Beliefnet
Islam In America

“Every time I walk into the room, the first thought is, ‘There’s a Muslim,’ ” said Ms. [Zahra] Cheema, 25, the American-born daughter of Pakistani immigrants, describing that moment when she meets with a potential employer or argues a case in court. “I worry that essentially the hijab will override all my other merits.”

That’s from a story in The New York Times about an American lawyer’s apparel dilemma.

“Some bosses prefer not to place a woman with a head scarf in the public eye.”

The question is troubling: why should Muslim women resign themselves to be hidden from view so their religion is not an issue? Most Muslim men wear nothing identifying them to the casual observer as Muslim.

A subject of heated debate for American Muslim women is the future of this relic of the medieval past (Christian women used to cover their hair; Old Order Amish Orthodox Jewish women still do).

In Muslim majority countries, hijab (in its various permutations) is routine. In the United States, it is not.

Is hijab truly a “sign of piety” or a blatant signifier of the subordinate place of women in Islam? If the scarf is intended to demonstrate “modesty”, how does calling attention to oneself fulfill this goal?

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