25 September 2023

The Hijab Files

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Reviewed by Rama Gaind.

By Maryam Azam, Giramondo Publishing, $24.00.

A lot has been said about the hijab and there’s also been some controversy. People have suffered ill-treatment and experienced been abused for wearing the hijab.

However, it is still worn widely around the world. The most visible form of hijab is the head covering that many Muslim women wear

Azam takes the significance of the hijab as its focus of attention.

It is the principle of modesty and includes behaviour as well as dress for both males and females. Arabic word for “to cover”, and in general, means to be modest. The word is used in particular to mean clothing that covers a woman’s chest, head and hair.

Though shamed and angered by the prejudice towards Muslims the scarf arouses, Azam is also aware of its sensuality and allure, and the power and protection it offers.

In a style that’s simple and direct, Maryam emphasises the self-respect associated with the procedural and compliance in everyday life. We get enlightened with drollness.

Reflection is rife as Khan ruminates on the rich possibilities of the scarf, the moral values it embodies, and the commitment required to maintain these values in a secular society. These can be found in stories titled ‘A Brief Guide to Hijab Fashion’, ‘Miss Khan Takes off her Hijab’ and ‘Places I’ve Prayed’

In ‘Wallah Bros’, moving to the second section, she examines the tensions young Muslims experience when negotiating the technology of modern dating.

The final section sees poems, ‘The Piercing of this Place’, that are alert to the presence of spiritual forces in the world, and open on to the larger dimensions of time and space, to mystery and the prospect of death.

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