Observing Hijab: More Than Just A “Scarf”
When I first became a Muslim, I never believed I’d start wearing hijab, the Arabic word often used to describe wearing a headscarf. And when I started wearing hijab, I never thought I’d write an ethnography that focuses on this one Islamic practice. In fact, anthropology itself led me to Islam and covering my hair, although that fact makes some of my former peers feel horribly uncomfortable. Going native is highly discouraged, except I never really “went native”; I just held a lot of the same beliefs that Muslims do prior to ever going to an anthropology class. Declaring my faith was one of the most beautiful moments in my life, and although I’ve had to make a lot of adaptations to the way I lived, I’m still essentially the same person.
My step-mother, however, wasn’t so sure. I’ll never forget the time I came home from the mosque one day and she said to me, “I just don’t understand why you had to abandon your own culture for someone else’s.” Although the question was rhetorical, I challenged her view with an anthropological definition of what culture is, and then reiterated that I changed religions, not cultures.
The same is true for the Muslim American converts to Islam - often referred to as reverts - I present to you in this ethnography. All of these brave women have declared their faith in Allah and his Messenger (peace be upon him), and they do their best to live an Islamic life. Yet they’re still Americans, even though they’re quite easy to pick out in a crowd because they each wear the hijab, the head covering many Americans mistakenly call “the veil” (Bullock, 2005). And, like most modern, American women, they’ve got a lot to say about the choices they’ve made and the way they choose to live their lives.
Hijab is ubiquitous right now in America, with a level of saturation that I once thought was only attainable by the most standardized fast food restaurant chain. I set up a Google alert for hijab when I began this process and not a single day passes without at least 4 news articles being sent my way. I’m not the only one who’s noticed this trend. Dr. Leila Ahmed also points out in her latest book that it’s “a rare week when some issue or other relating to women, Islam, and/or the hijab or burka does not make headlines in Western Media” (304-12, 2011).
Despite this focus, the heart of the issue isn’t ever reached because Western assumptions about hijab stand in the way. Americans view hijab and other forms of veiling as a symptom of the oppression and subjugation of women (Abu Lughod 2002), and most articles either confirm this bias or speak directly to this bias. Khan points out in a scathing editorial piece that outdated, colonial-inspired headlines centering around veil puns expose the media’s “obsession, discomfort, and fascination with Muslim women and their sexuality” (2010). Even though the evidence shows that bias is projected in many articles about hijab, most Muslim women interviewed focus on breaking stereotypes instead of speaking for the reasons why they wear hijab. When Muslim women do explain why they wear hijab, the articles themselves are often not in depth enough to lend real understanding to the divide. This polemic discourse leaves Muslim women in a perpetual state of explaining hijab in such a way that the real reasons for hijab are never uncovered and, therefore, never understood.
What is hijab? Why are so many people obsessed with it? What does it mean, and why do women choose to observe hijab? In this paper, I argue that hijab is a multifaceted ritualized action that has several different functions: It’s a symbol of piety for both the one who wears it and those who see her, an expression of modesty, a part of Muslim identity, liberation from mass-media concepts of beauty and it can even be an argument against the objectification of women. Beyond all these reasons, however, most women who observe hijab do so because they believe that Allah ordered them to wear it.
The masjid (the Arabic word for mosque) is a brick building situated on a relatively quiet side street. The interior of the masjid is separated into two different sides, one for men and one for women. Women can and do choose whether they want to enter the masjid from the main doors or from a door that goes directly into the space reserved for women, often referred to as “the women’s side”.
The women’s side has many different spaces. There are two areas for shoes by each entrance, and the shelves by the main entrance hold almost four or five times the amount of shoes as the area by the women’s entrance. The general space is configured in an L shape around the bathroom, and is often filled with women sitting on the floor and children playing or running or doing somersaults or various other activities that children of all backgrounds are known to do. This area is painted a calm green and the carpet is a darker green. Several pieces of Islamic art hang from the walls in various places. The bathroom itself is spacious and has a counter for changing diapers and a separate room with special faucets and tile seats for washing feet before prayer.
