“Did your husband ask you to put that up?”
“You are a progressive woman, then why?”
“Don’t you feel restricted?”
These are some of the many questions people bombarded me with when I decided to embrace Hijab as a part of my identity, almost three years ago.
It was a minuscule decision but impacted my life to a great extent, thankfully in a positive manner. I engaged myself in getting correct information about my religion and that changed everything.
It didn’t make me feel restricted, in fact, helped me become more confident in dealing with some personal matters. I still suffer from anxiety but faith in a higher power helped me to tackle a significant part of it. It’s a very personal decision for me, that not everyone understands. And that’s perfectly okay with me.
Luckily. for me, I was just an ordinary girl with a few friends who were concerned and puzzled at first, but eventually accepted the fact that it’s my choice. Even if they wouldn’t, it would barely change my take.
But what about your decisions when you are a public figure, and hence, every little thing you do is under public scrutiny? Right from your career, to your religious beliefs- everyone, somehow thinks they know better than you. Especially when it’s not just about adopting something but quitting something which you created yourself over the years with hard work and immense dedication.
Recently, Zaira Wasim, a well-known young Bollywood actress chose to quit cinema to follow her path as a practicing Muslimah. She made the declaration in a comprehensive social media post which like every other thing on the Internet divided the people in a group of two. While some appreciated her brave step or accepted it as her individual choice to make, others decided to criticize her for being irresponsible, regressive and a bad influence on young girls.
The issue, as it seems to be, is not only about her making a choice but making it as a woman. History witnesses the fact that the autonomy of a woman always scares the patriarchal society.
When a woman makes a choice, her intelligence of making that choice is always questioned. A large section of the community believes in the notion that women aren’t capable enough to take their decisions for themselves. And if a woman takes a decision that goes against the popular culture, people conveniently believe and publicize the idea that it’s because she has been brain-washed or coerced.
That’s what has happened with this young woman as well. She decided to feed her soul instead of being popular yet unhappy. And as is evident, nobody is able to digest the fact that she understands what is better for her.
The actress has been vocal about her thoughts and that’s reflective in the long post she shared. It also means that she has provided people with enough content to manipulate and interpret as per their own limited thinking capacity. Try and shift the emphasised words on various channels, websites, and opinion pieces and we will get a really different and feministic approach to this entire debate.
Let me site an example:
Original- Muslim Bollywood actress Zaira Wasim, 18, has announced she will quit acting, saying that the profession “threatened” her relationship with her religion.
A positive interpretation:
Muslim Bollywood actress Zaira Wasim, 18, has announced she will quit acting, saying that the profession threatened “her relationship” with “her religion.”
Is it so difficult for people to understand that it is entirely HER idea of holding on to HER religion?
Having said that, it is also concluded by many people that her post looks down on other people who work in Bollywood and tag them as sinners. Well, as an ardent follower of Islam, what I know for sure is that nobody is in any position to decide who the sinner is and who’s pious. That’s only for the almighty to decide. And I think whatever your religion is, it teaches the same too. She can be a sinner even after quitting a way of life (here Bollywood) and others can be pious and religious even after being a part of it. Your entire life’s deeds decide it and not just one. You can never know no matter how religious you are.
It is shocking that many from the film industry have taken it personally and feel attacked. She hasn’t started a movement of mass conversion or something like that. She just decided it for herself. Everyone else can continue doing what they have been doing so far or whatever they want to.
If there is anything she propagates, it’s self-care and freedom to choose. She wasn’t happy with her line of work and decided to quit it. What part of it is so difficult to understand? This is simply an 18-year-old woman trying to figure out what works for her professionally and spiritually. This is not a religious guru trying to drive people towards an agenda.
Yes, you can question her take to publicly announce her decision but maybe she wanted to give it a closure before she just disappears from the scene? Or is she inclined to some rule book which says she has to keep her fan-following above her own spiritual well-being, no matter what?
Do you know Miley Cyrus? She grew up from being the ever sweet Hannah Montana to a not-so-ideal notorious musician. That was her personal decision and nobody could tell her to do otherwise. She didn’t ask her fans to follow her into it.
To be inspired by Cindrella or Wonder Woman, is an individual’s own choice. And frankly, I don’t think this actress holds so much eminence in the society that her decision alone with lead people to blindly follow her.
There’s another thing that bothers me. So many, much more influential people from the industry take their own lives, do drugs, murder people on roads, kill endangered animals, have ties with the underworld, but just one woman’s decision to follow her faith incites all kind of debates of how she is influencing people in a wrong way.
She didn’t make a generic declaration. Whatever Zaira said was in regards to herself and her relationship with her creator. As far as feminism is concerned, I think the message is loud and clear. Choose what you think is right for yourself. The world will criticize you for not coming up to their standards but that doesn’t matter.
The matter doesn’t restrict itself to the bounds of feminism. It depends on an individual’s perception whether they choose to consider it as an empowering decision or not.
As Zaira Wasim quits Bollywood citing religious reasons, we have yet again come at the very start of everything. The focus has, yet again, shifted to using the opportunity to bash Islam. Being critical is another thing, sharing your thoughts is fine too, but to downright attack religion for the same and abusing someone without any rational input is not acceptable.
“Islam is regressive, women in Islam have no rights, Islam follows a conservative and primitive way of life, it brainwashes people, it makes them terrorists, and the list goes on.” Statements like these are not uncommon to hear.
If you are rational enough to look beyond the mirror of bias, you must already know the current situation of minorities in the country, especially Muslims. As if stereotyping wasn’t enough people have taken it on themselves to showcase the religion to be everything it is not. There are some anti-social elements in every community but to see well-educated people abuse a religion like this is disheartening.
Environmental issues, loopholes in the education system, poverty, unemployment, etc. are all very trivial issues. Our political leaders are rather interested in making religious debates and keeping a close look at what Bollywood is upto.
Interestingly, had Zaira left Bollywood for the attainment of Moksha, our very own Prime Minister wouldn’t have missed the opportunity to congratulate her on Twitter. Deny all you want to but you know that’s true.
People have a lot to say about lives they have never lived. This woman, Zaira Wasim, has taken an informed decision and we as a society have to respect her choices. We might not agree with her but there’s nothing we could or should do about it.
You do not like Islam, it’s your problem. You think women cannot make decisions; it’s your problem again. We, as Muslim women, will not change our ways of living just because some people assume that we are getting oppressed.