Reading is transformation

Hijab and Healing

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Booksellers' Desk

Salaam dear Reader,

Much has been said already about the question of the hijab in Singapore’s uniform groups. And much of the public discourse has been framed by the threat of racial and religious difference.

Under the weight of a particular narrative of multiracialism and the ‘psychic shame’ brought upon by grotesque displays of international terrorist violence committed in the name of Islam, Muslim self-confidence lies crushed. Inevitably, some Muslims have taken a more hawkish stance while at the other end of the spectrum, some internalise and accept Islamophobic tropes. This leads to self-hate.

In the latest issue of Renovatio published by Zaytuna College, in the article ‘On Migrating to Lands of Melancholy’, Abdal Hakim Murad surfaces a 2002 study by Penny Rosenwasser about internalised oppression (manifesting as self-hate) among Jewish women.

The study found that therapists working with Jewish women who had been intimidated by prejudice report that renewed public display of Jewish identity had the therapeutic effect of reducing self-hate.

Abdal Hakim Murad then makes the extrapolation:

“Increased hijab wearing would form part of an equivalent Muslim strategy to seek healing in confidence...”

Abdal Hakim Murad was not commenting on the Singapore situation, but his writing does bring to light an aspect of the local discourse on the hijab that is not yet mainstream. And this is the aspect of healing which Abdal Hakim Murad frequently returns to in his other writing.

An increase in the public display of Muslim identity (not just in uniform groups) need not be cast as something to be feared, or indeed as something trivial, rather it could instead be a pathway towards healing Muslim self-hate as well as healing stigmatisation.

The psychic release this fosters could usher greater Muslim agency in the public sphere, perhaps even bringing with it the restorative tonic of taqwa-based conscientiousness and optimism, and the healing balm of spirituality and the purification of the heart – all key to constructing a vibrant, yet grounded, multiracial and multi-religious society.

May we be among the healers (uniformed or otherwise).

Booksellers' Desk

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