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Miracle world under hijab

February 23, 2010

For Western people Muslim headscarf –hijab- is not only the traditional dressing detail but already a symbol of women oppression, conservatism, radicalism and extremism. It is a symbol of social rigidity and a symbol of female ghettoization.

As such, hijab have always wake up a special fear in Westerners encouraging Islamphobia.  Some countries such as France have propelled the problem of traditional Muslim clothing to a high state level seeing that as a potential threat to national security and safety of citizens.

Thus, a piece of cloth wrapped around the head and neck has become a point of discord between the Western and the Arab world. Especial after September 11th, when the majority of  Muslim women  with hijab have been marked and treated as potential terrorists, suicide bombers and enemies  of Christians.

This “fashion” phenomenon  also intrigued me. Of course,  I was not paranoiac who trust  in conspiracy theories that every Muslim girl and woman with a hijab is a follower of  Al Qaida,  but somewhere deeply it blocked me.  Simply, I have believed that under the hijab is hidden, insurmountable world of Muslim women . It seems to me too much closed, isolated, strictness and coldness.

My own prejudices have not allowed me to more closely meet the world under the hijab.

The Conference in Alexandria changed my views from the root.

On this occasion, I met three colleagues, Egyptian women, journalists, who wore hijab. Asmaa, Aisha, Ether. Three young ladies, three very educated and eloquent women, attracted my attention in a very direct and open communication.

Cheerful, smiling, mood destroyed all of my former taboos of the woman under hijab. They showed me a magical world under the Muslim headscarf, which is in many ways identical to the world of European women.

All they are modern, family women, with huge support from their spouses for the job they do. This is one of the crucial things in their lives. If it is not, they  would not be here. I am sure they choose husband compatible with their intellectual power. So now they have the best support to its partners.

They are very proud, dignified, open-minded women always ready on conversation with strong arguments. And there is no taboo topic for them. As a non-Muslim and European I was interested for many things in all-daily life in Arabic world.   They gave me as much as possible answers.  They talked with me about politic, religion, family. There were not hidden and „haram“  thingd. We made comparation how things look like in my country and in their homeland Egypt.

Serbian woman monk has headscarf similar to hijab

Above all, they are brave women. They changes its own societies.  Perhaps among them is some of the future minister, Prime minister and even the President. Who knows that.

It is clear they must have a lot of power for life in the Arab society that is in many ways  very rigid and inflexible. Even in Europe, one capable and educated woman must show much more effort than men to be accepted and recognized in society and system. I can imagine how it is harder in Arab world. In countries where you can be arrested only because  you think different than mullah or dictator.

My dear colleagues with hijabs are dangerous.  Very dangerous.  But not for me or the other non Arabs .

Their work is dangerous for dictatorships in own country, for extremists and fanatics because no one of them is belonging to mentioned groups.  No one of them support it. No one of them has shown any type of national and religious discrimination. In contrary. They very respect other nation and religions. Nothing less than the own.

They are fighting for human rights in own country. For right to dignity. They are fighting for women, children. For better tomorrow of Arab world.

Thank you Asmaa, Aisha, Ether!

You helped me to better understand the world under hijab.

Maybe Arab men will be offended but I will say: the power of  Egypt  is just below the hijab. In the women. They are the intellectual lights not only of Egypt but also of all the Arab world.

35 Comments leave one →
  1. February 23, 2010 11:12 am

    Great, great, great! I love it Sasa!

    • Sasa Milosevic permalink
      February 23, 2010 5:21 pm

      Dear Lucy
      Thank you very much on your comment.
      Please, as I am not English native speaker would you be kind to make proofreading of my article. I am sure there is mistakes in my article.
      You can go directly on post edit and make necessary corrections.
      Thank you very much.
      I would like to find way to have much better English.


  2. Aisha Algaiar permalink
    February 23, 2010 11:54 am

    Amazing and impressive to say about Muslim women in my country, Egypt. The headscarf is a personal choice, not imposed on women. I don’t agree with you that men will feel the danger in our country . We are for them a mother, daughter, sister, wife, and they really support us .

