Taking pride in their hijab, a group of Malawian young Muslim women has launched a new initiative to promote decency in the south African country and fight stereotyping and discrimination against girl
Taking pride in their hijab, a group of Malawian young Muslim women has launched a new initiative to promote decency in the south African country and fight stereotyping and discrimination against girls donning the Islamic headscarf.
“Since the advent of democracy about twenty years today, standards of dressing among women and girls of diverse religious beliefs have gone down. There is indecency in dressing which has invited unto themselves numerous challenges including sexual harassment,” Summayah Lemani, a co-founder of the Hijab Sisters of Malawi, told OnIslam.net.
“We have therefore taken up this initiative to promote decency among Muslim women and at the same time reduce levels of risks women expose themselves to, if they are not properly dressed,” she added.
Launching the new initiative, Lemani’s target was not limited to promoting hijab and decency.
For her, another no less important goal was to correct misconception relating the Islamic headscarf to backwardness.
“Besides promoting decency amongst ourselves, we would like at the same time to demonstrate to the rest of the nation that hijab is not a symbol of backwardness as people of other faith beliefs consider it to be,” she said.
“If young women like ourselves take up the lead, we will be able to overcome the stereotyping associated with it.”
She added that in some societies in the country, Muslim women putting on hijab were being subjected to various forms of discrimination and ridicule.
“This has discouraged women from putting on the hijab in public places. Through our initiative, we are expected to sensitize a larger Malawian society about the hijab, so that the whole nation could accept us without reservations.”
Among others, Lemani said the grouping promotes the hijab through fashion shows where girls parade while putting on hijab.
“During these fashion shows, we are discouraging women from putting on tight clothing including the hijab, which could attract men, she told OnIslam.net.
“The hijab shouldn’t very tight to expose ourselves to some risks, then it’s going to lose its value and dignity. Through these fashion shows, the young generation of Muslim women has come to appreciate the value of the hijab and what it means to a Muslim woman.”
The initiative by the Hijab Sisters of Malawi has generated interest and won itself plaudits across the Muslim community in the country.
Sheikh Muhammad Idrissa, National Chairperson of Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM) described the initiative as a “breakthrough” towards enforcing respect for religious values within the Muslim community.
“This initiative is a huge breakthrough in making people to respect religious values. This is a move in the right direction and coming at a right time when hunger for hijab among Muslim women in the country is growing,” he told OnIslam.net.
“Muslim women feel respected while they put on the hijab. This initiative therefore requires our blessings and support because it’s promoting what our religion dictates,” Sheikh Idrissa added.
“Previously, young Muslim women were not in favor of the hijab, because they were afraid of being molested, but nowadays, it’s common to see girls donning the hijab in public places. This clearly underscores the importance Islam attaches to the hijab.”
The renowned Muslim figure asserted the importance of such initiatives to face rising modernism and decreasing decency in the Malawian society.
“Sometimes back before 1994 when Malawi became a pluralistic nation, Muslim women donning the hijab were considered backwards and uneducated. But today, it (hijab) has become a symbol of decency to the extent that our women are being admired by women of other faith groups for their decent dressing,” he added.
National Chairperson of Muslim Women Organization, Fatima Ndaila, has also praised the initiative, and appealed for collective support for its success.
“With the freedom of dressing prevailing in the country, women are competing against each other when it comes to dressing; it is therefore a celebrated development to see our girls taking up this effort to promote the hijab,” Ndaila told OnIslam.net.
“This is a clear manifestation of how much religious values, are changing the lives of our children. As parents, we are in full support of this initiative.”
Malawi is a secular, but diverse religious country.
Islam is the second largest religion after Christianity. Muslims account for 36 percent of the country’s 16 million population.
Lemani said her group will not be defeated by the rising influences of modern dressing infiltrating the country.
“We will remain focused to our mission to make Muslim women become role models in dressing. That woman should start with us. We would like through us, Islam to be accorded utmost respect by Malawians of other faiths,” she said.
“We are desirous to raise the status of Muslim women through this initiative and attain a decent Muslim society.”