Muslim women: My headscarf is not a threat - CNN Documentary

Muslim women: My headscarf is not a threat
By Brian Rokus; CNN August 21, 2007

Editor's note: This is part of a series of reports is featuring from an upcoming, six-hour television event, "God's Warriors," hosted by CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour.

CNN) -- Last year at Christmastime, Rehan Seyam, a Muslim living in New Jersey, went to pick up some things at a local Wal-Mart. Seeing her distinctive traditional Muslim head covering called a "hijab," a man in the store, addressing her directly, sang "The 12 Days of Christmas" using insulting lyrics about terrorism and Osama bin Laden.

She was stunned.

"Do I look like a terrorist to you?" Seyam said she asked the man.

According to Seyam, the man replied, "What else does a terrorist look like?"

Such stories are not altogether uncommon for Muslim Americans. According to a recent poll by the Pew Research Center, 53 percent of Muslims living in America said it has become more difficult to be a Muslim in the United States since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Fifty-one percent said they are "very worried" or "somewhat worried" that women wearing the hijab are treated poorly, according to the poll.

A simple headscarf generally used by women to hide the hair from view, the hijab has become so controversial among some that several countries have banned or considered banning Muslim women from wearing them in public places. In light of this contentiousness, why do Muslim women choose to wear the hijab? Watch the making of CNN's TV special "God's Warriors" »

Gayad al-Khalik lives in Egypt and says the hijab is a focus on inner beauty.

"I want to shift the attention from my outer self to my inner self when I deal with someone, I don't want them to look at me in a way that wouldn't suit me," she told CNN in an upcoming documentary called "God's Warriors."

Al-Khalik is fluent in English and German; studied in Europe; plays Western music on her guitar; and spent time working for a women's rights organization.

She wears the hijab -- and says it's not just for religious reasons.

"My own conclusion was it is debatable whether it is a religious obligation or not, but I chose to keep it on because I do believe in modesty and you shouldn't be showing off yourself," al-Khalik said.

The Quran calls for women to be modest in their dress but interpretation of the edict varies widely, according to religious experts who spoke with CNN. An author who has written widely on Islam told CNN the Quran does not require women to wear the hijab.

"There's nothing in the Quran about all women having to be veiled or secluded in a certain part of the house. That came in later [after Prophet Mohammed's time]," said religious historian and author Karen Armstrong.

For Seyam, the hijab is a religious duty. "It's God's wish," she said.

"It's a requirement by God. He wants us to cover. He wants us to be modest," Seyam said.

But as important as the hijab is to her, Seyam's decision to cover her face wasn't one she made easily.

"It was very dramatic for me. And I remember, even now thinking about it, it really does make my heart beat a little bit faster," she said, "I was making a decision I knew was permanent. You put on hijab, you don't take it off."

Through her childhood growing up in Long Island, New York, Seyam prayed with her devout Muslim parents, but says she was just "going through the motions." It wasn't until college that she decided to wear a hijab consistently.

Influenced by her more devout friends, Seyam decided being a good Muslim meant covering her head.

"My sole purpose is to be here for the sake of Allah, and I'm doing something that he specifically says that you should be doing."

Seyam said there were practical factors in her decision as well. "I'm sick of guys catcalling. It was just driving me crazy. I felt like a piece of meat."

But Seyam says she traded in catcalling for a different kind of negative attention. People "look at me as if I am threatening and I do not feel like I am threatening looking. I don't feel I should instill fear in anybody's heart, but I do feel like I get dirty looks," she said.

Still, Seyam says her faith sustains her and that wearing the hijab is an important part of that faith.

"I'm not here to live my life and do whatever I want. I'm here to worship God," Seyam said. "I don't think that everybody has that, and I think that I'm lucky for it."

