Nursing cammy. Check.
Long sleeve undershirt. Check.
Fashion neck scarf. Check.
Patterned top. Check.
Patterned sling. Check.
Dressed baby. Check.
Nursing cover. Check.
Hijab… Damn.

Trying to coordinate your hijab with your clothes is one thing. Doing it so that you’re nursing accessible, and still able to match the baby and carrier without looking like a circus freak is another.

This summer wearing hijab has been particularly challenging for me. Not only has it been the hottest weather on record, but I have to take baby and public nursing into consideration. Wearing hijab in the traditional form (tied under the chin), with perhaps abaya-styled clothing just doesn’t work when you have to control a curious, unruly infant, undress yourself, position the baby, latch the baby, adjust the nursing cover, and have a face full of hijab/fingers/feet/cover/shirt without going mental and causing such a scene that bystanders gape in horror at what that Muslim woman is doing to that poor child.

I honestly don’t know how others do it. And a part of me wonders if this is why you will NEVER see a covered Muslim woman nursing in public, and why formula and nursemaids are encouraged overseas. Or… perhaps another reason why women stay at home in the first place.

Hijab and veiling seems to be hot topics of late (isn’t this always the case?). And frankly, you can’t talk about women in Islam without touching upon this sensitive and controversial subject.  Spirituality and spiritual expression is personal  — and this is where the sensitivity lies. One’s relationship with God changes, evolves and is in a constant state of flux.  As you grow and learn more about yourself and your religion and have vast experiences that help mold you, naturally, your understanding of religion (or anything for that matter) and practice is reconstructed. So when you have arguments from the inside and from outsiders telling you what you should or should not be wearing, yeah… it gets sensitive.

I don’t want to get into the whole, “hijab is not/mandatory” debate or the “lets save the oppressed women” discussion here. Suffice it to say that some female and male Muslims choose to follow a religious tradition of subscribing to some form of modesty. These forms of modesty have changed throughout the centuries, and vary from country to country. The rules guiding these forms of modesty originate in a holy text, and have been filtered by a male-dominated sphere of theologians. Which in turn have been dissected and sifted into easily digestible sound bites and bullet points, readily accessible on the Internet. Bullet points, pamphlets, volumes of religious interpretation have been created– all from interpretations of 2 or 3 paragraphs of holy origin. Written mainly by men… telling women what to wear.

People tend to want to be right about religious matters. Naturally, the “right” is the one closest to God. The correct interpretation of divine words. People die over the right. Kingdoms fall. And women are forced into various kinds of oppression because of the right. And those that follow any other interpretation of the right, are… well… wrong.

I’ve been wearing hijab for 10 years now. Each year I tend to update the model based on personal perspective and wardrobe changes. I’m on hijab 5.0 at the moment—which is essentially tying it into a bun (aka “spanish hijab“) and letting my neck show freely. My experience with the hijab is just one. But after talking with people at parties and on Facebook, there’s a good chunk of us who all seem to be saying the same things. So I just want to throw it out there and see what kinds of discussion we can generate.

Part of my issues with hijab actually come from other women. Since adorning Hijab 5.0, I get a lot of flack for wearing only “half hijab”, for my neck showing (even when I wear a scarf) and for not marching to the beat. For which I CAN NOT understand, because lets face it: the face of hijab is changing. There is a North American reality that is helping guide the concept of Islamic modesty here. Tonnes of African Americans wear their hijab in the bun style. Does anyone bug them? Tonnes of South Asians wear hijab only on occasion or with their bangs showing. I don’t know.. are they accosted at the mosque for having an invalid prayer?

Is it because I’m white? A convert? Is my “half hijab” an affront to people who believe that because I’ve accepted Islam, I should be more Arab in my stylings?

And then I have another problem. When I wear the hijab in a bun, white people don’t know what to do with me. Especially when i have the baby in a wrap. I feel as if I’m being judged by Muslims for not wearing hijab properly, and by non-Muslims as being a cultural rapist.

I agree with Fashion Fatwa. It’s hard to be white and wear the hijab.

[part two]