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At LUMS, I Was Judged For Wearing A Hijab

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I joined Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) some five years ago as an undergraduate student. My first impression of LUMS was that the environment here is diverse with people holding different ideas and worldviews studying together in spite of their differences. In the beginning I was certain that the LUMS campus life has a lot to offer and I will get to experience life in a wholly different way. Little did I know that my experience will be nothing to write home about.

I have been wearing a hijab (head scarf) since my high school days. Not that I owe anyone an explanation, but Hijab was my own personal choice and no one in my family had forced me to wear it. My mother was even opposed to my decision initially but then I managed to convince her.

The first time I was judged for my head scarf was just a couple of months after my admission. A professor had split us in a group of 5 and we were to work on an assignment. We were gathered at one of the group members’ place to finish the work. When we had completed the first part of the assignment, I jokingly said that I can sense the feeling of freedom as we will be able to spend our weekend carefree because most difficult part of the project is behind us. One of the students said, “Yes but what do you know about freedom? You wear this thing on your head”. Everyone burst out laughing.

These words may not sound too serious but they made me feel alienated and uncomfortable. I began to think if it was my fault. I didn’t say anything to my classmate who had made these remarks, but I felt that I was disrespected for a very personal choice that I had made for myself.

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None of the five people realised that this could have made me feel ridiculed or that they should at least ask if I minded this joke. They thought it was a harmless pun and I must be used to it.

Later, I tried to get over this episode and thought to myself that I was perhaps overthinking the situation. But I would soon find out that it was not a one-off happening.

Many times in the casual group conversations and even in class discussions I was made to realise that my hijab means I am not ambitious enough and that I cannot think for myself. It appeared as if everyone there thought that hijabis are probably beaten up and harassed by their families into covering their heads. There were certainly some exceptions. I befriended a number of students who did not have a problem with my hijab, but a lot of other students did judge me for my choice. And they would simply not understand my reasoning and assume that I must have been forced to cover my head.

One day I met a classmate of mine at a park on a Sunday. I was smoking in a corner when she saw me. She was shocked and said, “You smoke?” I was surprised by her question because I knew she also smoked. Turns out she meant that she could not imagine that she would ever see a Hijabi smoke a cigarette. I laughed and told her that wearing a Hijab and avoiding a cigarette are not mutually exclusive. She still seemed puzzled, so I had to repeat my story of ‘hijab-was-my-own-choice-no-one-forced-me’ for the billionth time.

This was the mindset that I continued to encounter at LUMS. That I must have no free will at all. That I must have never made any real decisions on my own, because someone who wears a hijab must be conditioned into thinking that it is good for them. This made my time at LUMS rather difficult, but I did have did have a support system to turn to so I did not face any serious mental health issues, but this prejudice against hijab would often depress me and make me feel worthless.

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Here I must clarify that I don’t speak for all hijabis of LUMS. People have different lived experiences when it comes to this kind of discrimination and they may differ because of the people around them and how empathetic or non-empathetic they are. I am sure not all students at LUMS treat the hijabis this way. But my experience, it may have something to do with my luck, was far from ideal.

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12 Comments

  1. Ahmed June 8, 2020

    These people claim to be free. Or “liberated”. Well infact they are slaves themselves. Of their desires or the prevailing world order.

    Had the Muslims been the a economic or political power these people would’ve been pure Muslims right now.

    The funny thing is none of them can hold their ground in an argument related to these things even for 5 mins.

    But kudos to you for being brave and having the moral courage to let this slide.

    As we know, when in an argument with a Jahil, just say Salam ( peace) and walk away.

    Reply
  2. Khan June 8, 2020

    I can’t say I’m surprised. The culture around and about LUMS, and other “elite” institutions have this sort of primitive backward “west is best” inferiority complex. These are sort of echo chambers the English speaking secular and atheistic elites frequent. Their disdain of Islam and Muslims is well known. LUMS isn’t even that great of a school. By US standards its a glorified community college where local elites and the academically deficient children of overseas Pakistanis who end up.

