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Not a parent but an older sibling and I’m trying to establish some form of peace in my household, I’ll try to give context here without making the question too long.

My sister is a teenager that’s going through that generic phase of rebellion, but it wasn’t anything worth noting up until recently. My family is the religious kind (Muslim, to be specific) and they started pressuring her about wearing the hijab about a couple of years ago and it only gets more and more intense as time goes on.

Now I believe it’s a choice she should make, not one that my parents make for her, but that isn’t their view of it, they see her rejection of it as disobedience for the sake of pissing them off and for her to be able to do what she wants, but that isn’t the case, I’ve spoken to her multiple times about this and she said that she doesn’t feel she is ready for it yet and that she doesn’t want to wear it now.

My family is really strict, not strict enough for it to make me want to run away with all my siblings, but strict enough to make almost every interaction at home be anxiety-ridden and have some sort of argument come out of it, and it’s especially the case with the girls of the family, this obviously causes a lot of tension with her since she’s going through her phase currently.

Every time they argue with her the whole house piles up against her, they blame her for everything, force her to do things then act surprised she is being reluctant, actively take away electronics/privileges from her as a form of punishment (I personally am very against this punishment tactic as it has proven to only escalate problems, not solve them). This sort of attitude only reinforces negative behavior for her as she is partaking in self-harm, has difficulty controlling her outbursts, and frequently locks herself to cry in the bathroom, that sort of thing.

What can i do to make it easier to coexist with my parents in this status quo? What i try to do is to treat her somewhat like an adult, make her voice feel heard by listening to her takes on things, help her go out with friends (because she isn’t allowed to go out without an older sibling with her), and generally just try to defend her. What can i do in cases where i have to tell her she is wrong without having her think I’m also against her now and have her turn on me?

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  • Good that you support your sister, but in what country are you currently living if i may ask?
    – A.bakker
    Aug 3 at 10:55
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    It’s in the middle east, the UAE to be specific. Child protection logistics here heavily favor the parents’ side so I wouldn’t go there as a solution if that is what you were aiming to suggest. Aug 3 at 12:50
  • it's a shame really, i remember something similar from a girl living in my streets who was an atheist in an Islamic family. They didn't respect her choice and when she was 18 she ran away with her boyfriend...the tighter you grip something the faster it slips away... hope your parents learn that before it's to late.
    – A.bakker
    Aug 3 at 15:32
  • Well, she attempted suicide before and her abuse worsened after my mom found out, the prospect of her taking her own life didn’t even startle them. Aug 3 at 15:34
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    What is her age? because the only thing I can remotely think of at the moment is perhaps refugee status for religious prosecution... think an Iranian girl used that to flee to Canada a while back.
    – A.bakker
    Aug 3 at 15:35
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Explain that you're afraid for her future.

Sure, the UAE government may not have any mandatory headcovering laws. Sure, she might have her doubts about the legitimacy of Islam, and might even wish to convert to another religion. However, Islamic law mandates the death penalty for Islamic apostates, and even if your country's secular laws may have recently removed the criminal penalties for violations of Islamic law, it's possible that they might be reinstated in the future, and you don't want anything bad to happen to her. Your parents don't want anything bad to happen to her.

You want her to grow up and be happy, and even if she has her doubts about the legitimacy of Islam, publicly announcing herself as an apostate by refusing to cover her hair is probably going to make her life a lot more difficult while living in a Muslim country.

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    This isn't a legal issue though, It's a cultural one. I've had multiple conversations with her about the faith as a whole and all that, she doesn't object to it, she objects to how my parents practice it in a very narcissistic and hypocritical way that serves to satisfy their cultural image among their respective families, my siblings and I see through that clearly and don't agree with it AT ALL. This is a lesser-known fact about Muslim women, but from what I've seen it is true to a large extent: most non-hijabi Muslim women WANT to wear the hijab, not all of them feel they (1/2)... Aug 5 at 7:17
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    (2/2) are ready for it just yet. I personally don't see the justification nor the effect behind forcing a woman to wear it because then it doesn't serve its actual purpose which is to strengthen her relationship with her faith, the way my parents are treating it is "you're old and you attract the eyes of other boys now so you should cover up" which is total bullshit. It's the classic patriarchal victim-shaming that they were subjected to and went on to believe in it as if it were fact. So you see, it's a problem of fighting traditionalist ideals, not legal repercussions. Aug 5 at 7:22

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