Because the space at the masjid is separated by gender, there is little to no male interference or participation in any of these activities, conversations, and interactions except as required to worship in congregation. Women worship in congregation in the same common space as men, and a wall that does not reach the high ceilings divides the women from the men. Three large one-way mirrors line this wall; the women can see out but the men cannot see in. The majority of women like the separate area for women to socialize and have meetings, however I cannot say the same about the prayer area. Some women are upset by the wall, and many of them say that this is a cultural practice because men and women were not separated by a wall or curtain in the masjid during the time of Mohammed (peace be upon him). Other women are happy with the separation because they feel that either the men will distract them or they will distract the men from their worship, often referred to as a fitnah.
Like the bulk of anthropologists who do fieldwork, I used participant observation and interviews in the field, which began in February and is still continuing as I write this paper. I observed and participated in about five sermons, an inestimable number of daily rituals, such as salah (the five daily prayers that are mandatory for every Muslim) and du’a (supplication), and several interpersonal conversations between female worshipers. While there were many children present during my studies, I dutifully ignored all of them, even when they made points that I really wanted to write down and include. At the end of this phase of participant observation, I analyzed my fieldnotes and marked the ones that involved female Muslim reverts and hijab directly or indirectly.
Because I am a member of this community, I actively interviewed people more than I conducted participant observation. And because going to the masjid is not fard (obligatory) for women, a great deal of those interviews happened by phone or chat programs. The sisters I did interview electronically or by phone were not strangers to me.
I interviewed 10 Muslimah (female Muslim) American reverts who observe hijab. Each interview began structured with two questions, the first being, “what actions should a woman take to be a good Muslimah”, and the second question being “Is hijab about identity or is it about modesty?” For the first question, I looked at both the order of the responses and the specific terms they used. Instead of writing my own interpretation of what someone said, I wrote her response exactly (e.g. prayer) and then asked later specifically what she meant (e.g. du’a or salah). My goal was to understand the actions that separate the ideal Muslim woman from everyone else, and also to see how high up on each list hijab appeared.
After the two structured questions were out of the way, I began asking questions relating to the responses in the first question. At this point, each interview took on a life of its own. The shortest interview I conducted was fifteen minutes; the longest was almost two hours.
About the transliteration of Arabic words: I have transliterated all the Arabic words used by the sisters in a modified International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies style. The changes I have made include using h for ة, ح, and ه; s for ص and س; dh for ض and ذ; t for ط and ت; and z for ظ and ز, since most reverts can’t distinguish between these minimal pairs readily. I’m also omitting the diacritical mark over the transliterated vowel that distinguishes long vowels from short vowels, in order to make the transliteration easier for the reader.
Hijab, as defined by the Imam (preacher) of the masjid, literally means “barrier” and technically one could call a wall, a fence, or even a sock by the Arabic word “hijab” and be correct, even though this usage in English seems strange. For Muslim women, hijab is a mode of dress that conceals the basic shape of the body and hides everything except the hands, face, and sometimes the feet. Of course, there are variations among populations, and because the women at the masjid are from several different countries of origins, language groups, and cultural groups there is little consensus on the exact definition. I can, however, tell you by way of my participant observation what hijab is not.
Hijab is not exposing the arm above the elbow, and I know this for a fact because of what happened during a khutbah (sermon) one Friday. Everyone was listening to the khutbah silently, and this sister walks in wearing Western clothes and a hijab tucked in at the collar.. Her blouse only has short sleeves, but instead of putting on the jacket she has with her, or grabbing a shawl or dupatta (a wide Indio-Pakistani scarf ) to cover her arms, she makes the ritualized, obligatory prayer called salah while her arms are showing. The tension in the room increased exponentially. Not every woman at the masjid wears hijab in their daily lives, but all of us observe hijab during salah. This woman wearing short sleeves was knowingly violating a religious norm. As soon as she finished her salah, she put her jacket on and sat down, her face firm and her eyes narrowed.