    Reply
  3. Ab June 9, 2020

    Please move on. There are bigger issues in life to deal with than this chit chat

    Reply
  4. Laijou June 9, 2020

    Actually the problem here is that so called tradition we are having is half of it is Western and half of it is Eastern so it is awful that people in lums still judge others on wearing hijabs like it doesn’t make any sense that a person wearing Hijab is this and that you never know that she might be more nicer than the person without Hijab actually the problem is in their mind,Their mindset it totally changed they are against racism but actually they all are part of it.they used to say that we don’t do discrimination but actually they have created that stuff …
    Secondly the girl who just to proof others that I am not forced by my house she smoked so sister you don’t have to give proof to anyone you don’t need to give proofs because it’s because this society will never listen you and will not let you survive in any condition whether you wear Hijab or not secondly you just have to think in your heart that you are correct or not…what you are doing is right or not? You just need to clarify your things what your heart and with your Allah and leave rest of things on him He will make right everything for you … It is really not the way to make people understand by doing something wrong with yourself or whatever but remember just Make everything clear to yourself not to with people …..

    Reply
  5. Khan June 9, 2020

    @Ab,

    Why should we “move on” from discussing an article dealing with the prevailing culture at “elite” schools? This is not “chit chat” but a serious problem with the “elite” class. You liberals don’t like the negative spot light on yourselves. Always trying to sweep your crimes under the rug. Munafiqs

    Reply
  6. Ab June 10, 2020

    Dear Mr. Khan
    First things first. I am not a liberal. Infact I have deep respect for women who take a stand and wear hijab. When you try to be a good Muslim, youll always have to face opposition. That, s bound to happen. So there is no point in wasting time over what liberals think and have sabr and patience. These issies are not going anywhere anytime soon so its better to focus our energies on something that matters more.

    Reply
  7. Khan June 11, 2020

    @Ab,

    It is unacceptable that a Muslim woman be disrespected for her hijab in a Muslim country. Its a serious matter when “elite” schools traffic white western supremacist culture i.e. liberalism and teach locals to hate themselves. It’s a process of secular socialization. Don’t claim “sabr and patience” when it fact you are being lazy and complacent. There is no sabr when it comes to fighting a cancerous ideology which promotes colonial style inferiority complex amongst the people.

    Reply
  8. AB June 12, 2020

    What to do until the change actually happens except have some patience. And its not such a big issue as you are trying to make it. There are a ton of stupid things we do any say everyday. Dont pretend like youll be able to get rid of human stupidity. If someone said some thing stupid either dive them a befitting response or just move on. Stop ranting about everything and turning small talks into ideological issues.

    Reply
  9. AB June 12, 2020

    And i dont think LUMS has anything to do with it. You cannt blame the institution for stupidity of some students. You social media junkies think posting here and there will solve all the issues in the world. Posting here and there is all you know. If you believe in a cause, come out and be ready to make some sacrifices.

    Reply
  10. Yes or no June 12, 2020

    You smoke it’s your decision. You wear ijab its your decision. Smoking would cause you lung cancer and wearing hijab will also have it’s own consequences. Stop ranting and blaming an institution for something a few people did. You didnt set a good example of wearing hijab and smoking either And the other person who was surprised at a hijabi smoking was right. The image of piousness and filth dont get together well.

    Reply
  11. Khan June 23, 2020

    @AB,

    Your response is far dumber then I anticipated. This is a comment section, not a place where anyone came to eliminate stupidity or make change. The issues at play are ideological, and rooted in a destructive pattern of thinking. You sound like a lazy low energy thinker who is apathetic.The amount of distractions and non-sequitur in your screeds is downright embarrassing. Go play some video games and leave the discussion to the adults.

    Reply
  12. AB June 23, 2020

    !Khan

    What’s the point of your high-energy, laser-focused adult mind when it cannot grasp some simple realities of life? I’d like to shed some light on the topic again and hope that it’ll pass through the vacuum.

    Someone chose to wear a hijab, her friends made a little joke about it and now it’s an ideological issue that encompasses an institution or even a society. I am quite sure you are not familiar with the concept of having some patience. Because if you did, you would not be as frustrated as you are, which also reflects in your selection of words.

    Anyway, do you have any plan in mind to change the attitude of the society other than bashing your head in the comments section? If you do, let me know. Try putting your super natural communication and language skills and high energies to a better cause.
    No point in crying like babies on such little things. Better play video games than this.

    Reply

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