Fulbright Scholar Nita Novianti wore a black hijab, like other women in attendance, during her presentation at the Islam and Women’s Rights event Tuesday night in the LBJ Student Center.
Novianti’s presentation, “Veiling and Women’s Rights in Islam: Look at Me, Not My Veil,” sponsored by the Texas State Muslim Student Association, was not met without some mild hostility.
A short unexpected debate occurred during her presentation. It was started by an audience member who wanted to know how a covered woman was beautiful and if she was speaking only on behalf of women in the Middle East.
During Novianti’s presentation, she stressed the importance of a woman’s right to choose to wear a hijab or burqa.
The Muslim Student Association strived to promote open dialogue about the act of veiling at their annual “Hijab for a Day” event Monday and Tuesday, where members gave students the garment.
As a youth in Garut, Indonesia, Novianti observed the veiling of her older sister, even though her mother did not wear a veil at the time.
At 13 years old, she requested that her mother buy her more modest uniforms for school, as she was accustomed to wearing shorts, to begin practicing the “art of veiling.”
Novianti said her mother’s only concern was the time commitment veiling entailed.
She was regularly late to school prior to wearing a veil, but wanted to prove her commitment to the act to her mother.
Novianti said she was not late to school for 10 days. However, she realized after being late on the eleventh day that it was not the veil's but her own fault.
She has been wearing a veil for more than a decade and continued the practice after moving to San Marcos in 2010.
Novianti said coming from a country where almost 70 percent of women wear a veil, she did not expect the response she received as a minority in the U.S.
“It really changed the way I saw myself as a Muslim,” she said.
Saira Moid, Texas State Muslim Student Association president, said she wears a hijab because she strongly believes in her religion.
Moid said the hijab is about modesty for both men and women. She said people are supposed to wear loose clothing and keep their hair covered to present themselves as Muslim and religious.
Novianti said this practice is not particular to Islam. She said Christianity and Judaism write about similar practices in their holy texts, such as the unveiling of the bride and a nun’s habit.
Sheikh Umer, who teaches at the Austin Peace Academy, elaborated on veiling practices and Islamic women’s rights according to the Quran.
Umer detailed the history of the Islamic Prophet who “gave women the sense of independence” 1400 years ago.
He attributed the advent of Islam in the seventh century to the first feminist movement.
“Women, like the flowers of spring, have adorned our lives…” Umer, who has young daughters, quoted from an Islamic text.