It is therefore with trepidation that I write about hijab. My intention is not to push hijab on the sisters out there who are not ready, willing, or able to observe it. Some women just don’t believe that wearing hijab is required of them as Muslims. While I disagree with this belief, it is not my job to change their minds or to force my religious beliefs on them. These sisters have heard the pro-hijab arguments, and I do not wish to make them feel unwelcome in their own masjid.
I am also not trying to change anyone’s criteria for hijab – whether they wear subdued colors and Arabic clothing or bright colors and mainly Pakistani clothing, or any other variation on the theme. After all, being a Muslimah is more than dressing a certain way. It is complete submission to Allah.
Some Muslims believe that because a Muslimah submits to Allah’s will on how to dress, she must be submitting in all other areas, and is therefore perfect, or at least closer to perfect than most. Additionally, others see perceived deficiencies in hijab as a sign that a Muslimah is either a hypocrite or spiritually bereft. Believe me, you cannot tell the spiritual depth or sincerity of anyone by merely looking at her appearance. Some of the women I interviewed started wearing hijab prior to becoming Muslim; some of them didn’t wear it for years. And none of us (myself included) are perfect. We all continually struggle in life and in matters of faith, just like everyone else.
Writing about hijab is also horribly painful and frustrating, mainly because Muslim Americans are constantly scrutinized in regards to hijab, as I mentioned in the introduction. On the one side, the Western “liberators” view hijab as a symbol of oppression and subjugation, and this stereotypes all Muslim Americans, whether or not they actually observe hijab (Bullock 2005). On the other side are scads of religious propaganda, issued mainly by non-scholarly Muslim activists (read: laypeople), that insinuate or outright state that hijab protects women, further perpetuating the myth that rape and sexual harassment are crimes of passion and the belief that women are violated because of some failed modesty on their part (Zuberi 2011).
The women in the community are highly aware of this tug of war, and many voice frustration that all this focus on hijab is distracting everyone from larger issues that need to be addressed in the ummah (the global community of Muslims). As long as we feel like we’re being attacked for our religious beliefs, however, those issues are going to remain largely shelved while we waste energy fighting stereotypes that hit us from all sides.
Writing about hijab becomes even more challenging because a seemingly simple question (What is hijab?) is actually a highly complex topic, where a postmodern translation may be the only way to accurately explain how Muslim women themselves feel about hijab, and why there’s so much media attention and negative stereotypes regarding hijab in America. Postmodernism is also a very appropriate theoretical orientation for this topic because I am also an American revert who observes hijab, and therefore my life experiences oblige me to explain my own lens in this ethnography.
Revert vs. Convert
Most converts to Islam overwhelmingly prefer to call themselves as reverts. Muslims believe babies are not born into this world with the Christian notion of “original sin” but are instead born into a state of perfect submission to Allah. Therefore, Muslims believe that all babies are born Muslim and only become other religions because of their upbringing. Becoming Muslim is seen as reverting back to the state of perfect, sinless submission we had when we were born.
