A woman who decided to take off her hijab for good is treated as a leper in Malaysia. If you disagree with this then you either haven’t experienced it or you’re in absolute denial. Or maybe it’s just utter ignorance that you have chosen to submerge yourself in. Speaking as a woman who dehijabed when I was 18 years old, I know all too well what it feels like and how we are treated by Malaysian society.
To dehijab is the act of a muslim woman taking off her headscarf, a head covering that is worn in public by women. In Islam, it is mandatory for a woman to cover her hair, neck and chest with a headscarf in the presence of men. I have never and will never deny that to dehijab is a sin in the eyes of my God, Allah S.W.T, no matter what society thinks I believe. This is clearly written in our scripture, the Quran. I would never be bold enough to declare that God is wrong and I am right.
Our Sad Reality
Despite the above, as a human being living on Earth, we are all afforded and should be allowed to practice free will. Even God acknowledges this. That is why most religions have their own version of heaven and hell, as either reward or punishment based on what we have chosen to do with the free will that has been gifted to us. Since I have free will as a human being, I have made the decision for myself to dehijab and no one on Earth should be allowed to do a thing about it. They can have their respective feelings on the matter but at the end of the day, my decisions are mine and involve no one but me.
Fortunately for me, I live in a society that does not punish women for our harmless decisions. Women in countries like Iran are less fortunate. Who could overlook the recent case of Mahsa Amini, who died from police brutality due to “not wearing the hijab in accordance with government standards?” Mahsa Amini, only 22 years old, was severely beaten to death by the Iranian religious morality police because her hijab wasn’t “proper” enough for them. Although this state sectioned crime was met with global protests and uprisings in Iran, the reality remains the same. In some places in the world, even in the year 2022, women are not allowed to practice free will or they will lose their lives for it.
I took off my hijab in 2016 during my first year as a diploma student in Cheras. This decision was made simply because I realized that I no longer wanted to wear a headscarf. Moreover, I was finally in a stage of my life where I could freely take it off since I had left the home of my (relatively) religious parents and family. As a diploma student living in Kuala Lumpur, I no longer had to do things that were expected of or forced on me, the way most things are when we are children with no autonomy of our own. As an 18 year old, I practiced my autonomy and took off my hijab because I wanted to, nothing more, nothing less.
Obviously, it could never just end there. We are living in Malaysia, after all, a country where some Muslims really take things to the extreme. I had to deal with a lot of negative reception from both my family and the people around me. The common belief amongst them was that I suffered from “culture shock” due to being in Kuala Lumpur and that was why I took my hijab off. They thought that I was losing myself and that I would become a wild party girl who no longer believes in the teachings of Islam. They couldn’t be more wrong but I never bothered to set records straight. In this article, after almost 7 years, I will attempt to.
Most importantly, how could I suffer from “culture shock” when I have lived in cities all my life? I have always had Muslim friends who didn’t wear the hijab, friends of different ethnicities and friends with different lifestyles than mine. Even though I was a naive, young teenager when I decided to dehijab, it was never due to culture shock or the influence of others. It just doesn’t make any sense when I was already attuned to cultures that are different from mine. The truth of the matter is simply that I was a young girl who was finally allowed to explore who she really was once she left home. My story is no different from any other coming of age movie, it’s just more complicated as it is tangled up in religion and God.
On the behalf of all my sisters, I truly wish that society as a whole could learn to be more accepting of what women choose to do with their own bodies in general. Especially when it comes to dehijabing and aurat, muslim society is too harsh on women for these things.
Yes, women have to cover themselves according to the Quran, no one is contesting that. But why are muslims, muslim men in particular, so adamant and strict about this one issue when they themselves are committing hundreds of sins that are written in the Quran every single day? The only difference between the sin of dehijabing and the sin of watching porn (an activity largely committed by men, muslim or otherwise) is the genders that commit each crime. Women are held more accountable for their actions than men are, it has been that way since time immemorial and it is high past time that this stops.
Women have the right to choose what they do with their own bodies, just like men do. If muslim men can prance around on football fields wearing tiny shorts that show off their knees (their aurat) without society throwing a fit, then why aren’t women afforded that same respect? The simple answer is misogyny, which has always been prevalent in muslim society. When will we as people of the same faith, Islam, be able to remove ourselves from that label? We can only hope that time will reveal this.