The American Muslim woman undoubtedly inhabits a controversial world. With one foot, she stands in the Western culture’s world of autonomy, equality, and empowerment and, with the other foot, she stands in the Eastern culture’s world of tradition, family obligations, and gendered public spheres. American society still focuses their attention on the hijab as an instrument of oppression, but the young Americans who adopt the hijab are challenging American culture’s presupposition. They claim that it represents the best of both their traditions: religious freedom and unique Islamic identity. Americans are challenged to accept the perceived extremism as an expression of religious piety and constitutional right given to all citizens no matter their faith. It will be interesting to see if the children of this present generation continue to wear the hijab or if the symbolic power of the veil will change in a generation.
“Shabana Mir’s study of Muslim undergraduate women illuminates the tricky balancing act of projecting “normalcy” while also differentiating themselves from their dominant majority peers’ gendered behavior (2009). For Muslim communities, youth do not date or display physical affection in public, a norm which is extremely different from the experience of American youth. Mir studied 26 Muslim undergraduate women, raised in the United States, who either attended Georgetown or George Washington University in Washington D.C. Mir discovered that the awkwardness of not having a boyfriend was mediated by half silences which preserved “an appearance of normalcy—the hint that she could have a real boyfriend (which implies a sexual relationship)—rather than say that she would not” (2009:240). Through these half silences, Muslim women often pass as normal by remaining in ambiguity and yet also distance themselves from their majority peers’ behavior by not simulating their behavior (2009). Mir calls this “normal difference.” This projection of normalcy is an attempt to correct American stereotypes (“Muslim women are backward and lack agency”) with their view (“Muslim women are normal, modern, and free”) (Mir 2009:250).”