A Brief History of the Hijab
This may shock my audience, but the West is the reason for the decline of hijab in many areas of the Muslim world (Ahmed, 2011). I inform you, my audience, of this not to make anyone feel guilty or justified, but because Americans need to understand where this anti-hijab bias comes from in order to address it and finally put it to rest, insha’Allah (God willing). Anyone familiar with anthropology’s dark history is aware of the jingoistic elements in the field’s history, and the anti-hijab movement was just another means to prove European men superior in the supposed unilineal evolution of mankind. As Ahmed explains:
Belief in the superiority of European man and his civilization and in the inferiority of Others - which encompassed all non-European peoples and civilizations - were the commonplaces of the day. In addition to the broad and overarching narrative of the West’s overall superiority, there were also stock narratives that defined the particular inferiority of each different group - Hindus, for example, or Muslims or “Orientals” or sub-Saharan Africans. And dress in some cases (too much covering, for instance with respect to Muslim women, and too little in relation to some sub-Saharan African societies) came to epitomize, to European eyes, the differentness, Otherness, and inferiority of those groups and societies. In the last decades of the nineteenth century these narratives of racial, religious, and civilizational inferiority came to focus specifically on the issue of women and the ways that men of Other societies oppressed and degraded women. (402-10 to 410-18, 2011)
That is to say, the colonizers used the culture of the natives as an excuse to delegitimize and subjugate the natives into colonial rule. These types of arguments, however, are not dead.
Any google search on “women in Islam” immediately picks up websites like Jihad Watch, where self-described “experts” in Islam use methods straight from Tylorean anthropology, namely cherry-picking several different examples of Muslims worldwide as evidence that we are all somewhere between barbarians and savages and not civilized. You don’t even need to think, because they’ve done all the work for you. The argument goes something like this: All Muslims are stuck somewhere in the 14th century, plus or minus 100 years, and because of that wherever Muslims are they’re going to disrupt “civilized” people by killing non-Muslims, killing their own women, beating their women, forcing their children into child marriage and raping other people’s children by “marrying” them. Oh, and you can tell the women are oppressed because they’re forced/brainwashed into wearing hijab, and everyone knows that wearing hijab and being Muslim is incompatible with being American. I wish I were exaggerating.
So we have a situation in America where average people are bombarded with articles, websites, and journalism that reintroduce these decades’ old biases against hijab, constantly proving, via tautological argument, that Muslims are barbarians and incompatible with the West. The hijab therefore becomes this symbol in the West of backwardness and oppression. This understanding is not how Muslim women see hijab. Muslim women see hijab not as an symbolic object but as a ritualized, symbolic action and a state of mind.
How Do Reverts Understand Hijab?
Reverts come to understand all of Islam including hijab by way of education. Because Islam is focused more on orthopraxy (proper actions) than orthodoxy (proper beliefs), it becomes obvious to reverts that education is the key to submission. Salah itself is a very complicated process that can take months, if not years, to perfect. Because salah is performed five times a day, it often has the first priority for reverts. And because wearing proper hijab is part of making correct salah, reverts encounter hijab relatively early in their new lives. There are several resources available for reverts - classes at the masjid, books, websites, advice from other Muslims, etc - to help them understand how to wear hijab and what exactly hijab is.
But there isn’t much in the explanation of why women should wear hijab other than we should follow Allah’s commands. Hijab isn’t the only command like this, either. Many times, when discussing why a certain command was issued, Muslims (including scholars) default to Allahu ‘alam - Allah knows. It wasn’t until I started talking with other women about why I wear hijab that I realized I had my own set of reasons for wearing hijab - reasons that helped me perform Allah’s order without trying to claim that I knew better than Allah why He commanded hijab. I therefore decided to try and understand why reverts who wear hijab understand hijab itself. The reasons ranged from revert to revert, but most understood hijab as an act of modesty, an expression of Islamic identity, and a liberation from mainstream notions of beauty and objectification. While balancing all of these human concepts of understanding, the vast majority of reverts also expressed that beyond their personal opinions, observing hijab was ultimately carried out because Allah commands us to do so.
Modest actions and dress are essential to Islam. One sister said that a good Muslim woman should “wear proper hijab that covers her entire awrah”. Awrah is one of those Arabic words that doesn’t translate to a one-to-one meaning in English. Many Muslims use “private parts” in place of awrah, but in America, “private parts” denotes genitals and that is definitely not the meaning of awrah (although it’s included in it). If one thinks of “private parts” as areas that should be kept private, and not just limited to the genitals, it does suffice. For Muslim men, the awrah is from the navel to the knees, inclusive; for Muslim women it is generally everything except the face, hands, and sometimes the feet. While her words denoted the importance of hijab and modesty, it also shows that hijab is not confined to the head but is a condition that should apply to the entire body.
