Hijabis – they’re just like us!

How to Muslim for Dummies


Oh, the American media — so problematic, but oh-so-necessary. As Bill Gates says, the media is crucial in order to “give a voice to people who would have never been heard,” and it seems to be doing just that so far (at a very leisurely pace, but all the same).  

And indeed, we have come a long way in terms of representation in the media. It’s now easier for people of color and queer people to find someone to relate to on television. Though there is still plenty of room to grow, thankfully we’ve shifted a little from the previously typical image of pretty, young, skinny, white women. Women are (slowly) making the shift from objects and props to subjects.

And thankfully, Muslim women, specifically hijabis, are not excluded from this growing trend of media representation. However, progress always comes with bumps in the road. This initial representation is good, but today we seem to have halted at two main types of Muslim women: fully-covered evil niqabis who could steal your life or stunning, model-worthy hijabis who could steal your man.

Hijabi women are portrayed as representations of danger and oppression, or they’re seen as models of empowerment and beauty. And in Western media, we only see the extremes. Very rarely in the media do we see an average-looking hijabi doing normal things or a woman in a niqab who is not oppressed by a totalitarian theocracy.

I promise, I’m not making this up. They do exist.

That being said, we’re not all Arab Covergirls. India and Indonesia rank first and second in terms of Muslim population of the world, but the Muslims we see on television are almost always of Arab descent. They’re either gorgeous “role models” or guerilla fighters.

The image of a Muslim woman in the media always has the hijab at the center, and that is why it gets so much attention in real life. A hijabi woman is seen as just that: a hijabi. Nothing else is really discussed, because the hijab embodies her entire existence.

Hijabs are statements, yes. However, though they’re seen to many as symbols of oppression, they really are just symbols of our religion. While the point is to protect ourselves and maintain a sense of dignity, some women wear hijab as something to remind themselves of their faith. Hijab can be something Muslim women use to proudly defy the standards of wearing less to attract more. You can still be beautiful while covering up, and there are many Muslim women who take pride in that every day.

And yes, there may be niqabis out there who live their life covered head-to-toe because they’re forced to. But there are also a fair share of women who wear the niqab because they deeply value their religion and take their safety seriously.

It’s also very easy to side-eye people when no one can see where you’re looking. A major step up from sunglasses, the niqab is a perfect one-way window.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still very beneficial to have stories of the hijab as a sign of empowerment out there. But remember when the only women seen in Western movies and TV were the really beautiful ones, meant to emphasize the image of femininity? Hijabi representation is still stuck in that stage.

You can still make a statement of empowerment with an average day-to-day hijabi — maybe even a stronger one. Or better yet, sometimes the hijab doesn’t have to be a statement at all.

I know we’re a long way from having a girl in a hijab on a Disney show or having a niqabi character in a movie who has more to their personality than either “oppressed damsel in distress” or “co-conspiring terrorist.” But it would be really nice to see someone like my mom or the girls at my mosque on TV and for once not have to see their hijab as their whole story.

I’ve been around long enough (17 whole years, so you know I’m speaking from loads of experience here) to know that people are heavily influenced by what they see in the media, and I do think that normalizing a woman in a hijab on television without using her hijab as a big plot or character device could do wonders for how people perceive hijabi women.

Just as LGBTQ+ people and people of color are slowly getting their screen time with fewer and fewer stereotypically homophobic or racist roles, I think we have some room for hijabi women up there. The Western perspective is that a Muslim’s whole existence revolves around being a Muslim, and it really doesn’t have to.

Sometimes our hijab is just a covering. We can feel empowered later, after we finish our grocery shopping.

Subaita writes the Monday column on Muslim identity. Contact her at [email protected].

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  • AJ Moultrie

    Thank you for shedding light on this narrative. I love that you highlighted the fact that Muslim womxn wear hijab for different reasons. Womxn are put into a box that remains difficult for us to break through and you are right, these same boxes do not exist for white male (and female) heterosexual able-bodied Christians.. They do not have to worry about media representation affecting the way they are treated in social, economic, and political systems.. Continue to write and educate us on this. I appreciate you for the insight about your culture and identity!

