Why practising your religion should not prevent you from thriving.
Why does wearing religious garments or symbols marginalise you in society?
From my experiences and observations, I found that it is not normal for people to carry visual symbols of their religion — in fact, many of these people face prejudice and discrimination.
I found myself a victim of this prejudice when I decided that I was ready to wear the hijab. I took this step when I first began secondary school, which took a lot of courage as I was embracing an important part of my identity whilst moving on to the next stage in my education. I was very nervous and conscious of my surroundings as I was in a new social environment.
It was not long until I was faced with my first obstacle in my new stage in life, when I was told that I was privileged to wear my hijab with school uniform. This comment was made as my scarf had accidentally covered the school tie, but it was a statement which made me feel isolated from everyone else.
I was reminded that my hijab does not fit in with their uniform, which immediately made me feel marginalised. As this occurred at such an early stage in my journey as a hijabi, it made me question my decision of wearing the headscarf. I felt very self-conscious when I was in a social environment where there were no other hijabi women. I found myself missing out on opportunities, as I was afraid my hijab would not be accepted.
However, I soon realised that my hijab was a symbol of my peaceful religion. Everyone has the freedom to practice their faith, so I should not be afraid to embrace an integral part of my identity due the ignorance of others. I came to terms with the fact that difference is not widely accepted by people, which can lead to prejudice, which is what I faced.
I believe that all Muslim women should confidently embrace their hijab and not be afraid of the judgements of others. We should not allow ill judgments to limit us; rather, we should emphasise that our hijab is a cause for our empowerment.
Minority groups are often quickly marginalised due to their differences, as difference is met with fear. Presently, this attitude is common towards Muslims as a result of atrocities committed by a small group of ‘Muslims’. The media are characterising these acts as attributable to all Muslims, thereby promoting fear against them. This, in turn, is causing many Muslims to feel isolated in society, as they are confronted by negative stereotypes and are made to feel apologetic towards actions carried out by a small group.
Muslim women are placed at a greater disadvantage due to their gender and religion. Women are considered to be weaker than men due to their physical characteristics and Muslims carry a negative stigma due to false representation. Therefore, Muslim women are faced with a multitude of damaging stereotypes which can further demotivate them to reach for their potential.
This has made integration difficult for Muslims as well as other minority ethnic groups, as people have become reluctant to communicate with people who appear to be ‘different’. It is important to break down these hesitations and misjudgements so that they do not form stereotypes by educating people that actions of some people from a group do not characterise the attitudes of an entire group.
JAN Trust seek to embolden women who are faced with prejudice and discrimination through our expert support and stand to encourage, educate and empower women. By promoting tolerance and raising awareness about the dangers posed by discrimination and extremism, we work towards strengthening a peaceful society.