29 Dec Why I Decided to Wear the Hijab
By Phyu Hinn Hlaing, Wedu Rising Star from Myanmar
I am writing this message in order to declare to the world how I am continuing the rest of my life. I have made a big decision in my life. Yes, I decided to cover my hair, and start wearing a head scarf (hijab). I made this decision out of my own free will.
Let me share my background. I was born and grew up in a Muslim family in Myanmar. My nationality is Myanmar and my religion is Islam. I spent my youth in the culture of a traditional Muslim community. Fortunately, I could do everything as how and what I want. I was not extremely restricted by disciplines. In my culture (traditional Muslim community) women are second-class citizens. In my country (Myanmar), Muslims are second-class citizens. In such a situation, I have been struggling to be able to stand on my feet in my community, in my country as a Myanmar Muslim girl. So I decided to wear hijab to break the misconception that Muslim women lack the strength, passion, and power to strive for their own rights. I will always be proud of myself for what I did in my past. For the present, I am really blessed for having the chance to try hard to be a representative of my country in my professional community (the Physical Therapy profession). Currently, I am taking responsibilities in many professional organizations happily and energetically.
At this point, at this time, a big storm is striking me: racism, discrimination and ethnic cleansing on Muslims minorities in Myanmar. At the time of the Myanmar democratic transition, there have been a lot of violence and riots against minorities. Ethnic minorities have faced torture, neglect, and repression in this Buddhist-majority land ever since it achieved independence in 1948. I am afraid of racism and prejudice by society. I hate to feel in danger in my own country just because of the religion I practice. It makes me think about what I stand for and what I am doing now. Sometime I doubt myself whether I should continue to pursue my profession in a country where people are discriminating us? So it’s time to show off my confidence for what I believe (Islam: a misunderstood religion by poeple in Myanmar) and what I am doing for PT profession in Myanmar.
The personal desire which pushes me to change my mind to wear the hijab is to try to understand my identity, my role and place in society. I like to be respected for what I believe. And also it’s the reminder for me to remain conscious of my behavior and my actions because it will represent all of the Islamic community. Turning to the human’s rights and women’s rights, “I don’t think that human rights dictate who should be a leader and who should stay behind to follow. Everybody, boy or girl, is equal. As a woman who passionately studies and works for women’s empowerment, I don’t see hijab representing the oppression of women. The hijab certainly does not limit our activities. There are a lot of women, who drive the latest and best sports cars, ride Harleys and jet skis, write amazing poetry, paint, are CEOs of companies, are involved in politics, teach at universities, and do it all while wearing the hijab. These are strong, independent women, admirable in every way and especially admirable for the strength of their convictions. They do what they believe in without bowing down to international peer pressure, the stigma that the media has attached to the hijab and those who wear it, and the negative image it is unfortunately portraying for many.
Expected Impacts. A lot of people may be confused over what I wear and find it to be something weird and strange. I may face discrimination, peer pressure and closed doors in society because of this hijab.
What pushed me to change. It’s time to show my confidence for what I believe in (Islam) what I am doing (the PT profession in Myanmar) and to break the misconception that Muslim women lack the strength, passion and power to strive for their own rights.
Currently, Phyu is the President of the Myanmar Physiotherapy Student Society, and a Myanmar student representative at the Asia Physical Therapy Student Association. Upon completion of her studies, she will be the first female Ph.D. holder in the field of Physical Therapy in Myanmar.