    Thank you actually, you are wonderful, and you are the best ambassador for your country to us, what we know from Serbia! did not expect to see the creative andOpen-minded like you .
    Thanks ICFJ, which gave us this wonderful opportunity to meet you all.
    Finally .. Ethar is not an ordinary girl, but I discovered she is a star in my country, she has won international awards , you can know about her by Google ” Ethar El-katatney”

  3. Tarek Mounir permalink
    February 23, 2010 12:48 pm

    Dear Sasa! By far, this article is one of the most wonderful ones i ever read before, during and after the conference we all attended last week.

    As everone of our colleagues know, i guess, Asmaa is my wife,friend and anything in between,we met each other for the 1st time outside the Egyptian parliament during a pro-press-freedom demo back in 2006, since that time, we spent so many hours seeing each other , talking over the phone, going out places everywhere, 18 months later we got engaged, and this year, while we both were amongst you attending the conference, we celebrated our wedding’s 1st anniversary.

    To tell you the truth, it’s not like milk,toast and honey all of the time,but again, show me just one couple in the whole world who’s life is defined like so, but since we established out our hotline in the very begining of our relation, many waters were calmed eversince, i hope you don’t call me a green bush in the woods if i said that i do believe like 500% we’re not the only ones in this.

    By the way,i guess i’m not the only husband or fiance or boyfriend not to feel any offended by an intellictual, ambitious and head-scarfed lady companion.

    As Lucy, i love it Saša , the way we both love you Saša Milošević.

    Хвала милиона Саше ! 🙂

  4. February 23, 2010 12:49 pm

    I love it Sasa… and I too became intrigued by the hijab… so beautiful and decorative. I respect women who chose to wear it. I am working on a feature for The Jerusalem Post on Hijabs… with input from my new friend Ethar and from Hani. It is to be published Thursday… I will send you a link.


  5. Amanda Wilson permalink
    February 23, 2010 2:06 pm

    Happy anniversary Tarek and Asmaa!

    • February 24, 2010 9:39 am

      thank you Amanda you touch my heart. i,m really happy to know you.

      keep in touch
      your sister
      Asmaa 🙂

  6. Tarek Mounir permalink
    February 23, 2010 2:16 pm

    Thanks Amanda, we treasure all the times we spent communicating,exchanging ideas and laughing, Asmaa believes such times can be on again “somehow in the future”..after all,she’s my queen of wishful thinking! 🙂

  7. February 23, 2010 2:21 pm

    Did you two get married on Valentine’s Day?!
    And Asmaa is right, by the way (but you know that — you’re married, right?!)

  8. Chiranjibi Paudyal permalink
    February 23, 2010 2:54 pm

    Hi Sasa,

    It is very interesting piece Sasa. Women either in Hijab or not impressed me very much in Alexandria. My feelings about the Muslim world completely changed after the conference as the women we met during and after the conference were so forward thinking that cannot be separated from the western world. The open and logical discussion and arguement of Ethar, Asma, Aisha and other women in Hijab and many others reminded me the great history of Egypt and its civilisation.

    There is a bright future of democracy and freedom of expression in the Arab world as we found the strong determination and commitment of women in the region. Well written Sasa!

  9. Chiranjibi Paudyal permalink
    February 23, 2010 3:01 pm

    Hi Tarek, You mentioned about your Indian style wedding with Ashma but you did not mention the wedding ceremony was held recently. Any way happy anniversary.

    I am really impressed by you and your wife’s commitement to freedom of expression in Egypt and I see bright future of freedom as Deborah says:”You are always optimistic.”

  10. Elisa Di Benedetto permalink
    February 23, 2010 3:11 pm

    Great article Sasa. It’s amazing the way you – a can – can read and describe in such a delicate way such a special part of women’s universe!

  11. Elisa Di Benedetto permalink
    February 23, 2010 3:12 pm

    ops…I meant “a man”

  12. Tarek Mounir permalink
    February 23, 2010 3:48 pm

    Dear Lucy, no! What happened is we both wanted Valentine’s Day to be our wedding day as January 1st is our engaement day, but the ball room administartion said it’s not available at Feb. 14th 2009 unless the other couple who booked the room that night accept to change – and it wasn’t 100% impossible- so, i came with the idea to make our wedding date as unique as possible given the situation we found ourselves in, so it was Feb 9th,Asmaa approaved as i told her it’d be catchy too (2-9-2009 or 9-2-2009 depends on whether you type month before day or vise versa).

