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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, November 11, 2001

Muslim women say head cover is liberating

 •  More in Hawai'i turn to Islam

By Mary Kaye Ritz
Advertiser Religion Writer

While half the Muslim women she knows don't wear the hejab head covering, Faten El-Kadi, a Kane'ohe mother of three and lifelong Muslim, hopes her youngest will choose to do so when she comes of age at 12.

It's not a fashion statement, said the wife of the former president of the Muslim Association of Hawai'i. She says the Quran requires it, although others say the Quran only requires "modesty."

"Islam is a religion and a way of life," said El-Kadi, whose oldest daughter recently graduated from college and does cover her head. "It shows us how to pray, how to deal with other people, with friends, neighbors — almost everything in our life, what to do, what not to do, how to treat relatives.

"It is a way of life. ... It doesn't make us less (than men). It liberates us from fashion craziness. ... I tell (my daughters) that hejab is first of all an order from Allah."

El-Kadi said hejab wearers are less likely to be sexually harassed. And a side benefit: When they are seen publicly in their hejab, it proclaims to people of this island that, yes, there is a Muslim presence.

"I talk to my daughters about the privilege of wearing hejab, and don't force them to wear it," she said. "When you wear it, you obey Allah, so what else do you want?

"I hope my youngest will wear it soon."

Hakim Ouansafi, current president of the local Muslim group, had one recent convert talk to him about the hejab.

"She knows it is part of Islam, but she's not ready," he said. "My response is: 'As long as you know it is something you are supposed to do.' You're supposed to do it, but it's between you and God. I'm not here to judge. ... We have our own closets to clean."

His wife, Michele, who converted to Islam, said some Muslim women associate the hejab with humbleness, modesty. It also liberates them from feeling as if they need to conform to a model's ideal, she said.