Why I Shed Bikini for Niqab: The New Symbol of Women’s Liberation

By Sara Bokker

I am an American woman who was born in the midst of America’s “Heartland.” I grew up, just like any other girl, being fixated with the glamour of life in “the big city.” Eventually, I moved to Florida and on to South Beach of Miami, a hotspot for those seeking the “glamorous life.” Naturally, I did what most average Western girls do. I focused on my appearance and appeal, basing my self-worth on how much attention I got from others. I worked out religiously and became a personal trainer, acquired an upscale waterfront residence, became a regular “exhibiting” beach-goer and was able to attain a “living-in-style” kind of life.

Years went by, only to realize that my scale of self-fulfillment and happiness slid down the more I progressed in my “feminine appeal.” I was a slave to fashion. I was a hostage to my looks.

As the gap continued to progressively widen between my self-fulfillment and lifestyle, I sought refuge in escapes from alcohol and parties to meditation, activism, and alternative religions, only to have the little gap widen to what seemed like a valley. I eventually realized it all was merely a pain killer rather than an effective remedy.

By now it was September 11, 2001. As I witnessed the ensuing barrage on Islam, Islamic values and culture, and the infamous declaration of the “new crusade,” I started to notice something called Islam. Up until that point, all I had associated with Islam was women covered in “tents,” wife beaters, harems, and a world of terrorism.

As a feminist libertarian, and an activist who was pursuing a better world for all, my path crossed with that of another activist who was already at the lead of indiscriminately furthering causes of reform and justice for all. I joined in the ongoing campaigns of my new mentor which included, at the time, election reform and civil rights, among others. Now my new activism was fundamentally different. Instead of “selectively” advocating justice only to some, I learned that ideals such as justice, freedom, and respect are meant to be and are essentially universal, and that own good and common good are not in conflict. For the first time, I knew what “all people are created equal” really means. But most importantly, I learned that it only takes faith to see the world as one and to see the unity in creation.

One day I came across a book that is negatively stereotyped in the West–The Holy Qur’an. I was first attracted by the style and approach of the Qur’an, and then intrigued by its outlook on existence, life, creation, and the relationship between Creator and creation. I found the Qur’an to be a very insightful address to heart and soul without the need for an interpreter or pastor.

Eventually I hit a moment of truth: my new-found self-fulfilling activism was nothing more than merely embracing a faith called Islam where I could live in peace as a “functional” Muslim.

I bought a beautiful long gown and head cover resembling the Muslim woman’s dress code and I walked down the same streets and neighborhoods where only days earlier I had walked in my shorts, bikini, or “elegant” western business attire. Although the people, the faces, and the shops were all the same, one thing was remarkably distinct–I was not–nor was the peace at being a woman I experienced for the very first time. I felt as if the chains had been broken and I was finally free. I was delighted with the new looks of wonder on people’s faces in place of the looks of a hunter watching his prey I had once sought. Suddenly a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I no longer spent all my time consumed with shopping, makeup, getting my hair done, and working out. Finally, I was free.

Of all places, I found my Islam at the heart of what some call “the most scandalous place on earth,” which makes it all the more dear and special.

While content with Hijab I became curious about Niqab, seeing an increasing number of Muslim women in it. I asked my Muslim husband, whom I married after I reverted to Islam, whether I should wear Niqab or just settle for the Hijab I was already wearing. My husband simply advised me that he believes Hijab is mandatory in Islam while Niqab is not. At the time, my Hijab consisted of head scarf that covered all my hair except for my face, and a loose long black gown called “Abaya” that covered all my body from neck to toe.

A year-and-a-half passed, and I told my husband I wanted to wear Niqab. My reason, this time, was that I felt it would be more pleasing to Allah, the Creator, increasing my feeling of peace at being more modest. He supported my decision and took me to buy an “Isdaal,” a loose black gown that covers from head to toe, and Niqab, which covers all my head and face except for my eyes.

Soon enough, news started breaking about politicians, Vatican clergymen, libertarians, and so-called human rights and freedom activists condemning Hijab at times, and Niqab at others as being oppressive to women, an obstacle to social integration, and more recently, as an Egyptian official called it–“a sign of backwardness.”

