September 24, 2018 | ° F

SINGH: People of Islamic faith should not be deterred from wearing religious covering


Opinions Column: Got Rights?


Just last Wednesday, Nov. 8, a teacher at the New Vision Academy in Tennessee was suspended when a video of her removing a student’s hijab circulated on social media. The Nashville educator is seen removing a female student’s head scarf before touching her hair and captioning it “pretty hair." She proceeded to upload this video on Snapchat where a concerned viewer took it up with district authorities. In the video, the student is seen hiding her face from the class as her scarf was removed. This also seemed like an invitation for her classmates to violate her space and body as several students came forward to touch her hair as she tried to fix it. Someone in the background is even heard saying “her hair was too pretty to be covered." The teacher had uploaded a second video captioned “lol all that hair covered up.” When confronted by school authorities, the teacher had originally denied uploading the video but insisted that “exposing the girl’s hair was not done out of disrespect," but the school principal, Tim Malone, took action and released a statement, saying, “New Vision Academy is a diverse school. As a school community, we pride ourselves on embracing and celebrating our racial, ethnic, religious and economic diversity. Our students learn, and grow, best when they learn from one another. To foster this environment, all students must feel respected and supported.” And the staff member has been suspended without pay as further investigation is being done. 

This is not the first time a Muslim woman has been exposed to such physical intimidation. Many others also face verbal insults and threats throughout their lives. This past April, a man ripped off the hijab of a 14-year-old Muslim girl while yelling “terrorist” at a mall in Georgia. Similarly, earlier this year yet another woman in Milwaukee became a victim of a hate crime when a man approached her as she was walking home. He demanded that she take off her head scarf, and when she refused, he threw her on the floor and brutally beat her. In yet another incident last year, a Muslim teacher in New York was told to put her hijab to use by hanging herself. All these incidents marginalize people for simply following their faith. In New York state alone, the number of hate crimes against Muslims has increased by 560 percent in the past year. Extrapolations suggest that this year’s number is bound to shatter last year’s. It is truly shocking to see that we as a nation are regressing in this day and age. We need to be empowering one another and accepting and celebrating each other’s cultures and ethnic backgrounds. In order for this to happen, we must educate one another on the practices of different faiths and learn to keep an open mind.

HIjabs are head coverings adorned by Muslim women. There are many different forms of hijabs, such as the shayla, a long rectangular scarf that is loosely wrapped around the head and pinned at the shoulders. Another is the khimar, a long, almost cape-like, scarf that covers the head but also the neck and shoulders. Then there is the niqab, a scarf that covers the face along with the head but leaves space for the eyes. And lastly, there is the burqa, which covers the entire face, head and body, leaving just a slit for the eyes. These are the basic hijab styles that many Muslim women sport. These are simply harmless articles of clothing with nothing fear-inducing about them.

The facts are that the women of the Islamic faith wear head coverings for a variety of reasons. Some do because they believe that God has instructed them to do so in order to be more modest. For them, it is a personal decision made after puberty to show their devotion to God and their faith. Others wear one to visibly express their Islamic identities. Some women wear the headscarf to further perpetuate this stereotype because they are proud to be Muslim and are not afraid to show it. And others wear one for social and political reasons for expression of their cultural identities. They hope to combat prejudice and the western misconceptions which present women who wear the hijab as oppressed. And while some women choose to wear a hijab, others simply choose not to. Either way it is a form of expression and should be openly welcomed in society without bigotry. Being terrorized for following a faith is hurtful and unkind. It takes a lot of courage to wear a headdress but to be victimized and persecuted for celebrating one’s faith and beliefs is both malicious and upsetting. 

Harleen Singh is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in cell biology and neuroscience. Her column, "Got Rights?", runs on alternate Wednesdays.

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Harleen Singh

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