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Sarah Joseph: Why Hijab? (Watch)

Q&A
By Reading Islam Staff
sarah-joseph2
British activist and Emel editor, Sarah Joseph
Sarah Joseph

The notion of cover, of modesty, is not something new to me.

I was a Catholic. I was taught by nuns from time to time in my Catholic school. The notion of covering is not unusual within religious and sacred traditions. Is there any image of Mary (peace be upon her) when she doesn’t have a hair cover?

So for me it’s not about men, it’s not about sex. It’s purely about establishing a space of contemplation and modesty on a sort of daily basis.

And I think that’s very difficult to get across in a world where these values perhaps are not necessarily spoken about on a regular basis. Remember I came from a model agency where everybody were all slim and beautiful... And I didn’t like growing up even as a Christian that people would be judged according to how they looked.

So when I became a Muslim, it was actually a very obvious thing to do is to take on the Hijab. As a Catholic, I would explain it of course as a sacrament: an outward sign of inward grace. It’s an outward sign of what I'm trying to achieve inside. And what am I trying to achieve inside? I’m trying to achieve modesty, and the beating of the ego, and keeping myself within a contemplative framework.

Part 1

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Does Hijab Prevent Women from Contributing to Society? 

we should stop playing politics with women’s bodies and allow them to fully contribute to the society based upon their great gifts

From a Muslim perspective, if you have got a woman who wants to work within the mosque, and she really wants to commit to her community work, but the hijab is not something she feels as part of what she wears in her life or she doesn’t want to do that, we should still be looking for her engagement within the community activities.

And so it’s about trying to show that we can contribute as individuals regardless of our clothing. And society really should not be playing out politics on women’s bodies. And thankfully your first amendment allows religious freedoms!

Sometimes in Europe, across the other side of the pond, we forget that, and France has been the example of that, where the state has determined what a woman should or should not wear. I can’t see any difference between saying to a woman: “You cannot cover” and on the other side of that coin saying ‘You must cover”.

At the end of the day, there has to be that freedom of choice of personal expression, and we should stop playing politics with women’s bodies and allow them to fully contribute to the society based upon their great gifts, whatever they may have.

Watch Sister Sarah Joseph’s Talk

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Related Links:
Hijab: What's It All About?
Modesty of Appearance… in Hijab?
Hijab Asserts Women: Rowan Williams
The Hijab… Why??
Banning of Hijab in France

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