“There is no God”, the girl said defiantly. Her hair was meticulously covered by a silky scarf tied in the style of Turkish actresses. Not a strand of hair could escape beneath the tight cap. Her face had been beautified with the aid of a range of cosmetics; her father and her teacher would argue that there had been too many. Underneath the short-sleeved, knee-length navy and white checkered school dress she wore a white long-sleeved t-shirt and several pairs of navy opaque stockings, all in spite of the summer heat. Overall, she adhered to the Islamic dress code.
“But how can you not believe?”, the other girl probed. Her chestnut mane of dark curls, unlike those of her friends, was not covered by a scarf. Nonetheless, she wore a loose-fitting short-sleeved white shirt paired with a similarly loose pair of navy trousers. Her face glowed in it its natural beauty; her every word and her every movement suggested eternal grace.
“There is not God. It’s rubbish what they say”, the veiled girl repeated herself. She lifted her head from the level of her friends’ eyes and stared into the bright sun for a few moments. All was still. Such words were not pronounced in the circle of Afghani schoolgirls. Headscarves may be loosened, parents’ signatures may be forged, curses may be uttered, but one did not simply defy the first of the five pillars of Islam. Especially not in the school yard, where any one could hear them.
“Shit. I’ve got to go”, the veiled girl exclaimed. Grabbing her handbag, she turned to leave the school yard. Her friends were still too stunned by her earlier statement to farewell her.
The bell soon rang to signal the end of the lunchtime. The remaining girls began to reluctantly, but briskly, walk back to their classrooms. The veiled girl was nowhere to be seen.
It was in this moment that our heroine realised the significance of the headscarf. Or more precisely, its insignificance. So many women covered themselves in so many different ways and yet so few had the courage to proclaim their beliefs and to live accordingly. They simply did what tradition and fashion dictated.
It is only when coupled with genuine faith that a headscarf becomes a hijab; God’s gift to women to protect their beauty. In all other cases, it is a burden to be carried through life.