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"I Knew Better Than To Protest:" One Woman And The Hijab

Illustration for article titled I Knew Better Than To Protest: One Woman And The Hijab

"'You have to wear a hijab,' my husband told me shortly after we got married. 'Don't argue with me over this issue.'" So begins writer Dalya Hassan's somewhat disquieting account of "wearing a headscarf in Iraq":

That's how the piece is billed, anyway, and yes, she deals with the changing climate that has made the garment increasingly necessary in what she terms "a country that sometimes pretends to be secular." She explains that, although an infuriating imposition on those women, like her, who don't voluntarily cover their heads as a sign if faith, it provides the "silver linings" of protection from sand and rain. But more to the point,

After 2003, wearing the hijab became a means of protection. Many women opted to wear the veil to protect themselves from dogmatic militiamen who kidnapped and murdered people they deemed secular. Being beautiful or flashy made women particularly vulnerable to kidnappings and other attacks.

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And, adds Hassan, "it has pleased my husband, a reminder that sometimes we do things we don't like out of love." At the piece's end, she concludes,

"Do you know what I wish right now?" I asked my husband recently. "I wish I could force you to wear this hijab so you could experience my feelings."

My husband remained silent, and his eyes reddened with anger.

I knew better than to protest. It is useless to swim upstream in this country called Iraq.

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And you're left wondering if the personal is indeed that political — or the converse. And what her husband feels about a lot of other things, including this accomplished professional woman who writes regularly for an international audience writing exactly this article. Is it, you wonder, indeed Iraq — or one family? And which is the "right" answer?

One Woman's Account Of Having To Cover Her Head In Iraq [WashingtonPost]

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DISCUSSION

In college, one of my friends—a rather liberal/secular Muslim guy (parents from Libya)—was totally in love with me for several years. I only liked him as a friend, and I was honest with him about that…so we eventually drifted apart. We reconnected years later on Facebook, and now I see that he is married and that his wife wears the hijab. And I wonder if I was like the equivalent of a "bad boy" fantasy for him: Sure, he lusted after the agnostic white chick, but he wound up with the conservative Muslim girl in the end. Or, if I had reciprocated his feelings, would he have been happy with me? Would he have stayed liberal with me, or would he have pulled me towards religiosity? Obviously I'll never know, but it's interesting (for me) to think about…