A couple of days ago, Ramadan officially started. Now, if some of you don’t know, I teach Spanish at an international school here in Manila. It is owned by a Turkish Institution, so naturally, our bosses are Turkish and are also, Muslim. A number of students also are Muslim. So, a lot of people from the school practice Ramadan.
I got to chat with two of my students, Emine and Prenses (I love their names!), during lunch break one day. They wanted to stay in their classroom instead in the cafeteria because they couldn’t eat just the same. I decided to keep them company, and I thought that would maybe distract them from feeling hungry. We talked about a lot of things. They shared stories about school & other teachers, asked about my life outside of school, and naturally, I got curious about their lives and their religion.
Emine wears a head scarf, and Prenses doesn’t. On the first day, I’ve always wanted to ask why doesn’t Prenses wear one because I thought that it was required for all Muslim women. Prenses plainly said that she doesn’t want to wear one because she doesn’t feel comfortable. Then, Emine, being the outspoken girl that she is said, “It doesn’t matter. It’s your choice anyway. If you feel free with it, then good, if you feel free without it, then it’s okay. Last year I didn’t wear a head scarf, but this year I am. It’s my choice. It’s not right if someone else tells you what to do.”
And then, that got me thinking. I’ve had conversations before with a couple of friends about how enclosed some Muslim women might feel because they have to cover themselves up. We’ve talked amongst ourselves about how they may be feeling miserable that they cannot express themselves like we can. I mean, let’s face it, media and people that we talk to feed us the information that makes us think that ‘okay, if you’re a Muslim women, you’re automatically forced into this stereotype’. And, this goes out to everyone, I think. For every type of religion, we think that the Christians are like this, the Buddhists are like that, so on and so forth.
Then, maybe, not all Muslim women feel deprived of something. Maybe that is how they show that they are free or how they choose to express themselves by wearing the head scarf and covering themselves up. As Emine bluntly put it, ‘it is your choice’.
I felt really stupid for just realizing this now. But, I’m glad I did though! The job that I have teaches me a whole lot of things too yeeeeey 🙂 If other Muslim friends come across this post, I’d like to hear your thoughts and opinions! I’d love to learn more! 🙂