  • George Cucaracha-Maher

    “I do think that normalizing a woman in a hijab on television without using her hijab as a big plot or character device could do wonders for how people perceive hijabi women.”

    Then why don’t you start a TV network and portray them however you want. Preferably back in Crapistan.

  • George Cucaracha-Maher

    I like the way an “affirmative action” complete idiot like Subaita Rahman and her family of stupid brown welfare trash parasites come to a society that is about 10,000 years more advanced than the Third World toilet that her idiot ancestors built, and calls the members of this advanced society “dummies”. While Subaita Rahman’s stupid brown monkey family members are busy building a new mud hut and an outhouse and still don’t know how to use a toilet, White humans are sending robotic spaceships to Neptune, and this filthy little welfare chimp Rahman calls them “dummies”. Typical welfare-parasite, Third World n! gger monkey TRASH.

  • perhaps you’d like living under the sharia saudi regime better than a free land like ours?

  • Jorge Carolinos

    In America if a woman wants to wear something then thats her thing as long as she isn’t forced, the
    empowerment angle is a bit odd here though, Christians wear what their deity was killed on which I also find odd.

    Looking forward to “my husbands other wife loves housework, she empowers me to fight the power here in America” or “this arranged consanguineous marriage was a great idea, saved me a lot of time, it empowers me, and my five kids and counting”

    I guess we all pick and choose our way through life.

  • George Cucaracha-Maher

    Look b!t ch, you obviously hate and resent White people and White culture, because you know that your idiot brown race of violent jealous sandmonkey losers will never in 100,000 years invent an airplane, an automobile, a spaceship, a computer, or anything else, other than a new style of mud shack. So if you hate Whites and the civilization that they created so much WHY DON”T YOU TAKE YOUR RESENTFUL, UNGRATEFUL THIRD WORLD WELFARE-PARASITE BROWN A$$ BACK TO THE MUSLIM TOILET YOUR GRANDFATHERS BUILT, AND GO TO A UNIVERSITY THERE???? You are the dummy. You are living in an advanced society that dummies of your race could never, have never, and will never create. You are the “affirmative action” dummy living in a society that is far, far, far advanced beyond anything your worthless violent brown chimp ancestors ever made. You subhumans are squabbling in a sandbox, while White humans are sending robotic spaceships to Neptune. You are too stupid to be in Berkeley, you are too stupid to live in a White human society, except maybe as a servant, and your constant complaining and resentment against your superiors is really a drag. Go the [email protected] ck home b!t h and shut your fat mouth before I smack it shut with a bullwhip

    • Jorge Carolinos

      You really need to dial it back some bro.

      • George Cucaracha-Maher

        I’ll dial it back when inbred jewish homosexual pedophile professors like Noel Ignatiev and George Ciccariello-Maher stop using their professor’s position to call for the genocide of the White race. Until then, I’ll be calling for smashing the skulls of subhuman jew dog excrement and their pet brown monkeys. It’s time for Whites to get armed, get organized, and start putting bullets into the skulls of subhuman jew and n 1gger garbage.

  • California Defender

    …thankfully we’ve shifted a little from the previously typical image of pretty, young, skinny, white women.

    From ageism to body shaming to racism, this Berkeleyite also supports women being forced to wear restrictive clothing by government and/or religious decree.

    If this is what the “hijabis” (article author’s term) bring to America, they are most definitely not contributing to our society and counter to our value system and culture. It is every American’s right to say no to that.

  • Man with Axe

    I can give this position on women covering when men do the same. Until then, it looks like oppression to me. And not the pseudo-oppression that is so loudly complained about by college students, but real oppression that goes hand-in-hand with the denial of basic human rights to women in too many Muslim societies.

    I wonder if there are any examples of Muslim societies in which women are totally veiled but are otherwise afforded all (or even some) of the rights that men get. Please let me know if there are any.