A Feminist’s Choice to Wear the Hijab | Attiya Latif | TEDxUVA

A Feminist’s Choice to Wear the Hijab | Attiya Latif | TEDxUVA


Translator: Cécile Grégoire
Reviewer: Ellen Maloney It was in her eyes,
the way she looked at me. You could tell that this question
was incredibly important, this question was a matter
of life and death itself. It was also the last thing
in the world I wanted to answer after a long day of school. She reached out,
placed her hand on my arm, and with such eloquence,
such consideration it would have made Shakespeare
turn over in his grave, said, “Attiya, are you bald?” Really, for the record, I’m not bold. The hair I do have is not neon green
or painted UVA colors. On the days that I choose to wear
my hijab as a turban, I’m not pulling a Quirrell
and hiding Voldemort. I don’t sleep with it on,
I don’t wear it in the shower, and no, I am not oppressed. I have been wearing the hijab or headscarf
since sixth grade, of my own volition. So, for years I’ve struggled
with divisive stereotypes that threatened my identity
as a human being. I was 11 years old when my English teacher
pulled me aside during class, and said, “Attiya, don’t you feel ugly
compared to the other girls with that thing on your head?” I don’t feel ugly.
In fact, I feel rather beautiful. I was 12 when one of my good friends
decided to take it upon herself to apologize on behalf
of whatever cruel being out there had forced me to put this on my head,
whether that was my dad or my mom. For the record, it was me. So, I guess she was apologizing for me. I was 14, when in the hallways
of my middle school, someone knocked my books from my hands, and called me a terrorist. Someone I didn’t know,
someone who didn’t know me, didn’t know what I was like. I was 15 years old, when
in the irony of all ironies, I found a letter in my government notebook bearing the words: “Go back
to where you came from. Kill yourself, terrorist.” It was signed “Love, Jesus”. These words were addressed to me,
a teenager like any other, different only because of the fact
that I chose to wear upon my head, a hijab, a headscarf. To truly understand what a headscarf is,
which is the purpose of my talk today, it’s important to take a brief lesson
in Arabic semantics, Arabic grammar. In Arabic, words are composed
of trilateral roots. That’s three letters that create
a root word that holds meaning for every other word that branches out
from that sole root word. In the case of hijab, the three root letters
are “ha,” “jeem,” and “ba.” When put together, they form
the term “Hajaba,” which literally means “To conceal
or hide from view.” So, at its base level in the Arabic
language, at its root word, the word hijab means modesty, it means
concealing, hiding from view. Whether that means being humble
in your daily conversations, whether that means wearing
loose clothing, modest clothing, and whether that means putting
a scarf upon your head. This idea of the hijab, the headscarf,
is not only inherent to women, it’s inherent to men as well: It’s this idea that Muslim men,
as well as women, lower their gazes; they are humble; they are pious;
and they wear loose clothing, clothing that isn’t immodest
or tight-fitting. It’s this idea of finding empowerment
through the lack of sexualisation within your own body. In today’s culture, this idea of modesty
is often seen as outmoded or primitive. People hear “modesty” and think
of body-shaming, oppression of women, systematic oppression of women. But in reality, Islam’s perception
of modesty is something that is meant to empower people who carry it out. It’s this idea of rejecting
the objectification of a body, and instead focusing
on your individualism, your identity as a person
without the sexualized aspect of yourself. Muslim men and women
reject sexual objectification, and choose instead to be intellectualized,
personalized, that we are human beings. And yet, how do you explain
this idea of modesty in a world that promotes the sexualization
of women and young girls? We live in an age where
you have to be sexy in order to fit in, or find an attractive other. In order to find an attractive other,
you have to compete with current plastic surgery trends
or fashion trends. There’s an author named Wendy Shalit,
and she wrote a book called: “Modesty: Recovering the Lost Virtue.” In this book, she writes that modesty
is an empowering and yes, feminist tool, whereby women can, not only accord
themselves self-respect, but also, demand respect from others. To say, “I’m only showing you
what I chose to show you. And the only people who get to see
