11 Things You Should Never Say to Someone Wearing a Hijab

Hijabi women | © Adam Jones/ Flickr
Picture of Jessica Harn
Updated: 24 November 2017
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The hijab, the scarf or covering Muslim women wear over their hair, is often misunderstood by both the media and society at large. While there can be no one overarching reason why almost half a billion Muslim women wear it, many do to show a love for their religion and God, to attempt to live modestly and humbly, and to remember to live a life full of kindness and charity. Wearing hijab for the majority of Muslim women is an act of love and pride. Here are a few things you should never say to someone wearing hijab in order to show respect and a basic understanding.

You must be oppressed

This is one of the most common misconceptions about women wearing hijab, that somehow all who choose to cover their hair must be oppressed. Choosing to wear hijab is just another way of having the freedom of expression, just the same as women who choose to dye their hair or walk around in a bikini. Don’t offend someone who is wearing hijab by assuming she’s somehow inferior to you.

Wearing hijab does not mean we are oppressed!

Did your father or husband force you to wear it?

Don’t ever say this to someone wearing hijab, unless you want to really upset someone! For the majority of women, wearing the hijab is a free and loving choice. To assume they don’t have the freedom of choice or that wearing hijab is only for those unable to choose is to disregard the bravery and pride many women have while wearing hijab.

Do you sleep in your hijab?

This is one of those questions that everyone wearing hijab has been asked before—and if you do ask this question you’ll probably be answered with either a laugh or an annoyed stare. Women only wear hijab when out in public or when in the presence of an unrelated male. So, no, women definitely do not sleep in their hijab.

And do you shower with it on?

Another one of those questions that is more comical than offensive, the answer to this is a plain no. Just because women choose to wear hijab does not mean that taking a basic shower is denied to them—and, on a more logistical note, how would one even “take a shower” with a scarf on their head?

Don’t you want to feel the wind in your hair?

This is a question coming from a position of superiority, assuming that someone wearing hijab does not have the same freedoms and fun as you, and is quite offensive to the average hijab-wearing Muslim women. If someone does indeed have a dying urge to feel the wind in her hair, then the hijab-wearing women can just take off her scarf and feel the wind. The hijab is not glued to the head, and a Muslim women won’t drop dead if she takes it off. Once again the hijab is a choice, and when wearing it the woman will live her life in whatever way is most comfortable to her.

The questions hijabi wearing women are asked!

Isn’t it hot in there?

This question just has no place in a civil conversation with a Muslim woman. Women who choose to wear the hijab are not constantly suffering, and if indeed it is a hot day and you are concerned, then know that they may be hot because of the weather itself and not because of the hijab.

Just tell me what your hair looks like

When Muslim women choose to cover their hair they are choosing to not show off their hair in public. It slightly defeats the entire purpose if they cover their hair but inform everyone exactly what their hair looks like. If you’re a woman and you’re curious, then chances are you’ll end up seeing her hair sooner or later. If you’re a man, well then it’s time to focus on her mind and heart instead of her appearance.

You would look so much prettier if you showed your hair

This is one of those things that will tick off any Muslim women (or non-Muslim woman for that matter!). It should not matter if women look conventionally pretty or not, and the complete freedom of expression and freedom to dress however we want should be protected and understood. Women who wear hijab do not and will not care if a random stranger or acquaintance thinks they would looks “prettier” without hijab, and it’s best to appreciate the beauty within for every woman you get to know.

You’re not wearing it right

Although this statement usually comes from within the Muslim community itself, it is still something that should not ever be used to judge someone. Assuming that there is some perfect or correct way to wear hijab is completely false, and it should be understood that every form and style of hijab is beautiful in its own way.

For us a bad hair day is a bad hijab day—we’ve all had them!

You’re just wearing it because you think men would stare at you

Muslim women choose to wear the hijab not because they think they’re too gorgeous and don’t want to get stared at by men (although this often is a running joke between Muslim girl friends), but because they want to grow in their love and respect for their religion. Assuming that the hijab is worn for a shallow reason such as to hide from men is false and ignores the depth and beauty of the hijab and the theology behind it.

The hijab must hold you back a lot in life

This is one of the worst things to say to someone wearing hijab—because it implies that the woman wearing it does not have ambition or capabilities. To assume that the hijab forces Muslim women to give up on their dreams is simply wrong. Take a step back and really see what the hijab does for so many women around the world. It gives them confidence.It gives them pride, and it gives them love. No woman with these qualities is “held back” in life. Its time to celebrate the hijab-wearing woman!

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