    Anyways, we had a small celebration for our 1st anniversary (with family in Carrefour Maadi City Center with a huge cake half cream/half chocolate and appetizers), but we both kept in mind that we needed something different,so we did 1st night we spent in alexandria (Valentine’s 2010) we walked down the Alexandria Mediterranean Corniche, which is the classical way many lovers in Egypt still prefer to spend their date & Valentines by, as well as, you know, meeting you Lucy at the very same day along with Aisha and other colleagues who’s majority turned within less than a week to be our new friends from many continents, maybe we’re both too romantic,what do you think ?

  13. Tarek Mounir permalink
    February 23, 2010 4:11 pm

    Hi Chiranjibi, yes, it was the night previous to the wedding night, it’s called “Henna Night” , which is obviously -by name- includes Henna decoration for females taking part in this night of celebration, Henna Night is a very old tradition for many Egyptians -even those who are classified amongst middle class-, and yes, during that night , Asmaa wore clothes of two different styles ; Indian and Sudanese (as she likes both), the wedding was held in Feb. 9th 2009.

    I guess what’s really keeping me from posting any story here up ’till now – almost a week since the conference winded up- is because i’m still optimistic about acheiving something significant through the cross-cultural professional dialogue we started 10 days ago. But, it seems old Tarek is coming back with a high level of penetration, no matter how sour or pessimistic the story may appear.

    • Sasa Milosevic permalink
      February 23, 2010 5:25 pm

      Dear Tarik
      I see you are very interested person even here between women and hijab.
      So my next story will be
      Poligamy – Arabian reality or illusin.
      You will be consulted.
      I am not responsible for consequences.

  14. alia al-rabeo permalink
    February 23, 2010 4:28 pm

    as i told you Sasa the article is so wonderful , and that’s what we need as arabs and muslims ,such an open- minded like you :),i wish to read more stories for you my friend Sasa

  15. Tarek Mounir permalink
    February 23, 2010 5:40 pm

    Dear Saša, you’re most welcome to do whatever pleases you , yes, count me inetrested because Asmaa; my friend is included in this great piece you wrote.

    What really bothers me is that i hope you go easy on Arab men in your next article,otherwise, my 1st story here shall be focused upon prejudicial thoughts against Arab women were flipped to be haunting their men instead! 😀

    P.s.: My name is طارق (In Arabic letters) and usually written Tarek or Tareq.

  16. February 24, 2010 5:46 am

    Sasa is orginally trained to be a forensic dentist . . . We would have never met this inspiring and genuine human being had he not quit working on teeth of the dead . . . Journalism itself is a bridge, hence proven one more time 😉

  17. asma76 permalink
    February 24, 2010 9:00 am

    First of all, thank you sasa for your lovely article that shows how much effort you’ve tried to get to know us as we really are.
    I think Me,Aisha and Ethar promised ourselves to do whatever we can to be good examples of our religion which urges us for more knowledge, better communicatin with the other and getting accapted .
    There are millions of women like us across islamic countries, search and you will find a lot , we need some one unbiased likeyou to help us tear down these horrible stereotypes made about us. 🙂

  18. February 24, 2010 9:28 am

    OMG! What a nice essay! Thanks to share, Sasa.

  19. February 24, 2010 9:35 am

    Dear: sasa

    First of all, thank you sasa for your lovely article that shows how much effort you’ve tried to get to know us as we really are.
    I think Me,Aisha and Ethar promised ourselves to do whatever we can to be good examples of our religion which urges us for more knowledge, better communicatin with the other and getting accapted .
    There are millions of women like us across islamic countries, search and you will find a lot , we need some one unbiased likeyou to help us tear down these horrible stereotypes made about us. 🙂

  20. Ruzanna permalink
    February 24, 2010 11:41 am

    Sasa, I felt like wearing a hijab for a moment … Great observations!