special parts of me are the people who I wish to see
to those special parts of me.” For everyone else, look at my personality,
my identity as an individual, my identity as a fellow human being,
regardless of what is on my head, and what is not on my head. Where does this rhetoric about the hijab
as an oppressive institution come from, if it’s such an empowering concept? Why does the West have this idea
of the hijab as an oppressive institution? “Muslim women are oppressed! Look at her, she’s standing on stage
giving a Ted talk about this. What is she saying!” In reality, in order to find
the source of this rhetoric you have to look back
at the times of early colonization. Leila Ahmed wrote this book
called “Women and Gender in Islam.” In this book, she writes
that in the 19th century, when British and other European colonists
entered Muslim countries, they were looking for a means to justify, as they had always done,
their colonization. They were looking for a way
to prove that this is okay. The way they did that was to dismiss
the traditional culture as backwards, as regressive. They chose to fixate upon the hijab
that Muslim women wore, in order to say, “We want to liberate you from this
horrible thing that you are wearing.” They used feminism as a colonial tool. People such as Lord Cromer, for example, the governor of Egypt
in the early 19th century, would often tell women, “You Egyptian women, you are so oppressed. Let me liberate you,
and introduce you to western ideals.” In reality, Cromer was a pretty awful guy. What he did was he raised
tuition fees in women’s schools, so that women who had already
been gaining a primary education prior to the British influence,
suddenly couldn’t go to school because they couldn’t afford it
in peasant communities. He limited the actions of female medics,
new medics in society, people who were empowered,
who were ready to embody their knowledge, to midwifery, saying that “Science
was the realm of men.” To top it all off, the icing on the cake,
this guy, back home in Britain, was the leader of the Men’s League
[Opposing] Women’s Suffrage. He was replacing, maybe a medieval, maybe a Middle Eastern
concept of patriarchy, with his own British medieval
concept of patriarchy. There’s patriarchy in both cultures, and it was a matter
of choosing one over the other, rather than allowing these women
to find their own meaning, to find their empowerment
in their own culture, to define feminism for themselves. The saddest part of it all is that even
the concept of the hijab as a discussion that we’re having today, is something that was handed over
to Muslim feminists, as something that they had to talk about
because the West gave it to them. In every other culture you talk about,
perhaps the West itself, you have symbols that you choose
for yourself: bras, skirt, pant, dresses. This is something that we chose
to talk about ourselves. Yet for Middle Eastern feminists, we were given the hijab
as a source of conflicts, as something that detracted away
from the ultimate discussion of women’s education and women’s rights. Malak Hifni Nasif was a feminist
in the late 19th century. She often wrote about this. She said that our faith does not dictate
that whether or not you wear the scarf is what makes you a feminist. Our scarf doesn’t have anything
to do with this. In reality, we need to talk
about women’s education, we need to talk about
what’s truly important for women, and we need to ignore that the West
is giving us this object, this symbol, to have contention
about between ourselves. So, we’ve established this is the root
of Western rhetoric on feminism. This is where it all comes from: Western feminists telling Muslim women
and women of other cultures that they can’t create their own
conceptualization of feminism. Instead they must adhere
to a Western construct, they must adhere
to Western ideals of feminism. In reality, feminism is a diverse,
beautiful movement, in which women from various cultures,
backgrounds, religious upbringings can find meaning for themselves
and what they are doing, can determine equality for themselves, and can determine how to advocate
that equality for themselves. I personally consider myself
to be a feminist. I know, scary, right? I’m not going to jump
at you all, don’t worry. Yes, I consider myself to be a feminist, and what this means to me
is that my hijab, rather than inhibiting me
from embodying that feminism, further allows me
to propagate that feminism, allows me to to embody this idea
that I am no longer a sexual object, that I am a human being