Other Muslimahs argue that hijab draws more attention to the wearer than merely dressing modestly, or that women who wear hijab may be assaulted in public. Two of the Muslimahs I interviewed had an outright conflict between wanting to wear hijab in order to feel freedom of movement, yet found that wearing hijab made them feel even more restricted because of the reaction that Americans had. “What is the point of hijab,” one sister confided to me, “when it makes people stare at you? That’s the opposite of modesty.” These Muslimahs describe a life where they are constantly in conflict because the only way they feel they can observe hijab and feel safe is by staying out of the public sphere. This isolation can lead to feelings of oppression, ironically not from Muslim men, but from the so-called “liberators” who view hijab itself as oppression (Bullock 2005).
But just because hijab is viewed as an act of modesty and, therefore, of piety, does not mean that all Muslimahs believe that hijab must be worn to be modest. “I think women can be modest without wearing hijab. You can wear modest clothes and be modest because, really, [being modest] is in the heart,” one sister named Betty confided in me. Another sister named Fatima expressed the same sentiment as Betty, but further explained that although a woman could be modest without hijab, her level of modesty would be “penultimate” without wearing the headscarf.
Some of the sisters pointed out that Allah says in the Qur’an, “O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to bring down over themselves [part] of their outer garments. That is more suitable that they will be known and not be abused,” and specifically pointed out that “they will be known” is evidence that Allah himself intended for hijab to identify women as Muslim. This reveals that identity is indeed part of the decision to wear hijab, especially when coupled with statements from reverts like, “The minute I put it on, I realized that I am a MUSLIM in all capital letters, because now everyone is looking at me.”
For reverts, wearing “proper” hijab is seen as a sign of education (Ahmed 2011). Education in Islam is seen as one of the highest levels of piety, so arguing for hijab based off one’s education is an act of being pious and observant. Many sisters I interviewed explained that they began wearing hijab after they learned more about Islam, and sisters who focused on education were also keen to explain what is and isn’t hijab, according to the Sunnah (the examples and rules left by the last prophet of Islam, Mohammed, peace be upon him) as they interpret it. One sister was quick to point out that a woman’s hijab was invalid if she plucked her eyebrows, while another felt that any sort of bright color should not be worn so that it could be seen by men. Of course, these comments were made to me confidentially and anonymously, and many of these sisters stated that they felt awkward judging how a woman wears hijab and that they probably wouldn’t confront their fellow sisters about what they deemed to be an improper expression of hijab unless it would be taken as advice and not an attack.
Liberation from Mainstream “Beauty” and Objectification
Reverts are in a precarious position, because unlike Muslims who are raised in an Islamic culture, we identify with American notions of modesty and sexuality, at least at first. I certainly didn’t understand why anyone would want to put a scarf over her hair, especially on hot summer days. Yet rejecting the forms of Western beauty that sexualize and, therefore, objectify women is part of being Muslim, whether or not the Muslimah in question observes hijab. A considerable number of reverts I spoke with echoed concerns that the West is a place where women are exploited on a daily basis for commercial gain. Americans seem to accept this notion of “sex sells” as normal, and this is viewed by the majority of reverts I interviewed as a type of exploitation, of zulm — oppression. For this reason, hijab is often seen as a means of liberation from Western, gendered expectations.
When I asked Ayesha about wearing hijab, she confided in me that at first she was apprehensive. “Before becoming Muslim, I loved fashion. I wore a lot of fashionable clothing, and many people would complement me on my sense of style. So I was nervous for that reason. At first, I missed fashion and dressing up, but really I was happier without it. I was happy because I knew it was the right thing to do. I used to have boys asking me for my number and stuff. But now I can focus on Islam and on myself instead of how I look.” Another sister said, “I find myself not having to adjust my clothing that often, not having to worry what other people think about me based on what I’m wearing. It’s a huge relief to not have to keep up with ‘The Joneses’. Wearing hijab makes getting dressed so much easier.”
