Today was a very volatile day for me - up and then down again! I had two interviews this morning - one with Matthew Gudgin at BBC Radio Norfolk and one with The Nihal Show for BBC Asian Network. They both went incredibly well and I am happy with everything I said - and I stand by it 100%. My dear friend Nazma Khan and my new friend Esther Dale appeared with me on The Nihal Show and they both made some amazing points. World Hijab Day has been an immense success and I'm proud of the success that it's had. Despite all the haters and bigots, we stand strong and united.
I was overwhelmed to come home and find that I have many Tweets and Facebook messages of support and joy at my decision to convert to Islam, and despite the fact that I am staying myself, I think people have realised that it's not about the clothes you wear or the man you marry - it's about faith and the depth of faith. This is not to disrespect my Muslim brothers and sisters who follow Islam strictly - anybody can practice as they wish. It is just that I am going to live my life as I see fit, and that is between me and Allah.
I also spoke to the Deputy Leader of Norwich City Council, a man called Alan Walker, and he said that he is in favour of initiatives such as World Hijab Day - something that truly lifted my spirits! He is a truly lovely man and he was an absolute pleasure to talk to. At some point I would love to interview him and ask him some more questions about his views on Islam, the hijab etc but that can wait for a while!
This evening I took part in the BBC's World Have Your Say programme, along with Nazma Khan and several other women ... and this is where the anger started. The programme progressed wonderfully until an Iranian woman, whose opinion I respect completely, started arguing that Islam and the wearing of the hijab was forced upon women everywhere because she had had it forced upon her. Whilst I condemn the suppression of women and forcing women to wear or do anything, I refute the claim that women everywhere are suppressed and forced to wear it. As you know, I chose to wear the hijab and I know of many women who do not wear the hijab and even more women who chose to wear it.
Let me just clear this up once and for all. Islam is a religion that transcends country, clothing, hairstyle, race, background .... it is not something that you can pin down to one specific cause. It might be used as a tool of oppression in some countries, but by learning about Islam and trying to understand it (and by Muslims trying to understand other faiths too) we can promote equality and toleration and then perhaps other countries will come to realise that leniency is better than strictness and that perhaps they should leave it up to the individual to decide.
I have also had my profile placed on the Ban Islam page on Facebook, so this a request to all my Facebook friends and Booksie friends: please look them up on Facebook and report them. It might not be much, but it's something. My life is what it is and I am not ashamed of anything that I have said or done. It was all what Allah (swt) meant to happen and only He can decide if I am right or wrong.
If you want to hear my interviews or see how far my story has gone, please visit this page: https://www.facebook.com/notes/jess-rhodes/my-hijab-and-i-the-media/400097060084531 - it means a lot to hear your support. Even if people are rude and horrible to me, your support and the love I feel from Allah means that it doesn't affect me.
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