Why I Shed Bikini for Niqab

 Former Actress Sara Bokker  

I AM an American woman who was born in the midst of America’s “Heartland.” I grew up, just like any other girl, being fixated with the glamour of life in “the big city.” Eventually, I moved to Florida and on toSouth Beach of Miami, a hotspot for those seeking the “glamorous life.”
Naturally, I did what most average Western girls do. I focused on my appearance and appeal, basing my self-worth on how much attention I got from others. I worked out religiously and became a personal trainer, acquired an upscale waterfront residence, became a regular “exhibiting” beach-goer and was able to attain a “living-in-style” kind of life.
Years went by, only to realize that my scale of self-fulfillment and happiness slid down the more I progressed in my “feminine appeal.” I was a slave to fashion. I was a hostage to my looks.
As the gap continued to progressively widen between my self-fulfillment and lifestyle, I sought refuge in escapes from alcohol and parties to meditation, activism, and alternative religions, only to have the little gap widen to what seemed like a valley. I eventually realized it all was merely a pain killer rather than an effective remedy.
By now it was Sept. 11, 2001. As I witnessed the ensuing barrage on Islam, Islamic values and culture, and the infamous declaration of the “new crusade,” I started to notice something called Islam. Up until that point, all I had associated with Islam was women covered in “tents,” wife beaters, harems, and a world of terrorism. As a feminist libertarian, and an activist, I was pursuing a better world for all.
One day I came across a book that is negatively stereotyped in the West – The Noble Qur’an. I was first attracted by the style and approach of the Qur’an, and then intrigued by its outlook on existence, life, creation, and the relationship between Creator and creation. I found the Qur’an to be a very insightful address to heart and soul without the need for an interpreter or pastor.
Eventually I hit a moment of truth: my new-found self-fulfilling activism was nothing more than merely embracing a faith called Islam where I could live in peace as a “functional” Muslim.
I bought a beautiful long gown and head cover resembling the Muslim woman’s dress code and I walked down the same streets and neighborhoods where only days earlier I had walked in my shorts, bikini, or “elegant” Western business attire.
Although the people, the faces, and the shops were all the same, one thing was remarkably distinct – I was not – nor was the peace at being a woman I experienced for the very first time. I felt as if the chains had been broken and I was finally free. I was delighted with the new looks of wonder on people’s faces in place of the looks of a hunter watching his prey I had once sought. Suddenly a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Finally, I was free.
Of all places, I found my Islam at the heart of what some call “the most scandalous place on earth,” which makes it all the more dear and special..
While content with Hijab I became curious about Niqab, seeing an increasing number of Muslim women in it. I asked my Muslim husband, whom I married after I reverted to Islam, whether I should wear Niqab or just settle for the Hijab I was already wearing. My husband simply advised me that he believes Hijab is mandatory in Islam while Niqab is not. At the time, my Hijab consisted of head scarf that covered all my hair except for my face, and a loose long black gown called “Abaya” that covered all my body from neck to toe.
A year-and-a-half passed, and I told my husband I wanted to wear Niqab.. My reason, this time, was that I felt it would be more pleasing to Allah, the Creator, increasing my feeling of peace at being more modest.
He supported my decision and took me to buy an “Isdaal,” a loose black gown that covers from head to toe, and Niqab, which covers all my head and face except for my eyes. Soon enough, news started breaking about politicians, Vatican clergymen, libertarians, and so-called human rights and freedom activists condemning Hijab at times, and Niqab at others as being oppressive to women, an obstacle to social integration, and more recently, as an Egyptian official called it – “a sign of backwardness. “
I find it to be a blatant hypocrisy when Western governments and so-called human rights groups rush to defend woman’s rights when some governments impose a certain dress code on women, yet such “freedom fighters” look the other way when women are being deprived of their rights, work, and education just because they choose to exercise their right to wear Niqab or Hijab..
Today I am still a feminist, but a Muslim feminist, who calls on Muslim women to assume their responsibilities in providing all the support they can for their husbands to be good Muslims. To raise their children as upright Muslims so they may be beacons of light for all humanity once again. To enjoin good – any good – and to forbid evil – any evil. To speak righteousness and to speak up against all ills. To fight for our right to wear Niqab or Hijab and to please our Creator whichever way we chose. But just as importantly to carry our experience with Niqab or Hijab to fellow women who may never have had such a chance.

