No Longer Undercover – Removing the Veil

Eight years ago I met this amazing young lady, Randa. She was a high school classmate. I had endured a messed up childhood and a freaking weird teenage period with lots of mistakes and almost zero fun.   I was 16 years old when I met Randa and she was the first true definition of someone with principles. This statement is a huge compliment because I thought my dad was superman and my mom, Mother Teresa. No one has ever influenced me so powerfully or been quite the role model I found in Randa. She was the perfect guide at a time when I needed counseling the most.

My days at school were the worst, although my education was one of the best possible. I was the chubby, middle class kid everyone loved to bully. Randa was very popular, but to her credit she loved me unconditionally. She was very mature in character and kind hearted. She was the first person who tried to befriend me. She introduced me to everyone, helped me study and become more confident. And most importantly, she helped me to understand what a relationship with God really means. She showed me God was inside of me.

I decided to watch Randa and try to be like her. Randa led by example. She was able to exemplify the perfect state of religious serenity. She taught me to love anything that has to do with God. Eventually, I was inspired to start praying, and began to wear the veil. I didn’t feel forced or uncomfortable about this decision. On the contrary, I defied my parents by wearing the veil. I wanted to be the picture perfect Muslim woman. To be honest, I must admit the veil protected me while I was wearing it from harassment and superficial societal prejudice. It protected me from my fears of past sins and from what Islamist propagandists call a fate of perishing.

Randa’s example gave me hope. She was intelligent, elegant, beautiful, polite, honest and kind. She was in love with one of our colleagues at the time and now is married to him. Seeing Randa in love made me realize there was no conflict between love and religion. It made me trust her heart and her conscience. I wished that maybe one day if I walked on the right path as she did, I too would find a priceless love.

What I realize now is I had only been harming myself. I harmed myself when I made a life changing decision based on the influence of a friend. I only complicated my relationship with my parents making a serious decision to weir the veil without their input. I harmed myself when I took a shortcut to make myself look good. I had chosen to cover myself up because I couldn’t change the way I looked. I was overweight and had been bullied by my peers most of my teenage years. I decided to be a girl undercover – to show only the attractive parts of my body, my face and hands.

I guess, I hoped for a male version of Randa who would accept me for who I was. I wanted someone who would understand that my emotional eating disorder was out of my control. I wanted someone to love me and realize how difficult it was to be diagnosed with depression at five years old. I couldn’t just heal myself in a few months and simply wave away those extra pounds on my body.

A few years later, religious fervor began to spread as reforming societal phenomenon. It had propagandists like Amr Khaled, Mostafa Hosny and Moez Massoud rising like rock stars among politicians. They were worshipped in the media and began monopolizing religious platforms. They promoted all the apparent impositions of Islam including prayers and the veil. They worked very hard to assure everyone that this was the true way to paradise. I was a typical Egyptian with an under developed character and a vague sense of my identity. I was convinced the religious fervor was my only way to reach paradise.

Over the years, I stepped off the path to paradise. I began daydreaming about acceptance. My clothes began to get shorter and tighter. I started wearing make-up that I actually hated. I dyed my hair. I tried yoyo dieting until I ruined my body. I watched my skin become disfigured. Yes, I willingly participated in the emotional process of draining my soul. Yet, nothing changed. There were no more people like Randa in my society and most definitely no male version of her. My parents, closest relatives and friends refused to accept me.

I am now a mature woman and realize that wearing the veil at an early age was the weapon I used to murder my feminism. I wore the veil for eight years allowing myself to grow heavier, shyer and more miserable. I witnessed how my body lost its natural beauty. I saw my hair fall out. I became the image of a grumpy, senile Egyptian woman. The veil and the religious state I was in diminished me as a person.

I judged everyone to make myself feel right. I defended my decisions by saying they were all according to God. I tortured friends for not praying or wearing the veil. Only God knows how hurtful and bitchy I was when I a friend removed her veil. Only God knows how much I regret my behaviors and decisions now.

I have been depressed my entire life no matter what was going on around me or who was in my life. I felt blue and lonely. Life has no meaning because I do not have people in my life who accept me and want to share my life. Life is empty without a warm family atmosphere and a lifetime partner.

There are three things that cause my heart to ache, three things I don’t have in my life and these three things I would die for. I wish with all my heart I had accepting friends, a lifetime partner and a warm loving family to share life with. I say to myself, it is no wonder I am a depressed, single woman with low self-esteem. This is what happens when you throw your life down the toilet and give up to wear a veil for eight long years.

It took time but I finally found the courage to take the veil off. Taking off the veil gave me strength and made me feel alive again. My first day without the veil was exciting and frightening. I got dressed and stood in the hallway of my apartment for an hour in fear before I considered going out. I decided I would walk the streets and see how it felt. If I felt uncomfortable I could just put the veil back on again.

I wore a loose veil as I walked out of the building just to avoid the doorman’s stare if I decided to put it on again. As I stepped onto the street I was afraid as if it was my wedding night. I was fearful but excited at the same time. I removed the veil completely and felt the fresh air blow through my hair. I felt joyful in a very pure and childish way. I remembered how I felt when as a child my father tossed me up in the air. I felt weightless and alive. I was alive again after eight years living behind a shrouded veil. I was no longer gradually dying but living! We can be good without waiting for anything in return. Isn’t that more divine?

For those who are shocked by what I’ve done, I need you to know people have the right to change and evolve even if you believe their behavior is taboo. Decisions others make will never hurt you. Don’t judge me because of my decision to be different than you. My heart is the same and my soul a little bit shaky but my love for all of you will never change.

For other women wearing the veil, I need you to know that I have never been more relieved and confident. I now embrace my flaws. I feel good about how I look even others might see otherwise. I want you to find your own sense of beauty, as no one will be able to take that away from you. People will torture you and others will shock you with their cruel comments. Yet many more will appreciate your courage, your mindset and your exceptionally fresh beauty. Society will always want you to be the model of perfection, allow me to say: FUCK them all!

If you feel like taking the veil off, go ahead and do it – if you don’t then keep it on. The most important thing is to do what’s good for your soul and only you can determine that.

You’re beautiful just the way you are. You don’t need to put on anything or take off anything off to know you are perfect just as you are. Be alert and aware of how you feel about your decisions. Think every step of the way. If you are considering wearing the veil, I strongly urge you to carefully map out your decision. Compare the pros and the cons of it, and know that wearing the veil doesn’t necessarily bring you any closer to God!

Look for the “Randas” in your lives. Express your gratitude by making a difference in your own way. Lead by example and not by simply following!

Finally, to all of you who supported my decisions with no doubts or questions whatsoever, you’re the reason I keep going. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for granting my long desired wish, the wish of “Unconditional Acceptance”. Thank you for loving me for who I am – unconditionally.


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About the Author | Nadine Badrawy

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