Hafsa Mansoor

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Human rights student, Muslim, feminist

When Hafsa Mansoor prepares herself for the day, she grabs the scarf that will coordinate with her outfit and covers her hair. The scarf has become more than an act of modesty for Mansoor it’s her protection against objectification and unachievable beauty standards. She identifies as a feminist and a Muslim, though there is often an idea that Islam and feminism are mutually exclusive. Mansoor makes it a point to show how both contribute to the other’s cause.

AMPERSAND: When did you start wearing the hijab?

Hafsa Mansoor: I started wearing it during Ramadan [an Islamic holiday] before my first year at Webster. I figured Webster would be a good start because nobody knew me and I could start off fresh. Ramadan was also the big religious push for me.

AMP: Why do you continue to wear it?

HM: As I’ve continued to wear it, I’ve really enjoyed it more and more. I’ve found that it’s not only a religious statement for me anymore; it’s also a strong social and political statement. I personally believe that in our culture, a lot of a woman’s worth is determined entirely by the way that she dresses and how sexually attractive people assess her to be. To me, the hijab says I am not going to let anybody do that to me define who I am based entirely on what I look like. What I say, what I do, what I can do, the people that I affect and the people that I impact define me.

AMP: What does it mean to identify as a Muslim feminist?

HM: It’s basically equality for all across the board. Islam and feminism are not mutually exclusive. There’s even a branch devoted to Islamic feminism because it’s about giving women the rights that Islam inherently affords them. Misogynistic practices of honor killings, female infanticide and forcing women to wear hijabs are cultural entities that have distorted Islam. Islam abolished those practices and gave women the right to vote, property and work outside of the home, among other things.

AMP: What are you most passionate about?

HM: I’m most passionate about women’s rights, especially the intersectionality of religion and race. I want to empower women of color in other countries by finding ways for them to help themselves, rather than making it seem like they’re dependent on an entirely different population  to fix their problems.

Story by Lara Hamdan

Photos by Jeannie Liautaud

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