The New Symbol of Women's Liberation

By Sara Bokker

I am an American woman who was born in the midst of America's
"Heartland."I grew up, just like any other girl, being fixated with
the glamour of life in "the big city."Eventually, I moved to Florida
and on to South Beach of Miami, a hotspot for those seeking the
"glamorous life."Naturally, I did what most average Western girls do.I
focused on my appearance and appeal, basing my self-worth on how much
attention I got from others.I worked out religiously and became a
personal trainer, acquired an upscale waterfront residence, became a
regular "exhibiting" beach-goer and was able to attain a "living-in-
style" kind of life.

Years went by, only to realize that my scale of self-fulfillment and
happiness slid down the more I progressed in my "feminine appeal." I
was a slave to fashion. I was a hostage to my looks.

As the gap continued to progressively widen between my self-
fulfillment and lifestyle, I sought refuge in escapes from alcohol and
parties to meditation, activism, and alternative religions, only to
have the little gap widen to what seemed like a valley. I eventually
realized it all was merely a pain killer rather than an effective
remedy.

By now it was September 11, 2001.As I witnessed the ensuing barrage on
Islam, Islamic values and culture, and the infamous declaration of the
"new crusade," I started to notice something called Islam.Up until
that point, all I had associated with Islam was women covered in
"tents," wife beaters, harems, and a world of terrorism.

As a feminist libertarian, and an activist who was pursuing a better
world for all, my path crossed with that of another activist who was
already at the lead of indiscriminately furthering causes of reform
and justice for all.I joined in the ongoing campaigns of my new mentor
which included, at the time, election reform and civil rights, among
others.Now my new activism was fundamentally different.Instead of
"selectively" advocating justice only to some, I learned that ideals
such as justice, freedom, and respect are meant to be and are
essentially universal, and that own good and common good are not in
conflict.For the first time, I knew what "all people are created
equal" really means.But most importantly, I learned that it only takes
faith to see the world as one and to see the unity in creation.

One day I came across a book that is negatively stereotyped in the
West--The Holy Qur'an.I was first attracted by the style and approach
of the Qur'an, and then intrigued by its outlook on existence, life,
creation, and the relationship between Creator and creation.I found
the Qur'an to be a very insightful address to heart and soul without
the need for an interpreter or pastor.

Eventually I hit a moment of truth: my new-found self-fulfilling
activism was nothing more than merely embracing a faith called Islam
where I could live in peace as a "functional" Muslim.

I bought a beautiful long gown and head cover resembling the Muslim
woman's dress code and I walked down the same streets and
neighborhoods where only days earlier I had walked in my shorts,
bikini, or "elegant" western business attire. Although the people,
the faces, and the shops were all the same, one thing was remarkably
distinct--I was not--nor was the peace at being a woman I experienced
for the very first time.I felt as if the chains had been broken and I
was finally free.I was delighted with the new looks of wonder on
people's faces in place of the looks of a hunter watching his prey I
had once sought.Suddenly a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.I
no longer spent all my time consumed with shopping, makeup, getting my
hair done, and working out. Finally, I was free.

Of all places, I found my Islam at the heart of what some call "the
most scandalous place on earth," which makes it all the more dear and
special.

While content with Hijab I became curious about Niqab, seeing an
increasing number of Muslim women in it. I asked my Muslim husband,
whom I married after I reverted to Islam, whether I should wear Niqab
or just settle for the Hijab I was already wearing.My husband simply
advised me that he believes Hijab is mandatory in Islam while Niqab is
not.At the time, my Hijab consisted of head scarf that covered all my
hair except for my face, and a loose long black gown called "Abaya"
that covered all my body from neck to toe.

A year-and-a-half passed, and I told my husband I wanted to wear
Niqab.My reason, this time, was that I felt it would be more pleasing
to Allah, the Creator, increasing my feeling of peace at being more
modest.He supported my decision and took me to buy an "Isdaal," a
loose black gown that covers from head to toe, and Niqab, which covers
all my head and face except for my eyes.

Soon enough, news started breaking about politicians, Vatican
clergymen, libertarians, and so-called human rights and freedom
activists condemning Hijab at times, and Niqab at others as being
oppressive to women, an obstacle to social integration, and more
recently, as an Egyptian official called it--"a sign of backwardness."

I find it to be a blatant hypocrisy when Western governments and so-
called human rights groups rush to defend woman's rights when some
governments impose a certain dress code on women, yet such "freedom
fighters" look the other way when women are being deprived of their
rights, work, and education just because they choose to exercise their
right to wear Niqab or Hijab.Today, women in Hijab or Niqab are being
increasingly barred from work and education not only under
totalitarian regimes such as in Tunisia,Morocco, and Egypt, but also
in Western democracies such as France, Holland, and Britain.

Today I am still a feminist,but a Muslim feminist,who calls on Muslim
women to assume their responsibilities in providing all the support
they can for their husbands to be good Muslims. To raise their
children as upright Muslims so they may be beacons of light for all
humanity once again. To enjoin good--any good--and to forbid evil--any
evil.To speak righteousness and to speak up against all ills.To fight
for our right to wear Niqab or Hijab and to please our Creator
whichever way we chose.But just as importantly to carry our experience
with Niqab or Hijab to fellow women who may never have had the chance
to understand what wearing Niqab or Hijab means to us and why do we,
so dearly, embrace it.

Most of the women I know wearing Niqab are Western reverts,some of
whom are not even married. Others wear Niqab without full support of
either family or surroundings. What we all have in common is that it
is the personal choice of each and every one of us, which none of us
is willing to surrender.

Willingly or unwillingly, women are bombarded with styles of "dressing-
in-little-to-nothing" virtually in every means of communication
everywhere in the world.As an ex non-Muslim, I insist on women's right
to equally know about Hijab, its virtues, and the peace and happiness
it brings to a woman's life as it did to mine.Yesterday, the bikini
was the symbol of my liberty, when in actuality it only liberated me
from my spirituality and true value as a respectable human being.

I couldn't be happier to shed my bikini in SouthBeach and the
"glamorous" Western lifestyle to live in peace with my Creator and
enjoy living among fellow humans as a worthy person.It is why I choose
to wear Niqab, and why I will die defending my inalienable right to
wear it.

Today, Niqab is the new symbol of woman's liberation to find who she
is, what her purpose is, and the type of relation she chooses to have
with her Creator.

To women who surrender to the ugly stereotype against the Islamic
modesty of Hijab, I say:You don't know what you are missing.

To you, the ill-fated corrupting conquerors of civilization, so-called
crusaders, I say: BRING IT ON.

Sara Bokker is a former actress/model/fitness instructor and activist.
Currently, Sara is Director of Communications at "The March For
Justice," a co-founder of "The Global Sisters Network," and producer
of the infamous "Shock & Awe Gallery