One of the many reasons to creating my mental health workshops was to target those hard to reach BME communities that required an opportunity to create an open dialogue. Today I talk about the Hijab and the mental health issues stemmed from wearing the hijab.
There may be a link to mental health issues when it comes to wearing a hijab due to lack of understanding and misrepresentation, I’m not saying every lady wearing a hijab will have mental health issues but I’m talking about a minority of Hijabis. Wearing a hijab can come across as a clear statement of a devote Muslim. Women in Islam are told that hijab brings them closer to Allah (swt), that it makes them safer, more respected and protects them. But what about when hijab is the reason for anxiety and when it makes every day routines like going to work more and more difficult?
Muslim women are seen as the flag bearers of a religion that is often misunderstood, or represented through an extreme narrative. By holding Muslim women who wear a hijab accountable for more than just their own actions; paranoia, exhaustion, social anxiety and other mental health issues often surface. The constant narrative in media is that the hijab symbolizes submissiveness and often makes Muslim women appear voiceless. The negativity surrounding being a visible Muslim can come with its difficulties and some of which includes stigmas attached to the hijab and misconceptions. Being a visible Muslim has now left many a clear target to hate crime with a triple rise in figures in 2017 compared to 2016. With hate crime rising it is now more crucial than ever to have positive representation in all industries for Muslims to help clear up the harmful representation portrayed by mainstream media and left wing extremists that has led to hate crime increasing.
Let’s take this back to 10 years ago to some of the very few Hijabi characters they had in film and TV, wait a second who am I kidding after tons of research I found absolutely nothing, the closest was background characters in the movie ‘Bend it like Beckham’. Having a Hijabi woman may have not been considered in any characters but it’s clear to see Muslims were still represented negatively in the film and TV industry as being represented as ‘terrorists’. So yes the bad guy, the one who doesn’t abide by the laws of society and kills everyone is the character represented as a Muslim in a TV or Film, it doesn’t give you much hope does it! Misrepresentation or no representation in mainstream media can lead to a loss of identity but also portraying Muslims as terrorists can rob them of their identity and therefore labelling Muslims with a uniform personality.
In the last couple of years I’ve noticed a bit of shift thanks to actual Hijabi Muslim women working and becoming the voice and face of the Hijab. The Muslim community have discovered these amazing characters that create real representation of what a Muslim in western society is about, as a Muslim myself it is great seeing so many different forms of Muslim women in the spotlight as now I don’t feel like the minority and I feel I have the capability to be in the spotlight. From athletes, bloggers to TV characters we are now seeing a more diverse reflection on the Hijab representation itself. Firstly the influx of Hijabi Bloggers ruling YouTube, actually my all time fave is Dina Tokio herself! I absolutely enjoy the fact that Dina does an amazing job in representing Muslim women overall with her witty infectious personality and her style that’s influencing a whole new generation of Hijabis.
Another Influential Hijabi is Nadiyah Hussain ‘The Great British Bake Off 2015 winner’ who won the heart of the public. Nadiyah has often talked quite openly about the cultural difficulties of growing up and is relatable to the majority of Muslim women. We also see a change in Sports including the first time ever in the Olympics we saw a Hijabi athlete Ibtihaj Muhammad competing and also the likes of Nike actually opening up a hijab and modest sportswear line catering for Muslim women. Ibtihaj Muhammad has spoken out openly about the racial and hate crimes in USA and against Donald Trump showing she isn’t a Muslim woman who is submissive but has a voice and wants to make it heard. I could sit here forever and talk about the numerous Muslim women in the spotlight specifically the Hijabis but the main reason to even having a discussion about this was talking about representation and the right kind of representation. I continuously talk about mainstream media and representation of Hijabis/Muslim women as I feel there is a need to have an open dialogue as there are links back to mental health from misrepresentation of Muslim women in characters.
As we are getting more Hijabi characters it makes me stem the conversation of non-hijabi Muslim women who’s characters tend to represent them in a way where ‘they stray away from Islam’. This is a whole new topic but also an interesting one to look into for another blog!
In a growing diverse community we often neglect to talk about the form of abuse within the Muslim community in regards to the Hijab. This is for the ladies who get criticised for either showing hair whilst wearing the hijab or wearing it in a particular style that some Muslims may not agree with. The psychological effects this could have on a hijabi who wore this as her devotion to the religion can often lead to paranoia, anxiety and stress. This is another re- education that is required within a minority where judgement isn’t required from them on how a ‘perfect’ Muslim woman should look like and instead a supportive role should be encouraged in the rising anti-Islam climate where Muslim women face difficulties.
There are so many difficulties a hijabi can face simply by making a choice to wear a hijab. Learning the difficulties and stigmas attached to it can often lead to an open discussion and more clarity towards the hijab by non-Muslims and Muslims. The whole purpose of my organisation ‘Generation Reform’ is to openly talk about the hardships from BME communities and have an open dialogue so we can then tackle the mental health issues that arise. Tackling more openly about cultures/religions educates a whole nation creating a more openly diverse community that accepts and welcomes diversity.