  21. Daniel Flynn permalink
    February 24, 2010 3:28 pm

    Dear Sasa. Fantastic article. Congratulations. One of the participants in one of the English language conversation classes that I lead in Verviers, Belgium is a young college graduate originally from Morocco who wears a white hijab. She is an absolutely delightful person, full of life. When I was young ( growing up in the 1940s and 1950s in San Francisco, California) all girls wore colorful head scarves called ‘bandannas’. Boys wore caps. Men and women wore hats. Styles change, but I still like to wear good quality hats such as Borsalino from Italy. Keep on helping break up narrow-minded stereotypes through your journalistic work. Dan

  22. Aroosa Masroor permalink
    February 25, 2010 6:32 am

    Good work Sasa!

  23. fransiscaromana permalink
    February 25, 2010 6:45 am

    thank you for the great article. I learn something new. Here in Indonesia, many Moslem woman wear hijab too, but perhaps with different reason with our friends from Egypt. I haven’t explore that yet. But, after reading your piece, now I’m really curious…
    if you have any chance, please come to Indonesia. And share your experience about hijab here in my country…

    • Sasa Milosevic permalink
      February 25, 2010 9:25 am

      Dear Francisca,
      Thank you very much on your calling
      Indonesia is nice country and very intriguing for me.
      Especially woman under hijab.
      Indonesian Muslim women are very active in street radicalism protests and European media often show that scenes. Women in other Islam countries are not so active politically or they are opponents to radical regimes.
      I’d like to peek under the Indonesian hijabs.
      Maybe if find financial support for Indonesian trip I would come there to met lady under hijabs,
      I do not know what is your religion, but you are great representer of your country.
      It was nice to be in company with you and with other colleagues from Indonesia.

  24. Jasmina permalink
    February 25, 2010 9:44 am

    Sasa, I am seak of and realy can not understand all that story about hijab. Why so much attention about it?! If somebody wants to wear it let them to do it, of course. It is the part of clothes which is followed by religion and tradition too, so what, is somebody worth more or less if has it or not. In my opinion it is pointless.
    It is similar as the story about why serbian girls lately avioid to wear bra (by medical point of view of course).
    And while you are supriced with brilliant minds under cover … let other foreigners to reveal habbits and beauty of our girls, right?

    • Sasa Milosevic permalink
      February 25, 2010 5:20 pm

      Dear Jasmina

      I agree with you that the Hijab is a personal right of any women in the Islamic world. I do not deny it. Obviously, you did not carefully read my article. Here I talk about the mental world of women, which I have personally met and briefed, and who are a part of the population that is unjustly demonized because they have a scarf around head and are not in accordance with anti-Western vision of life.

      I am a Christian, Orthodox, and I have to mention that a lot of Serbian women come in Orthodox church with headscarf, in line with the old Christian tradition. But, we do not consider it wrongful or irritable. Because it is not. It is part of tradition and it should be respected. But why then hijab should irritate us Nonsense.

      It is tragic, that people from the West so easily deny the true values of the Muslim women, just because a scarf around their heads .

      Dear Jasmine, I will always more respect a smart, courageous, educated and self-conscious Arab woman, Muslim women with Hijab, then Western woman from the Europe or America whose all brain and intelligence is in the chest and buttocks.

      Do not forget a harsh truth:
      while I peek under Hijab on Arabic women, Arabic men peek under the skirt of European woman. Unfortunate, they allowed them it, building on that way the reputation of European sluts who come to Africa to pay young African stud for sex.

      My dear lady with the name of wonderful flower: it is illogical to compare hijabe and bra!

      You know, I had to write lot of sentences in trying to define the world under the Hijab.

      The world under the skirt I need only few words.

      • Jasmina permalink
        February 25, 2010 7:31 pm

        First, who says that hijab iritate anybody here?!
        Second, your frustration about Eurpian girls safe for yourself, and remember beauty does not exclude a brain.
        Third, if a Europian girl want to be with some special man she will do it if he is Arab or not, but it will be her decision. On the other side, she will never be sold.
        Fourth, it is not ilogical comparing hijab and bra – hijab is matter of tradition and religion and has to be wear, avoiding bra because medical reason as part of clothes which also should be wear due to imported materials are dangerous for health.
        Best regards!

  25. February 25, 2010 12:59 pm

    Great article Sasa. Very perceptive and touching. And happy belated anniversary to the lovely couple.

  26. Tarek Mounir permalink
    February 25, 2010 3:28 pm

    Thanks a million,Lourdes.

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