My Muslim Body is Not a Battleground


The burkini is an item of clothing that has not been warmly welcomes in out country. Surprisingly, neither has it in the East. It’s claimed to be a useless outfit for hijabi women as the swimsuit will be tight from getting wet, exposing their body shape. The disapproval from the East and West is only one of many commonalities they share: the patriarchal tyranny of how women should dress.

As a hijabi woman living in Australia, I have been told what is too conservative or too liberal for my body. My hijab itself sometimes makes people uncomfortable, regardless of the outfit accompanying it. With the rise of Islamophobia, this issue is clear to most, but those outside of the Muslim community don’t realise that this very same judgement is also abundant amongst Muslims. I have been approached by men at community evets, to “kindly” inform me that my jeans are too tight, or that my shirt should be a bit longer, or even look me up and down and shake their heads.
Men seem to have no problem making this sort of judgement, creating double standards for how they think Muslim and non-Muslim Western women should dress. For example, when a hijabi woman uploaded a selfie on Twitter, she was told by a Muslim male user that her hair was showing. In response, she screenshotted hi two previous tweets in which he was ogling over women’s breasts. While encouraging non-Muslim Western women to wear more revealing attire for his own pleasure, he reasserted his position as a male in the Muslim community to criticise her for “exposing too much” of herself. Muslim women are being oppressed, but not in the way the West tends to portray. The reality is that the hijabi woman on Twitter chose to complete her duty as a female by wearing a headscarf. However, how she wears it and she wants to express herself is another choice over which she should have complete autonomy.

Non-Muslim Western women are also no stranger to being told what to wear. For years, fashion corporations and magazines dominated by men have been dictating what women should and shouldn’t wear. We’ve been told how long our dresses should be, what to avoid if we’re a particular body type, and even what colours to avoid depending on our skin tone. They’ve fostered a successful pretence, marketing themselves as “giving advice” when in reality, they’re dictating and outlining the standard women need to follow while ridiculing those who don’t. This not only polices how we dress, but also how we should behave and socialise around men, for men.

Men of both the East and West are guilty of creating “ideals” for how a woman should dress. They use out bodies and our autonomy as a means of debate. While the East debates that women should cover themselves to practice their ideas of modesty, the West argues that women should be “liberated” and “free” to wear whatever they want – just not any form of the hijab because it’s “oppressive”.

As they argue amongst themselves, the perspectives of Muslim women are pushed aside and disregarded. We simply want autonomy over our own bodies, to have the right to wear and what we want without your opinion.