and I have a voice, that I am someone who
is an aspiring future lawyer, an aspiring human rights activist. Someone who already actively
involves herself in social rights, and social activism on grounds. The hijab, in my opinion,
does not detract from that in any way. And yet, I am told by society
that I cannot be proud of my scarf, that I cannot be both hijabe and feminist. I’m told that I’m oppressed. I’m told to be depressed
about my so-called “oppression.” And when I’m happy with what I have,
I’m told that I am regressive, radical. What am I doing?
Why am I wearing this on my head? It’s up to me to define
what I choose to do with my body. And it’s up to you,
up to everyone around me to not tell me what I should
and shouldn’t be doing, to not dismiss my intelligence, but to accept it,
to acknowledge it, to respect it. It is sad that in today’s culture
we don’t have that respect, we don’t have that knowledge
and acceptance. In Australia, Muslim women who choose
to go to their House of parliament have to sit in glass-enclosed galleries,
apart from their fellow Australians, because of their religious garb. While United Nations
commissioner, Tim Wilson, said that this is segregation
on the basis of religious apparel, the prime Minister of Australia
doesn’t seem to mind. He has actually been quoted saying: “I wish people didn’t wear it,
it’s so confrontational.” Yes, because my American flag headscarf
is very confrontational. All the bright red, white, and blue. Pretty creepy, huh? In France, burka bans have incited
violence against women for a long time. Violence that is often gone
under looked, and over looked. Just a couple years ago, a women was walking back home
on her way from work, and she was attacked by several men
who began to beat her. She threw her hands over her head and yelled, “I’m pregnant,
I’m pregnant, stop hitting me.” And they began to hit her harder,
to the point where she miscarried. She lost her baby
to violence and intolerance. Is that something we are going to allow
to perpetuate in our society? Is that something we are going to allow
to spread in the United States? Where young women who wear the hijab
already have horror stories of their own to tell, much like my own? Friends, it’s not. We can do something about this. People already have been
doing things about this. In Australia, campaigns
like #wish, #illridewithyou, have begun to make Muslim women
feel safe within communities, and show that whether or not
the government cares, the citizens care
about injustice anywhere. In America, at UVA itself,
World Hijab Day was brought to grounds. And a moment of true solidarity
with women who choose to wear the hijab, a moment where we, as UVA students, said that would respect
people’s decisions, regardless of what they wore,
and acknowledge the fact that yes, in the world there are some people
who don’t have that choice. It’s true. Somewhere out there
in the world, there’s a women who can’t leave her front door without
being shot down by the guns of patriarchy, a women who’s forced
to wear certain clothing, a woman who has to wear all black garb
without her own choice being involved in the matter, a women treated
like livestock, like cattle. But I’m here today
to represent my own perspective. I’m not saying that there is justice
in all forms of the hijab. I’m saying that my perspective
is beautiful to me, I, a first-year college student
in the United States, cannot, in any way, represent
1.2 billion Muslims across the World. It’s just not feasible. I mean it’d be pretty cool,
I would feel really awesome, I’d feel amazing actually,
but I can’t do that. So, I’m here today to ask you to broaden
your horizons, to open your minds, to realize that there is a diverse culture
behind what you are making a monolith of, that Islam, in and of itself
has a diverse culture that is a unique religion
just like every other religion. And that what you hear on the news,
what you hear on social media, is biased and untrue. The majority of Muslims are peaceful,
happy, freedom loving people, and you have the opportunity to meet them. I stand before you today
as one of those happy Muslims, happy with her religion,
happy with who she is, happy with what she chooses
to wear upon her head So don’t tell me I can’t be both
feminist and Muslim. Don’t tell me I can’t be both
Potterhead and rag-head. Let me label myself.
Let me define myself. Let me choose what it is
that I wish to embody, what I wish to live for in my life. The hijab is after all my right,
my choice, my life. Thank you (Applause)

