This might be weird, but I actually really like wearing head scarves at the mosques. This kind of surprised me because I think I’ve always seen women covering their head as a symbol of oppression. It seemed like a code of modesty for women that didn’t match up with the standard for men. But I think I’ve come to realize that it’s only oppressive if the women feel that it’s oppressive. There are a lot of people who aren’t LDS who believe that women in our church are oppressed because they are not able to hold the priesthood. But I don’t feel like I have a subordinate role in the church because I can’t hold the priesthood. So it doesn’t really matter what outside people have to say if I feel like I’m not living under any restraint. I’m trying to be careful to not make fast judgments on traditions (like head scarves) that I don’t really know anything about.
But having the experience of wearing the headscarves has changed my perspective in other ways too. It’s weird how when I’ve gone into a mosque with the other girls in my group and all our heads are covered, everyone suddenly looks very different. They look different from the BYU girls I see at the Jerusalem center in their t-shirts and sandals. It’s harder to tell who is who and it’s this weird moment where we suddenly aren’t in our culture, we aren’t wearing the normal clothes we usually wear, we aren’t BYU students, we belong to another tradition even if it disappears outside of the mosque. It’s a weird feeling that’s hard to describe. There was this moment when I looked out at all the girls in my group, all 60 of us in head scarves and realized that putting a piece of cloth over our hair didn’t change us at all. I know every single one of them and their personalities were still there under the head scarf. Rachelle with her great laugh, Camila with her Columbian accent, Melinda with her questions, Megan with her smile. I felt this connection, wearing my head scarf, with women who are part of the Islamic tradition and have this tradition as part of their everyday lives. They didn’t seem as foreign or different or incomprehensible as they sometimes have seemed to me seeing them on the street. They are just women underneath the scarf. They laugh, smile, ask questions too. They don’t wear t-shirts and sandals but they wear the clothes that are part of their tradition instead.
(Sarah (who was in my freshman ward—small world!), Alicia, and Emily)
This is Megan, my roommate. Megan has the best smile. She is so sweet and listens to all my long opinions for hours :)