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Muslimah Media Watch Response – “You Got It Covered”

Yesterday, my new song about hijab, “You Got It Covered”, was featured in a blog post by Muslimah Media Watch.  While I usually dismiss conservative criticism, it was disappointing to hear negative comments coming from a more “progressive” source, as well a some of its members’ comments.  Disappointing – but I can’t say I’m surprised.

As one of my close friends pointed out, it seems you can’t praise hijab without eliciting reactionary responses (mostly) from some (not all) Muslim women who have chosen not to wear hijab.  On several occasions, I was told, “But some women are modest without wearing hijab, you should also be considerate of them.”  (Like the 99% of songs out there about women who don’t wear hijab are considerate of making hijabis feel ostracized from popular standards of beauty? Riiiiiight…)  While I believe hijab is fard (and as a man, I don’t pretend to completely comprehend the depth of challenge in wearing it everyday and being subjected to constant public scrutiny), this song was meant to motivate and commend women who do choose to struggle with that challenge and who continue to wear it.   I had no intention of disrespecting women who choose not to do so (I have family and friends who have made that decision).

Haute Hijab

“But by praising women who wear hijab, you are implying (among other things) a disrespect of women who choose not to wear it…” AND therein lies my problem – of what I feel is an over-analysis, a defensive reaction that, while each argument in its own context has merit, in the context of “praising hijab”, in my opinion actually throws the baby out with the bath water.

I’ll tell you why.  This may also answer questions to some generally wondering what my inspiration/intention was when I wrote the song.

I decided to do an in-depth response to the points of the article and comments:

Talking about hijab is cliche!  Enough already!

If that’s the case, then singing/talking about love, Allah, and a plethora of other subjects are cliche.  Should we stop then?  I’d disagree.  People will deal with these universal issues till the end of time and because every generation goes through them, incarnations of art with these universals as the subject will continue to be reinvented and valued as if it was the first time.  They sang about love in the 70′s, and love obviously continues to be relevant today, and will be in 1000 yrs (if the Earth is still here).  I’d argue hijab will fall in that category as well.

Maybe in academic discourse, within our own communities, or even internally, we’re beating the “hijab dead horse” with a stick.  But to assume that since you yourself have thoroughly had that discussion internally/externally automatically means that there aren’t young sisters and even older women continuing to struggle with this decision still today, and thus, these cliche discussions need to stop – that seems ignorant to me.   I just heard as I was typing this of family friends trying to carefully deal with their 20 yr old daughter who recently made the decision to take it off.   Do you think they’re thinking, “Enough already!  We’ve been there, done that!  Let’s move on!” ?  I’d argue not, and they wont be the last.

Singing about hijab is supporting the notion that clothes define a woman, and in your song, hijab defines a woman.   You MUST think that hijabis are automatically spiritual and you think women who don’t wear hijab deserve to be disrespected!

This should sound as silly as thinking that celebrating motherhood defines women only as mothers and celebrating motherhood is a dis to women who have chosen not to have kids.  Obviously, it’s a logical flaw (I’m painfully reminded of my poor LSAT scores that led to my failure at law school) to assume that if one thing is true, automatically its inverse/converse is also true.  Not the case.  If it were, then BET and affirmative action supporting African Americans really are engines of reverse racism!!!!  And as such, as a father, I feel deeply disrespected by Mother’s day!

Praising a woman’s choice to wear hijab does not imply disrespect to a woman’s choice not to wear hijab.  This one disturbs me the most because both my mother and sister made the conscious decision to take off their hijabs, and while I may disagree with their decision (“OMG! Who are you as a man to disagree with their decision?!”)  I respect their decisions and I love them both very much.

I know sisters who don’t wear hijab that make me look like a “heathen”.  On the flip side, I know sisters who wear hijab who commit the worst haram time and time again.  With that said, it’s the women in the hijab who do it a disservice by acting unreligious, similar to Muslims who give Islam a bad name.   That shouldn’t negate the fact that the hijab is a symbol of religiosity, which is different from saying it indicates the person wearing it is religious.

