Loving the Headscarf

Totally hit the jackpot with Love in a Headscarf, by Shelina Zahra Janmohamed. This is the story of Shelina’s search for a partner, through customary Islamic arranged marriage. She studies her perceptions of love and romance, against what her faith tells her about the partnership of marriage, and the respect she owes herself, a partner, and what a partner owes her.

We were strangers but we had to talk deeply and intimately about our futures. Syed didn’t need to explain to me in words how little he would really value his wife and how he would fail to respect others. I saw it in his actions. His words would have only told me what he wanted to believe about himself and what he thought he was like.

I began to ask myself the same difficult questions. Were my beliefs about myself at odds with my actual behavior? Or had I managed to achieve integrity between my words and desires? After my experience with Syed it was very clear to me that just because you are meeting a potential life partner, it does not excuse a lapse in character.

This is a woman who is clearly in love with her faith, and reminds me a great deal of how I wrote and spoke at the sweetest point of my conversion. It is a lovely reminder that the Islamic hijab is not shorthand for a series of oppressions and evils, any more than uncut hair and long sleeved dresses of the more modest Protestant denominations are, but that there are hearts beating with feeling, brains pulsing with ideas, and they belong to living, breathing women. And, the way Shelina explains her choice (yes, her choice) to wear hijab, and her desire to marry a man who is happy for her to wear one is enlightening, and makes it easy to understand why a woman might make that choice.

Islam is not my world, and will not ever be, but I appreciate hearing it spoken of by an intelligent, thoughtful woman. I appreciate learning what she believes of her faith. And, just like I am horrified by violence done in the name of the Christian church, it is very interesting to read what she, her friends and family felt during the attacks of 9-11, and what life has been like for them (as practicing Muslims) since.

I am so glad I picked this up!

Janmohamed, Shelina Z. Chapter 4/Waiting. Love in a Headscarf. Boston: Beacon, 2010. 93-94. Print.

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