I find it to be a blatant hypocrisy when Western governments and so-called human rights groups rush to defend woman’s rights when some governments impose a certain dress code on women, yet such “freedom fighters” look the other way when women are being deprived of their rights, work, and education just because they choose to exercise their right to wear Niqab or Hijab. Today, women in Hijab or Niqab are being increasingly barred from work and education not only under totalitarian regimes such as in Tunisia, Morocco, and Egypt, but also in Western democracies such as France, Holland, and Britain.

Today I am still a feminist, but a Muslim feminist, who calls on Muslim women to assume their responsibilities in providing all the support they can for their husbands to be good Muslims. To raise their children as upright Muslims so they may be beacons of light for all humanity once again. To enjoin good–any good–and to forbid evil–any evil. To speak righteousness and to speak up against all ills. To fight for our right to wear Niqab or Hijab and to please our Creator whichever way we chose. But just as importantly to carry our experience with Niqab or Hijab to fellow women who may never have had the chance to understand what wearing Niqab or Hijab means to us and why do we, so dearly, embrace it.

Β 

Most of the women I know wearing Niqab are Western reverts, some of whom are not even married. Others wear Niqab without full support of either family or surroundings. What we all have in common is that it is the personal choice of each and every one of us, which none of us is willing to surrender.

Willingly or unwillingly, women are bombarded with styles of “dressing-in-little-to-nothing” virtually in every means of communication everywhere in the world. As an ex non-Muslim, I insist on women’s right to equally know about Hijab, its virtues, and the peace and happiness it brings to a woman’s life as it did to mine. Yesterday, the bikini was the symbol of my liberty, when in actuality it only liberated me from my spirituality and true value as a respectable human being.

I couldn’t be happier to shed my bikini in South Beach and the “glamorous” Western lifestyle to live in peace with my Creator and enjoy living among fellow humans as a worthy person. It is why I choose to wear Niqab, and why I will die defending my inalienable right to wear it. Today, Niqab is the new symbol of woman’s liberation.

To women who surrender to the ugly stereotype against the Islamic modesty of Hijab, I say: You don’t know what you are missing.

Sara Bokker is a former actress/model/fitness instructor and activist. Currently, Sara is Director of Communications at “The March For Justice,” a co-founder of “The Global Sisters Network,” and producer of the infamous “Shock & Awe Gallery.”

Source:Β  http://www.albalagh.net/women/0097.shtml

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29 Responses to “Why I Shed Bikini for Niqab: The New Symbol of Women’s Liberation”

  1. shahmuzir Says:

    You may also read the above article in Bahasa Melayu at this link:

    http://dupahang.wordpress.com/2009/09/05/sara-bokker-tinggalkan-bikini-demi-islam/

  2. wana93 Says:

    ALHAMDULILLAH..
    i’ve read this article in Bahasa Melayu..

    “ISLAM IS THE WAY OF LIFE”

  3. Tnelson Says:

    what a great site and informative posts, I will add a backlink and bookmark your site. Keep up the good work!

  4. RobD Says:

    Generally I do not post on blogs, but I would like to say that this post really forced me to do so, Excellent post! πŸ™‚

  5. Nimmy Says:

    Good post…

    There is nothing wrong in Hijab or Niqab or Bkini or Salwar…Provided it is not imposed upon the lady concerned..Everybody has their own concepts of modesty..Provided one accepts that others too ahve their own personal space and free will,and doesn’t impose one’s right and the other,wrong on everything in this world would be beautiful..

  6. umm hajar Says:

    masha’Allah!!

    I know this sister…. she’s my colleague at work as teachers.

    Allahu Akbar!

  7. amal fri Says:

    salamo alikom sara.u know i was very influenced and at the same time happy to know about an american woman who converted islam the greatest religion all over the wold.i have just to say that u chose the ideal and the perfect way that u will never regret . so baraka allah fiki wa yassara allah omouraki.i really want to know about you more and more please and if you want contact me on my e-mail i will be very happy.

  8. Arbab Says:

    Very intresting Read. MashAllah

    i always liked this site and posts from here and i often place them to my site muslimschat.com , But any way SIster this article was indeed very nice, Wa salam

  9. menemui Allah/ to meet Allah Says:

    very great inspiring story. thanks to Allah for His guidence and great mercy

  10. Hamzah Says:

    Alhamdulilah. Thanks to Allah to give you consent. Hope more and more non muslim , intrested in Islam. Congratualations to you Sara and your husband.