God's Warriors
CNN's Christiane Amanpour examines the effects of Judaism, Islam and Christianity as a powerful political force around the world.
Watch Tuesday through Thursday, Aug. 21-23, at 9 p.m. ET


Anonymous said…
She was at Wal-Mart ... what did she expect??
Anonymous said…
You may not be a terrorist, but you are the mother of terrorists. You are Islamic and you are evil.
Anonymous said…
i think she was a little dramatic but just because you're muslim doesn't mean you have anything to do with terrorism!!!!!! you have to be a complete A$$ to think tht. islam is a religion of peace! before you say something about a religion try researching it!
snowdog said…
Many of the modern beliefs in Islam are either a misinterpretation of the Koran or are outdated beliefs that are a throwback to a time when woman were slaves, justice was meeted out informally for the lack of a modern system of justice, and democray was not even born yet. A klot has changed and Islam needs to recognize more change is needed. One clear example is the head scarf. The original idea of a head covering is to promote "modesty" But if one looks at the burka and the place of a woman it is clear that it is much more then "modesty". The head covering has over the centuries become an instrument of "control" and an instrument ot keep woman "down" Many men I have spoken to from the Middle East say "don't listen to a woman" "their mind is different then that of a man"
The head covering should be modest and that is it! The covering should only be enough to establish and communicate the concept of "modesty" and nothing more - anything more (forced) is cruel and implies a condition of slavery.
Anonymous said…
God, Allah, Zeus, Buddha, or whatever you wish to call your Creator put us on this earth naked. Humans took on clothing. If our creator wanted us covered HE/SHE would have covered us. Humans make up so many lies, can we really know what the Creator truely wants? In some cultures it is customary for the father to devirginize his own daughter!! Do you think the Creator would be happy with that?? It's time we seperate what humans make up and what the Creator really expects of us.
Anonymous said…
PS- Islam is not a religion of peace, nor is any other religion!!! Almost all wars throughout history have been caused by religious beliefs! 200 religions all thinking their way is right and the one true religion of the Creator. It's all just humans fearing their own death/the unknown and making up whatever eases their mind. Notice how every religion has some form of paradise? The extremists that did the 9/11 attack thought they would get 7 virgins for their sacrifice!! What a joke! How would that be fair to the 7 virgins? Just another man made fantasy! What a joke! Our true Creator is there and ALIVE but very disappointed that we can't just love one another. We all are human, why would a Creator love one group over another if HE/SHE created us all? If Humans would just LOVE each other instead of trying to control each other, maybe the CREATOR would be proud of their creation.
Anonymous said…
If the hijab is worn for modesty..& covering so as to detract from her outward physical self & to focus on her inner beauty.....why is she wearing makeup.........A bit of hypocrisy, I would saybitpi
Anonymous said…
I am sorry, but she does look like a terrorist, the same woman that are suicide bombers, the same woman the harbor support jihad, and so on, so yes, she does look like a terrorist, not a stereo type, just a fact.
Anonymous said…
Who ever said "islam is a religion of peace", must not watch the news.

Out of the 50 poorest countries in the world, 49 are moslem.

Out of the 17 battle areas in the world, 15 are related to moslems.

Out of the 19 high jackers on September 11, 2001, 19 where moslem...

The facts speak for themselves.
Anonymous said…
Ladies and Gentlemen, the relevancy of this story is so staggering,
it needs to be read by everyone who can read, and read to those
who cannot read................

A man whose family was German aristocracy prior to
World War II owned a number of large industries and
estates. When asked how many German people were true
Nazis, the answer he gave can guide our attitude toward

"Very few people were true Nazis "he said," but many
enjoyed the return of German pride, and many more were too
busy to care. I was one of those who just thought the Nazis
were a bunch of fools. So, the majority just sat back and let
it all happen. Then, before we knew it, they owned us, and
we had lost control, and the end of the world had come. My
family lost everything. I ended up in a concentration camp
and the Allies destroyed my factories."

We are told again and again by "experts" and "talking
heads" that Islam is the religion of peace, and that the vast
majority of Muslims just want to live in peace.

Although this unqualified assertion may be true, it is
entirely irrelevant. It is meaningless fluff, meant to make us
feel better, and meant to somehow diminish the specter of
fanatics rampaging across the globe in the name of Islam. The
fact is that the fanatics rule Islam at this moment in history.