I don’t think anyone would argue that wearing hijab, a religious symbol, in many countries, is hard, and I as a man or anyone else should thus be able to praise hijab and women who choose to take that challenge.

You think hijab commands respect and takes us out of hollywood culture?  It does the opposite, they get judged 3 fold!   For every person hijab will shut up, there are 5 people who will blast it!

All the more reason to have extra encouraging voices (and songs) to counter those 5 people.

You say we’re “more than just beauty on the outside” but contradict yourself when you say you “love our colors”!

Once again, this is a flawed logical assumption that both cannot exist within the same space.  Sure they can.  You can think something is beautiful but at the same time realize that that same beauty doesn’t define a person.  When I’ve witnessed candid discussions with close friends or family, of women feeling they can’t compete with the blond that just went in for the job interview they wanted, or that they’re scared they wont find a husband because they can’t compete with the Kardashians, my reaction would be “#1, you are as beautiful as anyone, even with your hijab.  Some guys find hijab attractive#2, you’re more than just visual beauty.  Hijab in many ways helps emphasize that.”

Think that’s BS?  I was raised to think I was going to marry someone in hijab.  I’ve  been socialized to think that’s attractive, can’t help it.  So sometimes, when I see women in hijab, it reminds me of that ideal woman I imagined I was going to marry, causing infatuation chemical reactions in my gut (butterflies).

Well does it really minimizes objectification, or is that BS too?   While men’s actions towards women shouldn’t be influenced by a woman’s looks, the reality is they are to a degree.  If feminists deny this, they are in…well…denial.   Men have statistically been proven to be more visually attracted than women.  Testosterone scientifically influences sexual libido, and guess what?  Men have way more testosterone than women.  While I’m not saying men should have free license to be irresponsible, to deny that it’s a challenge we as men have to deal with is ignorance.   Taking that visual temptation out of the equation definitely can impact the dynamics of inter gender interaction.  While your experience may be contrary to this, that’s fine, but it’s presumptuous to think that your experience means alternative experiences where hijab does in fact minimize the objectification of women is BS.

It’s even more impractical to think my song will address every nuance, every possibility, and every variety of gender interaction.  It’s an r&b song…not a dissertation…cmon… (this post is the dissertation).

Singing about hijab’s beauty? You’re a perverse hypocrite gawking at women with hijab! Lower your gaze!

Ideally, men (and women) should indeed be walking around, head down at their feet, probably bumping into things.   Sound practical?  I didn’t think so, and not realistic.  We are going to see women wearing hijab.   So are we wrong for seeing a woman in hijab and thinking it’s/she’s beautiful?  If you answered “yes”, then you’re one of the contributing factors to the issue that many Muslim women face in their late 20s early 30s where they can’t find husbands because the men have all either married women (Muslim or non-muslim) who didn’t cover or converted their non-muslim girlfriends to Islam.   The men that did marry a Muslim hijabi  probably saw them and most likely was like “Wow she’s beautiful, let me meet her and see if she’d be a good fit”.

“But men shouldn’t be gawking at women with hijab!  And women with hijab should dress modestly!  A lot of the time their clothes are so tight they look like they’re going clubbin!”  I 100% agree.  Where did my song advocate hijabi’s dressing inappropriately and where did the song encourage men to gawk?  “Well you had to have seen the hijabi in order to think her colors were beautiful, duh!”  Yep.  I guess you’re implying then that the Prophet (s) lowered his gaze, so he never saw a beautiful hijabi he wanted to marry.  mashaAllah.  Makes no sense.

You’re a man, how could you possibly know what it feels like?!  We need a man to validate us?!

This one is where I see the nazi-feminist throwing the baby out with the bath water.  You want us to love Muslim women, yet get upset when we think the ones that are visibly Muslim are beautiful (I know I know, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re practicing), and question the validity of our compliments just because we are men.   You want us to do our job and support our families, but then feel threatened because you think we’re saying you can’t take care of yourself.  You want us to be chivalrous, yet you don’t need a man to open your door!

