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Sunday 21 December  
Semra Çelebi, a Turkish-Dutch woman who decided to stop wearing the hijab.
Klaas den Tek's picture
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam, Netherlands

I took off my hijab - and they didn't like it

Published on : 7 January 2011 - 5:44pm | By Klaas den Tek (Photo: RNW)
More about:

"God will punish you if you do not wear a headscarf."

That was just one of many reactions received by Turkish-Dutch woman Semra Çelebi after doing an interview with Radio Netherlands Worldwide, in which she explained why she stopped wearing her headscarf. Her Facebook page 'I took off my Hijab' also led to a huge response.

The idea behind her Facebook page was to start a discussion about whether or not Muslim women should wear headscarves. Reactions came from as far away as Indonesia, England, Malaysia and the United States. There was a huge response - and most responses were negative.

"They have called me a disbeliever and Satan who will burn in hell, because I took off my headscarf. I also received patronising texts from the Qur’ an. There were Muslims who urged me to start wearing my headscarf again. There was no room for an open discussion. I have to block people from my Facebook page every day."

A difficult decision
Semra says the fact that her facebook page currently has over 300 members from all over the world shows that the headscarf discussion is very much alive in the Muslim community. She describes one reaction from an American woman who had converted to Islam and was wondering whether she should wear a headscarf. 

"She was really struggling with it. Her family didn’t want her to start wearing a headscarf. It’s a difficult thing. I told her about my own experience here in the Netherlands. But I cannot decide for someone else whether or not she should wear a headscarf. That is up to the individual."

Semra Çelebi wore a headscarf from the age of ten. In her traditional Turkish family, her father felt it was important she cover her head. But once Semra started studying, wearing a hijab became less important to her. After reading various books on the subject, she decided to stop wearing it.

An individual decision
Semra started her Facebook page 'I took off my Hijab' hoping it would give support to other women in the same position. But she is clear that the page is not meant to urge other Muslim women to follow her example. Semra believes women should make their own decision, but says it is not easy.

"Months before I stopped wearing my hijab, I dreamt about how my parents would react and how the community would react. In the end, my parents did not react that badly. But you are scared of hurting them. That caused a lot of stress and pressure."

In spite of the fierce criticism from abroad Semra Çelebi still keeps up the Facebook page as a platform where people can openly discuss whether or not to wear a headscarf.


Anonymous 24 June 2012 - 2:25am

Reading this has given me reassurance as I too started to wear a hijab from a young age
and thought that no one else was going through what I was feeling. I wore it when I was 8
due to personal choice but the wearing of a hijab has frustrated me lately. I feel strange and think where
this idea had come from and I have had support from my parents and friends. Many of my friends have
told me not to worry about what other people will say and that they will talk but after a while they'll stop
Inshallah I will receive guidance from God in my decision and become a better Muslim and maintain
my modesty :)

Douglass Brown, Ph.D. 14 December 2011 - 3:14am / USA

Ms. Celebi is correct. The Quran is very explicit and clear about what areas of the body that men and women should cover. In the Quran, Hijab refers to a barrier that separates private quarters of women and the home from outside. [A portion of Quran 33:53] O you who believe, do not enter the prophet's homes unless you are given permission to eat, nor shall you force such an invitation in any manner. If you are invited, you may enter... If you have to ask his wives for something, ask them from behind a barrier(hijab)... Both men and women wore head covers in the Arab desert. Mandatory head covering for women in Islam is an innovation that became a required edict. It is an example of how a practice easily becomes a "required social reality" in the eyes of a majority.

Paulus 1 July 2011 - 1:02pm / Netherlands

For some people religion is something that helps to get confidence. But not all rules are necessary to be a good moslim(a), jew or christian.
It's brave to admit that thinking for itself is an important aspect of life.
The day will come that all people will respect each others lifestyle, including their religion. Without the need to convince others.

K khan 29 January 2011 - 4:04am / Pakistan

Islam is not as Strict as Our Current Muslim communities have restricted the Certain Actions of Muslim brothers/sisters.
Its only lack of knowledge In Islam to choose the right way, and Decide whats right for you.
Bleaving In One ALLAH, with pure faith and following SUNNAH Should be our First Motive.
Headscarf is considered as Respect in community here, but fallowed less Even in Muslim countries.
I'll personally support Freedom as Islam gives Freedom for living As long as you fallow the Teachings.

user avatar
knirb 30 January 2011 - 7:27am

There is no freedom or "deciding what's right for you" when you add "As long as you follow the Teachings".
You cannot freely choose to be a Muslim (or any other religion) unless you have complete freedom NOT to be a Muslim (or any other religion).

presley 9 January 2011 - 6:04pm

Wow...Semra actually thought about this decision and exercised her that possible without repercusions from some crazy Muslim that will surely see her independence as a need for fatwa against her :-(
Right on Semra but watch your back.

A guy 8 January 2011 - 12:05pm / UAE

It's her decision and I respect that. At least she read up on the subject instead of blindly following the herd.

Respect, from a Muslim man.

Anonymous 8 January 2011 - 2:38am

I think there is no big deal here.. obviously she wore the headscarf for all the wrong reasons.. like being told by her father instead of her own faith. And her father is at fault too, as he only told her to do something without properly educate his daughter about the reasons behind it.
People the world over usually wear headscarf outof their faith.. it is a natural step in one's religious maturity.. if they get the proper education on the topics. It is seldom done under pressure, so there is not much courage involved in here, I think. It is not as if she is being hunted by her father because of it. That kind of myth is seldom correlated with facts.

user avatar
knirb 11 January 2011 - 4:46am

You must be Lunacy’s little friend, Denial. Anyone who openly challenges fundamentalist Islamic notions is at risk for harm by violent crackpots. Here is a little something to get yourself educated.

Kenan 8 January 2011 - 2:07am / The Netherlands

I think Semra is a courageaus woman who deserves to be supported in explaining her idea of taking of her headscarf
She has a lots of guts, whch is very admirable. She does not harm anybody. She just follows her "Call to freedom". Nothing is wrong about that!!!!! I wish her lots of succes

Kind Regards, Kenan, Holland

user avatar
knirb 8 January 2011 - 1:37am

It is heartwarming to see a face of Islam that is not exhibiting lunacy. Semra’s simple act of courage and decency gives us all a hope for a better world. Rosa Parks would surely be proud of her.

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