It is the fanatics who march. It is the fanatics who wage
any one of 50 shooting wars worldwide. It is the fanatics who
systematically slaughter Christian or tribal groups throughout
Africa and are gradually taking over the entire continent in an
Islamic wave. It is the fanatics who bomb, behead, murder, or
honor kill. It is the fanatics who take over mosque after
mosque. It is the fanatics who zealously spread the stoning and
hanging of rape victims and homosexuals. The hard
quantifiable fact is that the "peaceful majority" the "silent
majority" is cowed and extraneous.

Communist Russia comprised Russians who just wanted
to live in peace, yet the Russian Communists were responsible
for the murder of about 20 million people. The peaceful
majority were irrelevant. China's huge population, it was
peaceful as well, but Chinese Communists managed to kill a
staggering 70 million people.

The average Japanese individual prior to World War II
was not a warmongering sadist. Yet, Japan murdered and
slaughtered its way across South East Asia in an orgy of killing
that included the systematic murder of 12 million Chinese
civilians; most killed by sword, shovel and bayonet.

And, who can forget Rwanda, which collapsed into
butchery. Could it not be said that the majority of Rwandans
were "peace loving"?

History lessons are often incredibly simple and blunt, yet
for all our powers of reason we often miss the most basic and
uncomplicated of points: Peace-loving Muslims have been
made irrelevant by their silence.

Peace-loving Muslims will become our enemy if they don't
speak up, because like my friend from Germany, they will
awake one day and find that the fanatics own them, and the
end of their world will have begun.

Peace-loving Germans, Japanese, Chinese, Russians,
Rwandans, Serbs Afghans, Iraqis, Palestinians, Somalis,
Nigerians, Algerians, and many others have died because the
peaceful majority did not speak up until it was too late.

As for us who watch it all unfold; we must pay attention
to the only group that counts; the fanatics who threaten our
way of life.

Lastly, at the risk of offending, anyone who doubts that
the issue is serious and just deletes this email without sending it
on, can contribute to the passiveness that allows the problems
to expand. So, extend yourself a bit and send this on and on
and on!! Let us hope that thousands, world wide, read this -
think about it - and send it on.
Anonymous said…
In American society, when a woman is wearing a hijab, it always looks, to me,as if she is trying to draw attention to herself.I don't view this as a sign of modesty.Blending in with American culture by wearing conservative clothing, no make up and a simple hair style would go a long way towards a modest appearance without calling unwanted attention to oneself.
dangoor said…
Wake up: The hijab is a statement not religious act of modesty!

The wearing of a hijab simply states that the wearer and her people, the Moslems, are the only people who are right, and all non believer are infidels and are wrong in whatever belief they have, or do not have!

If the hijab was worn for the sake of modesty and in order to satisfy Allah, why not simply wear a common scarf that will serve the purpose while note calling attention to the wearer?

Wearing the hijab is a a purposfull call for attention and to bring about controversy; not an act of modesty to comply with Q'oranic law.
Anonymous said…
Does the guy at WM also sing to Catholic nuns? Dont they wear a habit for the same reason? DUH !
But then again - looking at the history of ths Catholic church - from inqusitions to child molesting - I guess the woman in terrorist organizations do all wear habits...good catch guy at WM.
More people die for religion than any other cause - lets wake up to the lie people.
Anonymous said…
Of course she needs to cover her head and and say she likes it - it she didn't she would probably go home and get beaten by those ilsamic things that call themselves "MEN" and "Human". After living like a slave for hundreds of years, most muslim women are conditioned to put up with anything, including being beaten, stoned, raped, and murdered by the "Men" who own them.
Islam sucks for women, but then it sucks for the rest of the non-islamic world too. I have no use for American muslims, they enjoy all our freedoms and don't even support us, all they do is send money to terrorist groups and the young people support suicide bombers. The sooner they leave the USA the better of we will all be.
Anonymous said…
Look, Islam is a way of life, it is NOT a religion, it is a force that they preach where violence and intimidation is the answer.

Do not be fooled by the "Peace" statement. When has a "Peace" loving nation flown 4 airplanes full of innocent people to hell.

the greatest threat right noiw isd Obamam bin Laden, a sudden convert to Christianity now that he is running for office, that si what the enemy does, HIDE......

Watch Amanpour on CNN for more propganda, she is really clever, but she does not full me.

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