Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Woman behind the black mask

For those of you looking at me, I am not depressed.
Neither am I oppressed just because you cannot see my curves or my chest. 
Does that mean I do not have femininity to suggest?
For those of you who look at me in utter detest...
I do not care if you are not impressed.
Believe it or not, this is my choice and under this garment, I do have a voice.
Standing before you, respect is all I demand.
And understand this is something I planned although you are right,
I am under a command… but please do not lower it to that of a man!

Western women I hear you… you have your sympathies...
But I urge and ask you, please do not pity me...
For I believe it is my obligation to show you through mere application...
That I know what it means to be free!
Because I have said no to ‘baby come here’...
'Miss World’… ‘Miss Universe’… 'Miss Thang of the year’...
We are quick to judge what we do not understand in a label-filled world.
I will not be part of a brand...
Those who are of rotten minds call it freedom of the female species yet…
They exploit women whenever and wherever they please...
You will never see me in a swimming suit and then for a camera to pose.

No, no, no.
I am the girl in the hijab, more beautiful than a rose...
Don’t be shocked by my confidence or did you prejudge that too?
I am a woman and I feel just as entitled as you do...
So next time you see me on the bus or on the street,
Don’t be afraid to ask...
Any questions to the woman you assume to be behind a black mask...
Miseducation is not needed in mankind.
Let’s get rid of it and choose to live in sight than rather be blind.
And remember, like I said...believe it or not, this is my choice and under this garment, I do have a voice!

This powerful poem was written by Habiba Ali, a 30-year-old Muslim woman of Somali and Canadian heritage. She is a social service worker by trade but considers herself an advocacy artist, using poetry, plays, skits and cultural pieces to share distinct messages about life and circumstance. She is also the proud mother of three beautiful girls and has lived in Canada the past 25 years. Originally arriving with her family on holiday, they decided to stay after civil war broke out in their homeland.

Habiba refuses to live a life defined by stereotypes. “Or let stereotypes define how I see others,” Habiba adds.

Habiba believes we are each given a voice - a way of expressing a talent – which should not be wasted. She believes we should all use this voice to advocate on behalf of others who may not be in a position to. “I have stood in front of so many people and shared my work... I know that somehow by doing that, I have given permission for others to not to dim their lights because so many of us suffer from confidence issues.”

Habiba says her connection to the Muslim faith can be described as a moderate spiritual journey, which helps her cope with her every day. “And it was in fact converts to Islam like Yusuf Estes and Yusha Evans that helped me better understand my beautiful, peaceful religion, which I was born into and previously took for granted.”

The hijab is a significant symbol of Habiba’s loyalty to her religion, but also to herself and the life she chooses to live, embroiled by values that she devoutly stands by.

“I chose to wear the hijab because it helped me to identify with my true self. It dispelled for me society's obsession with vanity and allowed me get more comfortable in my own true skin without worrying about the hair, the make up and all of the trendy clothes. Mind you now, I believe I’m pretty trendy beneath it all!”

Habiba comments that there is a general perception from the non-Muslim world that women in the hijab are oppressed and depressed. “I don’t agree.  I believe we are truly liberated because for most woman, this is a choice and it’s one that frees you from all of society’s expectations and exploitation of portraying women as sex objects.”

Deeply passionate about women’s position in society, Habiba says, “If I could change something, it would be our view of each other as women.”

"Let’s support each other through the obstacles put in front of us by society and if I tell you I’m happy in my hijab, believe me and let’s move on to the next pressing issue, in unity mind you!”

Talking frank about life, and the learning curves it throws our way, Habiba reflects: Life to me is a big test… we will stumble... we will fall… we will get back up and eventually conquer, but we need each other’s support, regardless of whether I am wearing a hijab or not.”

Let’s talk about the hijab and deepen our understanding. Let’s get raw. Let's get real. Have you any questions for Habiba, who graciously opened her heart to share with you her decisions, choices, beliefs and values?

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