Most of the women I know wearing Niqab are Western reverts, some of whom are not even married. Others wear Niqab without full support of either family or surroundings. What we all have in common is that it is the personal choice of each and every one of us, which none of us is willing to surrender.
Willingly or unwillingly, women are bombarded with styles of “dressing-in- little-to- nothing” virtually in every means of communication everywhere in the world.
As an ex non-Muslim, I insist on women’s right to equally know about Hijab, its virtues, and the peace and happiness it brings to a woman’s life as it did to mine. Yesterday, the bikini was the symbol of my liberty, when in actuality it only liberated me from my spirituality and true value as a respectable human being.
Today, Niqab is the new symbol of woman’s liberation.
To women who surrender to the ugly stereotype against the Islamic modesty of Hijab, I say: You don’t know what you are missing.
–Sara Bokker
Former actress/Model/ fitness instructor and activist.

8 Responses to Why I Shed Bikini for Niqab

  1. BIKINI says:

    interested thank you for sharing

  2. nicolas says:

    In some islamic countries, a lot of women would like to have the right to wear in the street something else than the niqab.

    As a feminist, would you support the right of those women to wear other dresses?

  3. Well, first of all I am not a feminist per say, but I do believe that Islamic teachings do show us that women have rights, and yes they are not always given as mankind is full of mistakes and weaknesses and bad habits. Putting others down is one of those bad habits. Personally I put niqab in specific conditions but normally just wear the hijab or scarf which leaves the face open. There are certain conditions which are listed in other articles within this site which specifically state what is proper hijab. Many women these days feel that they have the right to modify God’s request to “draw their outer garments around them” and go out in very improper clothing such as tight pants and shirts yet they cover their hair. Isnt this hypocritical? It represents Islam in a poor light and actually makes those women more of an object of attention than otherwise! There are many many choices that women can make in trying to fulfill hijab yet stay within the requirements of loose, long (only hands and face should show and according to one school of thought, the feet but not the ankles), thick enough to not show the color of the skin, and be modest in taste, style and color.

    There is not much use walking down the street looking like a peacock with a scarf on your head when the purpose of hijab is to promote modesty. So yes women have a right to choose how to dress, but within limits.

  4. forida says:

    Sister, mashaAllah , may Allah reward you with good in this life and the hereafter.

    I have just begun wearing the niqab, and will be wearing it to university ( in London) when i embark on my Masters. Please make dua for me that i have the strength to maintain it.

    You’re a great example to the muslima.

  5. Mashallah May Allah bless and reward you for your decision. there is such dignity and beauty in wearing hijab for the sake of Allah. Always remember that we build our home in Heaven with the sacrifices we make in this life.. fi amanillah…

  6. azalai says:

    Dear sarah
    I’m afraid you have not understood anything about this issue.
    Of course you can do as you like but just because you are e reverted muslim, live in an Occidental environment and have an education. You have travelled by yourself, made hundreds of decissions on your own and this is one of them but basically you are free to do it and you choose to do it.
    Think of the thousand of women who are not like you and are forced to wear it against theis wills. Think about how they cannot go by themselves even to buy groceries. If you do it maybe you would not glorify wearing a piece a black cloth on your face.
    Modesty is in the heart not in the clothes. If you need it to be in the clothes it’s a sure sign your heart is not in peace with itself and with the one you believe in. would you please stop talking rubbish and fly from your golden palace and use your power and intelligence to help women instead of reinforcing their chains?
    That would be brilliant and compqasive at the same time

  7. Lyn Ricke says:

    Aloha! Just writing a brief little note in your guestbook to say hello from Castlegar, which is up in Canada. I am impressed with the good quality of writing you have got yourself here, and I will undoubtedly be back to say hey there again later on. Well that is all I have to say! Many thanks and very great to ‘meet’ you :)

  8. Many of us feel that Hijab liberates and frees us from the socialization which makes women into sexual objects for advertizements, movies, videos etc. Many women who wear hijab do have freedom and the restrictions you speak of are cultural not islamic, and well, I am very sorry but I live in a humble home not a golden palace far removed from daily life of women, and actually, I live in Saudi Arabia and interact with many Saudi women. I am also married to a Saudi man and I have to say he treats me with the greatest of respect and kindness Alhamdillah and masha Allah many women here do live active productive lives and are highly educated. Are the points you bring up valid? Yes there are women all over the world who are dominated, restricted, chained in social restrictions,, but this is all over the world, and again, it is cultural.

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