No mystery behind the veil

by La Tonya Floyd
February 21, 2004

Columnist Tammy Swofford recently wondered on this page what life is like for Muslim women she sees around Irving under the veil. As a Muslim woman who partially veils herself (I do not cover my face) by choice, I'm pleased to tell her.

I am an American convert to Islam, and have been a Muslim for over eight years. I was born and raised in Maryland, grew up Catholic and went to Catholic school. Seeing nuns every day had a powerful impact on me. Covering was a sign of a religious woman. It meant purity, modesty and obedience to God.

As I grew older, I noticed other women covered like nuns, and I immediately recognized them as religious women. I was in awe of them and their devotion to God.

My early twenties were met with a desire to find a religion and way of life that matched my moral and spiritual beliefs. There were certain things I was looking for. First, it had to be truly monotheistic, meaning no praying to anything or anyone except God. Second, it had to accept all of the messengers and books, or revelation, sent by God. These requirements led me to research the three Abrahamic faiths – Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

I was also seeking a religion that did not subjugate women. I read the Quran, Islam's holy book, in its entirety. When I learned of the God-given rights of Muslim women, I was totally surprised. At the same time, I felt affirmation that the God I was searching for was a just God. Therefore, anyone who denies a woman her God-given rights is committing a sin. Additionally, the Quran states there is no compulsion in religion.

After having all of my questions answered, along with getting some very poignant history of these religions, the choice to accept Islam was an easy one. In addition, I would be able to don the dress of a religious woman. I looked forward to that so much that I began covering a week before I took my shahadah, or declaration of faith.

It was truly a different world under the veil. Men no longer gawked at me and many even shyly looked away. Women no longer rolled their eyes at me, but also gave me true respect. It was phenomenal.

As I learned more about my new faith, I will never forget what one sister told me: "Islam is perfect. The Muslims are not." I did have high expectations of the behavior of Muslims. What she said set me straight. Although you have this guidance to tell you right from wrong, you have to implement it just like in any other faith.

Learning more about the intricacies, I saw some women covered their faces, though most did not. It was explained to me that this was something that God required of the wives of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), and was something some sisters did as a heightened act of modesty. Some of the sisters that I came to befriend veiled their faces. One of these sisters told me unequivocally that she veiled completely of her own choosing.

Like me, the vast majority of Muslim women the world over cover out of reverence for God, not because they have been forced to. The thousands of Muslim women on the streets of France are among these women. Many of these women are highly educated, and if covering was oppressive to them, do you think they would be crying in the streets for this oppression to be placed upon them?

Those, myself included, who crowded the statehouse in Alabama on Feb. 11, asking legislators to have the licensing department stop telling us to remove our headscarves (not face veils) for driver's license photographs feel this deep devotion. When you see us, veiled or not, know that our hearts are filled with reverence for our Lord, and that keeps us smiling.

Former Richardson resident La Tonya Floyd now lives in Mobile, Ala.

Extracted 02/25/04 from The Dallas Morning News


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