100 Replies to “A Feminist’s Choice to Wear the Hijab | Attiya Latif | TEDxUVA”

  1. Every Picture of the Holy Saint Mary shows her wearing a Head Scarf but yet People have a problem when it comes to us Muslims wearing one.

  2. You are living in a county where you can choose whether to wear or not to wear the head scarf unfortunately the covering is imposed on millions of other muslim women in muslim country.

  3. Is objectification and modesty only about hair hair? What's is it about hair, wheres the modesty in what you're wearing, your trousers in particular, does your skinny pants comply with Islamic idea of modesty??

  4. Of course she feels more comfortable being covered up because that’s the way she was raised. This is a very interesting topic; the hijab/ head covering/ veil. All main religions use it in the eastern world so it’s interesting why we in the West would view it as oppression.

  5. Mashaallah Sister …
    you looking like a Queen in hijab hijab hijab …Carry on it ….success is yours

  6. Nothing to see here! Just modern day feminism locking its arms with the deeply anti-female, repressive religion of Islam… I’m sure this is a relationship totally based on good faith.

    Wake up members of Western society, it’s time to stand up for the values of the enlightenment we were created upon.

  7. i wish and hope for respect for virtues like humility to God by covering the head. lots of love Attiya Latif

  8. الحجاب الحجاب ليش تبرري لهم بأهمية الحجاب وانتي مسلمة مش ضروري ان الغرب يقتنع بأهمية الحجاب للمرأة المسلمة يعني هم يبرروا للمسلمين ليش المرأة الغربية تخرج عريانة عادي لا ولا في حسهم
    ليش نقلل من شخصنا كمسلمين

  9. While the speaker may not feel oppressed, it's hard to ignore that women's clothing is legislated in several Muslim countries. And should they break that law, they are punished and harmed. It seems that while Western Muslims are fighting to normalize a woman's hijab, women in the Middle East are fighting to free themselves from it. In response to the hijab helping her become a better advocate and lawyer, there are plenty other non-Muslim women who are successful without a scarf. They fight being objectified if they are beautiful and criticized if they aren't attractive – but they are still successful strong women. Women shouldn't have to cover, men should just behave.

  10. What ever the concerns are is relevant but nothing to do with hijab.. Stop glorifying this tradition in the name of modesty. Modesty comes from inside, It's consciousness.. It has nothing to do with a piece of cloth which covers women's head and chest.

  11. It is understandable that your choice to wear veil is your own choice, but what you wear is not hijab, but a jilbab. Hijab is a full cover from head to toe with one piece or two of long garment and that your body shape is not exposed. You still wear something that exposed your body shape that is not hijab. You just add up that veil to cover your head it is called jilbab.

    It is your choice to wear it no one would question that. The fact that you could make that choice freely whether to wear it or not is not due to Islamic teaching givw you that freedom to make that choice but the fact that you live in country that granted you that freedom to make your own choice. That you live in a country that would never ask you what you should do regarding your personal life and belief.

    Good for you that your wearing your jilbab by your own choice and your own consideration of what is good to you. But that kind of freedom of making the choice is not exist in Islam teaching in regards to how you should dress as a muslim woman, it certainty not that kind of freedom a woman could have in Islamic countries with Sharia Law. They had no choice but to wear hijab, to stay at home and being obedient girl/woman or wife. They could not make the choice to wear it or not wear it by their own will. You are lucky that you do have that freedom because you live in a country where no one has any right to tell you what you should wear or not to wear. But them in Islamic countries, they either wear it or getting severe punishment.

    There are many levels of undertanding what hijab actually represent depending of the level of a muslim one religious experience. In Islamic countrr if course it is obligated for women to wear hijab because it is the hallmark of what a good muslim woman is. They are taught that it was a modest way of dressing and it is a symbol of humility and beauty, and sometimes it even described by some women as a symbol of freedom for whatever reason. And we can assume that this is what you understand of hijab being a muslim woman.
    But there are so many if not most of women in Islamic countries sees it that way, they believe that is what Islam taught about it but they believe it as an obligation that being imposed upon them that they could in any way have their own opinion to it. They sincere believe that they would not be a good muslim woman if they don't wear a hijab and they fear of the consequences of not obyeing the teaching of Muhammad or they fear offending Islam and that is the only opinion about modesty, humility, and beauty they ever have. But some others experience it as force being imposed upon them by religious teachings, and they see it as oppresion to their being and their rights to express themselves in whatever they want to wear. They have their own opinion about what modest is and what beauty is and what freedom is but can not express it at all because wharever it is their opinion will not change what is dictated by Islamic teachings. They are not allowed to think for themselves, they are dictated by Islam of what should they think and what should not, every aspect of their lives is dictated by Islam even in the very personal affair. Many of them wear hijab because there is no other choice for them and it is the only way to survive in a very conservative Islamic country, they survive by being a law abiding women, and certaiy the way of dressing for a muslim woman is dictates by Islam.