Another example is a conversation I had with a sister about her hair and hijab. We had been talking in the masjid, and the time for salah was drawing near. So we both went to the bathroom to make wudhu. When we took off our hijabs, I was surprised to see that her hair was completely natural (and quite attractive). You see, this sister is African American and I had always assumed that she kept her hair straightened by chemically relaxing it. She must have noticed my surprise because she confided in me that she used to chemically straighten her hair but, after she started wearing hijab, she stopped. “I had bald spots from where the relaxer had damaged my scalp,” she told me, “but now the damage is beginning to go away.” I immediately thought about my hair and how my attitudes have changed regarding it. Since I started wearing hijab, I stopped dying my hair. I also don’t spent an hour each morning styling my hair. The societal demand for hair to be sexually attractive dissolves when a piece of fabric hides the hair itself.
An Order from Allah
As I said previously, I interviewed 10 Muslim American reverts who wear hijab about the actions a woman should take to become a good Muslim. Out of the 10 I interviewed, 9 of them said salah. In comparison, 4 of them said hijab. In addition, those who mentioned hijab often mentioned it as a concept and not a piece of material. For example, a sister named Yasmin showed by negative example what the difference is between hijab as a concept and hijab as a mere headcovering:
Many girls wear “the scarf”, but they may not pray or even pray properly. So does “the scarf” really matter [to her]? And I call it “the scarf” because [hijab] is more than just something to cover our hair. It is a concept. It’s not just a garment. It’s the way we carry ourselves as women. There are certain characteristics that are supposed to go with the hijab. Without those [characteristics], it is just a scarf.
This passage shows the difference between the Western notion of hijab and the Islamic notion of “observing hijab”, because the sister explains that observing hijab means there’s an inner change that goes with the outer symbol, and without that inner change the outer symbol is a mere piece of fabric. And in this context, denouncing those who wear a scarf is not intended to discourage those who wear incorrect hijab but rather to encourage them to question why they’re wearing it, and if they’re wearing it for the wrong reasons to study and make changes, a very revert-oriented set of beliefs because we started out in this religion questioning what we do and asking ourselves if our actions support our religious goals or only increase our fitnah – our trials and tribulations.
Moving Beyond the “Veil”
A majority of the women I interviewed talked more about salah and being grounded in Islam than they did hijab, so all the emphasis in this paper on hijab itself is imposed by me. Women at the masjid don’t talk about hijab any more frequently than any other topic. Furthermore, four of the women I spoke with called for more education of men and women in both our masjid and the ummah at large. “Yes, hijab is fard,” stated one sister, “but so is abstaining from alcohol, not collecting interest on loans, educating parents about porn addiction, and many other things. We need to remove some of the focus off the clothing women wear and instead learn about many other things which are more damaging to society at large.”
While all of the women I’m referencing in this paper observe hijab, five of them spoke against countries and families that force women to wear hijab because they see this as oppression. But an even larger number spoke about the sisters at the masjid whose families are dead-set against them wearing hijab, either because of security reasons or because they view hijab as a sign of being backward. I was interviewing a revert Muslimah one evening when another Muslimah joined our conversation (I don’t think she was aware of what we were doing). She had heard us talking about hijab and so she came over and confided in my informant that she really wants to wear hijab, but her husband keeps telling her that she should get every other aspect of her deen (religion) correct before putting it on. The sister I was interviewing looked at her and said, “I don’t have every aspect of my religion right yet. Hijab keeps me in line. It’s a constant reminder that Allah is watching me. And it’s really difficult to get angry at someone or swear at them or be rude at them when it’s obvious to everyone that you’re a Muslim.” The sister who joined us sighed and said, “Yes, that’s what I believe. That if I wear hijab, I’ll be able to focus more on my deen and my iman (faith) and I’ll be a better wife, mother, and Muslim. Make du’a for me so that, insha’allah, I can find the strength to wear hijab without angering my family too much.” I felt a great sadness grow internally that I tried hard not to let show on my face.
