We were introduced to a variety of viewpoints in the film “Transparency” regarding the hijab, the muslim veiling of women by those all across the spectrum from those who have chosen and fought to put and keep the hijab on, to those who vehemently are clearly traumatized by hijab and hate it with a passion.
The laws banning veiling, in places such as Turkey, surprised me. Previous to this, I had heard mostly about countries such as Iran, and those emulating Iran, during the 1979 Revolution, which began enforcing women across the board to veil in the strictest sense, and those men and women who did not obey the imposed “religious” laws, were subject to the harshest penalties, often including torture and death.
This caused me to look up more about hijab and niqab, and other forms of veiling which I had not realized were not all covered under the term ‘hijab” before (with the exception of ‘burqa’). I found NPR’s “Lifting the Veil: Muslim Women Explain Their Choice” (http://www.npr.org/2011/04/21/135523680/lifting-the-veil-muslim-women-explain-their-choice), a part of NPR’s series “hidden world of girls”. It added another dimension of emotionality, beyond the color and flavor that I felt sometimes a liberal bias towards (which while entirely valid, I felt a disservice to fully understanding such a phenomenon as muslim head-covering and everything surrounding it) within the film we saw in class.
Beyond my curiosity at people choosing to veil in America, and the obvious trauma from many who have chosen to either unveil, or never veil at all, it reminded me much of my recent explorations with head-covering and modesty/tzniut in Judaism.
Many Americans who are not involved in Orthodox Judaism believe that such things are not just antiquated but woman-hating. Hearing these muslim women who have chosen to veil, or the Turkish woman who fought to wear her hijab in Parliament, describing it entirely differently was very refreshing. It brought another viewpoint to the table, all about being appreciated for who you are rather than what you are. I know some of my explorations began because I did not want to offend those whose table I would often sit at on Friday nights, and I wanted them to feel as comfortable with me, as I was with them. It began with changes in clothing, and making sure that I would have something to cover the tank top I would sometimes be wearing during summer on Shabbos nights.
Later, it developed into a personal practice where if I must be working on Shabbos/Shabbat, I am going to separate the day as holy and sanctified any way I can, and so during the quarter, I’ve chosen to do that by covering my head with a beautiful scarf, reminding me that G-d is constantly over me (which is something I’ve since learned is for men, as women are already deeply connected to G-d, womens’ connections to G-d and reasons for head-covering are very different). This one film has given me an opportunity to not only step outside of myself and learn something about another entirely different yet similar group of peoples, but to look very deeply at my own personal practices, and what I’m doing while in the process of conversion. It is very interesting how connected these things are.