    Some women even have to suffere severe punishment for not wearing the hijab properly. Freedom means you can choase or not, it is good that you chose it for your own good and by your own good reasoning, but that is not what a muslim woman has in an Islamic country especially the very conservative one. You have to be grateful that you live in a country where your Islamic life is not dictated by Islamic Law but your Islamic life is granted by the Law that you could chose whatever good for you. The credit should be given to the country and the law that granted you that freedom, not to Islam because Islam certainly doea not give you that freedom, not even a chance.

    And the idea of beauty is never about the appearance or what you wear or not wear, it is about your characters and persoality.

    And the idea about modesty is never about covering yourself or not, or wearing a veil or not, or how long or short of your garment is. But it is about how you present yourself in a proper and respectable way, in acceptable manner. It is not just about the appearance too it is about the whole aspect of you present yourself.

    And freedom definitely not about that either. It just wrong to mislead the audience that Hijab is what you believe it to be and presented while not talking that for many other women in Islamic countries it is something totally different.

  12. Best Ted talk on hijab ever!!!
    Loved your perspective. It's often good to see all the different perspectives rather than sticking to just one because the other person can see what we might not see.

  13. You know, I actually find covered women in hijabs and abayas more attractive than your regular “cool girls”. There’s something about having a secret and being a person before being a body.

  14. What I understand from this speech is : 1.she has an identity crisis and clinges on hijab to get it (and unfortunately, she is making a parade out of her "identity") .2.she was lucky to choose whether to wear it or not unlike so many oppressed women (some commenting below) 3. She is living in a country were she is free to afirm herself. 4. Still, hijab remains a symbol of oppression over women, I would have liked her to convince me of the opposite.

  15. I respect that. She said it's her choice to wear hijab but I wonder if it is true in other parts of the world. Do they really have a choice not to wear it if they don't like it or don't want to?

  16. This is NOT oppression. Oppression is not being encouraged to dress modestly and keep your beauty/body sacred. Oppression is never having the option to learn how to read and write. If the world could stop judging muslim women for choosing to cover themselves and actually fight the real oppression of the young girls throughout the world (in eastern and western society) who are forced to stay home while their brothers go to school, the young girls who are forced to sell their bodies to older men so that the child can bring in an income for her family, the young children who work day and night cleaning dishes or cleaning floors just to help their family survive another day. That IS oppression, it is all over the internet, it is all over social media and sometimes it even makes it to the news (very rarely).
    It's 2018, Muslims live across the entire world and instead of non-muslim societies putting effort to relieve the actual oppression of children they are fighting against women who want to cover their hair.

  17. Men are superior to women. (Surah 2:22 
    Women have half the rights of men: 
    In court witness. (Surah 2:282) 
    In inheritance. (Surah 4:11) 
    A man may beat his wife. (Surah 4:34

  18. With all due respect, she can CHOOSE to wear the hijab and CHOOSE to be a public speaker ONLY because she is living in the "Dâr al-Kufr" ( دار الكفر ).

  19. It’s so hard to explain what people heard and what you yourself have been doing it.
    I don’t understand how scarp on someone’s head could bother others?
    Even in the West religious ladies used wear hijab and cover all their bodies but now days nobody even want talk about that anymore.
    But till today women who serve or whatever …… at the church, they wear just as Muslims do ..so I wonder why those ladies wear like that?

