Who Gets to Say Whether Muslim Women Should Wear a Hijab or Not? 

Muslim women from across India react to AR Rahman being trolled for a photo of his daughter in a hijab.

3 min read
Hindi Female

How would you feel if someone told you what to wear?

Last week, a bunch of trolls started taking digs at AR Rahman over a photo. The photo was taken at a ten-year anniversary celebration of Slumdog Millionaire. In it, Rahman’s daughter wore a niqab.

Rahman quickly shut the trolls up by sharing a photo of his family, with one of his daughters wearing the niqab and the other one without. With the hashtag #FreedomToChoose.

Rahman-1, Trolls-0.

We spoke to Muslim women from across India to understand what they thought about this and answer a few questions.

Who decides what you wear? Why should anyone question the decision to wear a hijab or not?

And finally, should anyone feel threatened because of their choice?

Listen to the full podcast by clicking on the player below:


Adila, 28, Journalist

“There’s a lot of unwanted chatter about this topic. Especially at a time like this. It’s an unending debate. We shouldn’t give in to it. We should instead focus on uplifting these women as more of them are coming into professional mainstream spaces. There’ll always be people who want to draw attention to this and we shouldn’t give in to it.”
Adila Matra, 28, Journalist

Adila says that instead of asking questions about what Muslim women or any women choose to wear, people should focus on uplifting and encouraging women from other communities who are making an impact in the mainstream. She adds that the hijab debate has been done to death, and that people need to stop thinking that they have to ‘rescue’ women from wearing hijabs.

A bigger problem that Adila faces in the capital is being profiled for her choice to wear a hijab. She says it affects her chances of finding houses, and that she often gets asked pointed questions about her faith when she goes to parties or smokes a cigarette.

“I do face issues in a place like Delhi. I get questioned often. If I wear a hijab, I’m too conservative; if I wear a miniskirt, I’m easy. I do get profiled. I do have trouble finding houses. Or if I go to a party wearing a hijab. You’re stared at, you’re asked questions. You’re denied homes. Those things do happen. People will brand you a certain way.”

Amal, 20, Student

Amal says that after moving to Delhi from her home in Kerala, she’s faced many more instances of feeling targeted or profiled because of her choice to wear a hijab.

She adds that she’s often expected to be answerable to others about any incident that takes place which involves a person who follows the Islamic faith. She also says that she often feels unsafe even simply walking on the streets.

“I think we’re past that point where we get to ask constantly if I’m wearing a hijab or not. I’m sick of constantly answering questions about why I’m wearing a hijab or if I consciously took the decision. The more important question is, why did AR Rahman’s daughter have to go through all that?”

Sadaf, 33, Dentist

“I do feel like I’m targeted every time something goes wrong in the world. I mean I wouldn’t pull up any random Hindu guy and ask him why so many lynchings are taking place, would I?”
Sadaf Zehra, 33, Dentist

Sadaf says she’s never faced any coercion or pressure about wearing a hijab, but that she knows many other women who have faced pressure either from family or society to cover their heads.

But, Sadaf adds, that because of her name, people expect her to answer for the whole Islamic community for any incident that takes place involving a person who practices Islam.


Rosheena, 23, Journalist

“Whether a woman chooses to wear a hijab or not, is up to her entirely. You can’t say that she’s been ‘conditioned’ simply because she chooses to wear a hijab. You can’t measure all women against one common index. I don’t wear a hijab and I might not agree with your reasons or choice to wear a hijab, but I’ll still respect it.”
Rosheena Zehra, 23, Journalist

Rosheena says that she actually wanted to wear a hijab as a child because she wanted to fit in, but in time, she felt that it would be too physically restricting or uncomfortable.

Listen to the podcast for the full story!

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