haughty, over-confident know it all. I had looked forward to life with excitement, giddy with joy at all I could achieve. The possibilities were endless. Everything I did I aced. Yes there I go, boasting again but here’s the spin; I never got to do any of the things I dreamed of, never got to be that girl who looked another in the eye and demanded authority.

I don’t blame this cloth on my face, nor the God that demanded modesty of me. I blame the scowlers, the haters, the stereotypes that paint themselves as modern open-minded seculars. The ones who call out and holler when someone asks them to lower their gaze, asking for their rights and the demands of the 21st century. I could ask them the same in return. In return of my silence to their indignant nudity and vulgarity, perhaps an equal footing; an equal freedom to practice my Stone Age shawling. I could demand the same silence and respect. I blame them for the fear and insecurity that began and gripped my insides. The smirks that made me hold back when I knew I could have done it better than that guy on stage.

Silent cry. I might disagree with you in a lot of things. I might disagree with that girl giggling her approval on the acceptance of gay rights. I might strongly disagree with that guy explaining that blasphemy was just someone having an opinion. I might dislike the way that girl’s arms are hanging around her best boyfriend’s neck at his birthday party. I might dislike the way mehdnis play out and the dances look all gaudy and awkward. I might hate the women flirting with their husbands’ friends just to make them comfortable. I have my beliefs and my mindset, a way of seeing things as right or wrong that might not be the same as yours. I might feel a ton load of things and never have a chance to say or argue because “hey what’s that girl in the veil saying? I can’t even understand. Damn stupid mullahs!”

 

I hope you feel ashamed. If you’re that open-minded person who was scowling at that niqabi at the airport or laughing at how that brother’s beard sticks out funny when he rides his bike. Yes, you are entitled to an opinion and just as long as we’re on the freedom of word and action, you’re free to dress in a bikini and believe in gay rights. Turn that table and I’m here sitting with all the others like me, pushed and shoved about in silence because we decided to practise that freedom. Knock knock genius! Ever thought maybe someone could have a different perception of freedom of word and dress than you do? Ever thought perhaps that voiceless stupid girl in the veil might be living hell for practising that same freedom you so openly demand. Maybe that freedom you feel of the wind passing below the hem of your extra short shorts is felt by that girl in her hijab.

In case you’re wondering at the horrible taste in your mouth; it’s your hurt pride realising the truth of what you’ve just read and hating every word of it.

— and there sat freedom in shackles and chains laughing at the morons who painted pictures of bright skies bleeding red–

Author: Sin Rostro

Sin Rostro is a Lahore, Pakistan, based medical professional. She writes fictional and non-fictional essays on societal topics from a feminine perspective. She can be reached at sinrostro.writing@gmail.com