The article criticized those not looking at women on a continuum, yet the writer herself makes blanket arguments based on her own opinions, philosophies and experiences which she assumes are universal.  She may not care to be noticed, she may not be scared to go outside, and she may not need a man to validate her.   Others may share that sentiment.  So “What a misogynistic assumption to think that other women may need some kind words from men… Prince charming, are you making assumptions from your gut, projecting the helpless damsel in distress that you want to save?  Or have you actually taken the time to talk to women and know examples of many that feel the way your lyrics portray?”

I mean, I am a man, what do I know???  How could I possibly know that there are women scared to go outside, comparing themselves to girls in the magazine, scared of stereotypes affecting their job interviews???  Only that I’ve witnessed close family members like my mother and sister take off the hijab after wearing it for most of their lives.  Had in depth all-night discussions with my wife about her struggle to keep it on.  Only that I’ve personally been thanked by sisters who say songs like mine helped them put the hijab on and keep it on when they thought everyone on the subway was giving them nasty stares.  Only that I’ve been married 10 yrs and realized that most women, as much as they don’t want to admit that the unfair defined standards of beauty plays a part of their lives, it does, consciously and/or subconsciously.  As men, if we are insensitive of that, we are destining our relationships and wives’ self-esteems to failure.  “BUT I DON’T NEED A MAN TO TELL ME I LOOK GOOD!”

If we we’re doing this for Allah, we shouldn’t be defined by the opinions of others. Who cares what people think?!

Unfortunately, most people do.  Noble and ideal, but again, unrealistic.   While the author may not have taken off her hijab for that reason and is strong enough to ignore the opinions of others, I’d argue majority of the world is not as strong as she is.   As I said, reality is most of you/us need motivation sometimes.  Being married, I understand that women need to hear it sometimes.  As a man, I need to hear it sometimes.  It’s human nature that Allah put in us.  I want to feel attractive.  It’s sunnah to marry someone you are attracted to.   Thus, while in this discourse, beauty standards are extreme, unrealistic, and definitely abused, to take it to the other extreme and say we shouldn’t acknowledge physical attraction is just as unrealistic and not even Islamic.  It in fact results in unhealthy relationships, high divorce rates, and other problems in the Muslim community.

And yes, women who wear hijab do need validation sometimes, and from men.  Men are the ones tearing them down, so it’s only befitting for men to build them up.

This song sounds like a cheesy 90′s love song.

I wish I had a defense for this.  But I love 90′s R&B and I love cheese.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it’s just a song people.  I want to motivate sisters who choose to take on the challenge of wearing it, who go through the scrutiny everyday.  To encourage those who are thinking of wearing it to put it on, and to encourage those thinking of taking it off to keep it on.  Believe you me, I’m not perfect, I have 1000 things I need to improve on (just because I sing Muslim music doesn’t mean I’m perfect spiritually).  I just meant to use my talent to help the women I love (all women).

The truth is, I appreciate the blog for giving my song even the time of day (many didn’t even listen to it).   The author’s experiences and philosophies are valid.  She is Muslim and many share her beliefs.

To reiterate, what I have issue with is her assuming that there aren’t women who experience what my song portrays and will benefit from motivation/validation from a man.   I also have an issue with the contradiction that we should motivate and love Muslim women, yet when we do that, we as men are seen as being presumptuous and patronizing.    Finally, that there is an automatic assumption that praising women rising to the challenge of wearing hijab is a blind association of sprituality with hijab and that it implies a disrespect for women who choose not to wear it.

In that case, I argue blogs that empower Muslim women advocate the dis-empowerment of Muslim men.  “BUT WE LIVE IN A PATRIARCHY! EVERYTHING ELSE IS PRO MAN!”  Point taken.  I guess I’ll only write a song about covering up when 99% of songs are about women not wearing hijab…. ;)

May Allah guide us all.  Phewww!  Glad I got that off my chest.  I’m happy to now go back to saying if you’re wearing hijab and this song motivates you, keep listening!  If you don’t wear hijab, do your thing, only Allah can judge you…