  11. Jack Says:

    May Allah always guide you sister

  12. Nasir Says:

    Ahh I remember this article, so basicly it was from this place, very nice and brave thing you did sister, MashAllah. and arbab i read it from muslim chat http://www.muslimschat.com as well. You basicly copied from here. πŸ™‚

    any way

    Wa Salam

  13. Fazl-ur-Rehman Sheikh Says:

    My congratulations to you.I agree with the person who had earlier written that everybody must have the freedom of choice but unfortunately the people who shout the maximum for freedom ignore the freedom of Muslim woman to choose hijab or niqab and call it a sign of oppression.Only when a woman shows her body to the fullest extent or the more she shows the more liberated she is. The woman should be free to choose whether Muslim or non Muslim and nothing should be imposed on her as it is only she who is answerable for her deeds to the Almighty.

    • Shaikh Haroon ur Rashid Says:

      I fully endorse these views. Look at the Facebook. They have blocked posting of this article, being abusive. This is hypocracy.

  14. Nour Smith Says:

    I reverted two weeks ago. I have worn hijab from the start and the first few days I was nervous, but I found that people were looking at me differently, not at my chest or whatever. I felt for the first time since puberty that I was being seen as a person not as an object.

    • Abdul Haseeb Says:

      Asalamualikum sister;
      Welcome to islam.The straight path.I wish you good luck and may allah bless you and make your way easy in islam.
      Asalamualikum

    • shahmuzir Says:

      Alhamdu-lillah (All praises be to ALLAH). I am glad to hear that you feel that way. The Islamic dressing code is one of the very basic one and that has already make you personally feel appreciated as a person, not as an object.

      May ALLAH guide you along the way and give you the strength to practice all the teachings of ISLAM as the way of life, amin… πŸ™‚

    • Shaikh Haroon ur Rashid Says:

      Wecome to true religion. The religion of peace. Congratulations. May Allah Almighty help and guide you further.

  15. Shaikh Haroon ur Rashid Says:

    I wanted to post this article on Facebook, but it was blocked. It is a shamefull act to block such nice articles.

    • Shahmuzir Says:

      Shaikh Haroon, please resend and retry. I have no problem share it in FB. And alhamdulillah, this good article has benefited many of my friends in FB. With your good intention, may ALLAH reward you, amin… πŸ™‚

  16. Halimatu Sa'adiyyah Says:

    Masha Allah! This is very impressin indeed,i love dis website

  17. Jiaul -Al-Mamun Says:

    Alhamdulilla.welcome all brothers & sisters in islam.sister sara & nour smith-we proud of u both.d reverted women in islam r one of the best womens at present day world.may ALLAH grant them all Jannat

  18. Abdelrahman Says:

    Assalamu alaikom πŸ™‚ I’m very happy for the people here. Just wanted to clarify that scholors have different opinions oger the hijab and niqab but most of them see the niqab as obligatory.

    I hope inshaallah you will all find the right path πŸ™‚

  19. mohammad k Says:

    Sara ,i wl thnk u fr the gd advise towords the parents&the women at large.May the al mighty reword u.

  20. WASEEM UL HAQ Says:

    Sara ,i wl thnk u fr the gd advise towords the parents&the women at large.May the al mighty reword u.

  21. khalil Says:

    This is just the blatant hypocritical way of life portrayed by the west,modesty in wearing bikini?I wonder if the erractic nature of the west dressing culture changes to complete nudity or wearing only your undergament,i would want to knw if my good friend,would endorse or permit his Mother or sister or daughter or aunty to dress in such a manner and allow other men to ogle at them.

  22. Aishah Says:

    Alhamdulillah sister Sarah and Nour has found the right path,InshaaAllah we all will met in the jannah. πŸ™‚ keep up the good work.

  23. Aishah Says:

    This article moved me a lot.Alhamdulillah sister Sarah and Nour has found the right path,InshaaAllah we all will met in the jannah. πŸ™‚

  24. K.RASHEED Says:

    allahu akbar and alhamdulillah. sara sister tell other christian brothers and sisters about quran, islam and sunnath.

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