  20. I respect the fact that some women believe firmly in wearing the hijab, yet personally i don’t think hiding your hair makes you go to paradise. According to the Quran you can’t be on a stage giving a TED Talk. Hope you find your truth.

  21. In the early 1920, 30, 40 , 50 ,60, 70s, women wearing a scarf over ones head was standard in Eastern Europe, and in many places in the USA and Europe. It was meant for modesty sake. But, it was never mandatory by any of those governments. Everyone should wear what they want. There is nothing wrong with modesty, in fact, many men find it alluring.

  22. My question to you is why the h*** you are living in United States of America or in western countries where there is freedom of speech, religion and all kind of freedom, and giving us a speech about how much it's your free will to wear the head chaff or hajib why you go to Saudi Arabia ,Iran ,Iraq and other Muslim countries and tell those non-Muslims women and muslim women and tell them how freely you are doing what you are doing and let's see what you get from those women………. I can bit it will not that what you like……?
    Ps: please make sure you make a full video of that event and don't dear to edit it ok…….

  23. Any women who says a Hijab is a choice is a women NOT from a muslim country.. Go to Iraq .. It wont be a choice anymore.. well u can wear it or die .. I suppose that is a choice .. though not a very good one..

  24. Do not believe the Islamists, they claim that Islam honored the women but in fact it made a woman half man as regarding wittness, heritage and even mind

  25. Islam in Arabic does not mean mean live in peace but to surrender to Islamic rituals and Shariah law and oblige nonmoslim to pay Elgiaza tax, any country does not follow Islam is Considered a Land of War until it surrenders

  26. God is supposed to have created the Universe. It is so huge that it goes beyond our imagination, infinite may be. He created immense galaxies, stars, planets. However, He would also care about some little earthlings, little humans of the female persuasion, more specifically what they wear on their little heads and what they do in bed with men. Seriously ???

  27. Btw I’m sure Mohammed would not approve you are speaking out with a mix gender audience, your plucked eyebrows and shaped legged jeans.

  28. Sister
    You are teaching about tight clothing but your leggings are even tighter than western girls wearing pants and trousers

  29. Daft cow…. a patriarchal cult????!!! A woman is worth less than male child in Islam. Oh wait… the most daft will tell me as ex Muslim than I “read the Quran wrong” 😂🤣😂🤣🤣
    No, you’re gullible

  30. Alhamdulillah x
    May you always be blessed abundantly sister.This speach was so captivating and knowledgeable mixed with pure conviction and love.Thank you for such wonderful inspiration ❤x

  31. lf you never heard of islam or the burka, would you be wearing it?, NO, the reason your wear it is because you were brought up to, so it isn't a free choice, you were brainwashed into it from the word go.

  32. In many nations, women are imprisoned or killed for not wearing a hijab. Even in the West, Muslim girls have been killed for refusing to wear one. The hijab is not a fashion choice, it’s a symbol of oppression. If you truly want to fight for women, then take off the hijab in an act of solidarity for the women in Iran who are being locked up for taking it off.

  33. je suis merveilleusement admirative devant cette jeune femme libre et heureuse et fière d'être celle qu'elle veut être

  34. I love how confident and strong she is , well i am a muslim too but i am not a hijabi and i don't really share some of her visions , however i loved the way she speaks out for herself , i loved how she talked about her own prospectif but mentioned that not every hijabi girl feels the way she do , i loved how she defended the islam … respect giiirrl

  35. Choice or no, you have to come to terms with the fact that you share the same idea of "Modesty" with some very very unsavoury people.

  36. U are wrong.
    Hijab is obedience to an interpretation of the commandant of dress code.

    It is not feminism.

    I think that this talk is cheap.

  37. In Islam, wearing the Hijab was not a choice, but it was an enforcement and a law. Big difference! Do not deceive people anymore!

  38. In most Muslim majority you don’t get to choose to wear a hijab. You must wear it by law. You’re not doing anything to help the oppressed women in the Middle East

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