Where is the media to discuss the oppression this sister faces because she wants to wear the hijab? Where is the public outcry? Why is her desire to choose how to dress irrelevant in the on-going debate all across the West in regards to the treatment of women in Islam? Because it doesn’t fit the stereotype many people have in their minds. And this stereotype about hijab is drawing attention away from the real problem: Women who are oppressed are not focused on being able to wear “Western” clothing (Abu Lughod 2006), especially considering that the majority of women who are abused in the West aren’t even Muslim. They just want to be freed from a life of suffering, and to have the ability to choose for themselves.
If anything positive occurs because of this paper, I pray that it is an understanding that women in America have the right to choose to wear or not wear hijab, and that people stop judging if women in general are oppressed by what we wear. Assuming a woman is abused because she wears hijab is dangerous because it victimizes women who aren’t in abusive relationships and it takes the focus off women who are truly in need of saving, the ones who usually don’t look like they’re in danger.
The women in this paper observe hijab for many reasons. All of these reasons speak to a larger spiritual understanding of the religion that, like hijab, they choose for themselves. Furthermore, these women illustrate and demonstrate time and time again that hijab is not just an object or a symbol but is an action they take in their daily struggle to submit to the will of Allah.
My humble suggestion is that when Muslims are faced with negative stereotypes, we go right to the heart of the matter. Instead of saying what hijab is not, or what Islam is not, or what our beliefs are not, we can choose to take the path of truth and avoid apologetics. After all, in America we have the right to believe and worship as we choose. I know the next time someone asks me why I wear a scarf on my head, I am going to smile at them and simply state that I wear hijab in order to be closer to Allah, subhannu wa ta’ala – Glorified and Exalted be He.
 The book I am citing is brand new and the only way I found to receive it in time for my ethnography was thanks to my Kindle - my Amazon-branded e-Reader. Unfortunately, this version does not have page numbers, so any quote from this source is referenced by its “Location” as defined by the Kindle.
 My goal is to write an ethnography on a different topic by the end of December 2011 insha’Allah.
 Here’s where things get confusing. In English, we think of prayer as a form of communication with God. In Islam, there are two kinds of prayers: the obligatory, ritualized prayer that has many different postures; and supplications, called du’a, which are appeals to God to help us or others and can be done alone or combined with salah.
 Linguistic tangent: To make many Arabic words feminine, you add the closed form of ta, known as ta marbuta, to the end. This is pronounced like an h if the word comes at the end of the sentence or when it is code-switched in by itself.
 Read at your own risk: you’ve been warned. http://www.jihadwatch.org/
 This is an important point that is off topic for this paper: Islam also requires men to dress and behave modestly, too. But this point is often absent from articles about hijab.
 I base this statement from my nine months of working with an attorney who represented abuse victims in court.
2002 Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving? Anthropological Reflections on Cultural Relativism and Its Others. American Anthropologist 104(3):783-790.
2006 The Muslim woman: The power of images and the danger of pity. Online Magazine. Eurozine.
2011 A Quiet Revolution: The Veil’s Resurgence, from the Middle East to America. 1st ed. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Bullock, Katherine, ed.
2005 Introduction. In Muslim women activists in North America: Speaking for ourselves. 1st ed. Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press.
2010 Your complete guide to bad burqa puns. altmuslimah. Accessed from http://www.altmuslimah.com/a/b/r/3858/ on May 8, 2011.
2011 Sexual Harassment: A Muslim Problem? Muslim Matters: Because Muslims Matter. Accessed from http://muslimmatters.org/2011/04/25/sexual-harrassment-a-muslim-problem/ on April 28, 2011.
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