by Rania Putri
It is often believed that freedom comes with escaping or breaking away from the shackles that bound us in any way: physically, mentally, spiritually, or emotionally.
But will you believe me when I tell you that my freedom, my salvation, my refuge, and my escape, is found in the act of concealment?
‘It is oppression, an act of compulsion! An example of coercive expectations cultivated by a society founded upon patriarchy!'
They say such cries represent the feelings of a Muslim woman who dons a piece of clothing on her head because it's unthinkable to consider the possibility that she, herself, chose to dress this way.
In their desire to set a restricted definition of freedom they tend to overlook a very important perspective— modesty breaks down the walls surrounding speech and ideas.
Some may blindly argue that we are oppressed, that our voices cannot be heard, and that we must bottle up our opinions in the face of an unyielding society with the way we dress. Covering up, after all, calls for us to be mute and invisible.
Yet here I am—my words written and thoughts spoken in the hopes of clearing this misconception. Here they are—Muslim women who stood up for what they believe in, who took part in activism, and who won medals for achievements in sports and academia.
The choice to wear an integral part of my identity atop my head catalyses my thousand-step journey of tearing down the walls built on stereotypes, misconceptions and irrational accusations (Not to mention being freed from the obligation of blending out foundation on my neck and having the privilege to hide my bad hair days). To me, my headscarf and my loose long-sleeved shirts are part of my declaration of freedom.
But my ‘freedom’ may not be your ‘freedom’.
However we still must remember this: the only architect of your liberty, the only candidate to decide its criteria, and the only person who can feel the freedom—the liberty you have defined and constructed for yourself is you, and the only person who can feel the freedom—the liberty I have defined and constructed for myself is me.
And the mansion inside which it is housed is built upon the sturdy bricks of faith and the shelter of modesty.
That, to me, is my freedom.