I still remember that rainy fall afternoon when I walked out with my hijab (headscarf) for the first time. Covering up was one of the biggest and most important decisions of my life. It was extremely LIBERATING for me. I had been so worried about all the what-ifs; what if I missed the “freedom” of not wearing it, what if I got attacked because of it, what if it makes it more difficult for me to get married, what if I can’t get a job, what if people assume I’m ignorant, or a terrorist, or, or, or….
Before deciding to wear my hijab, I was a typical girl. I loved dressing a certain way and calling attention to myself. As I grew stronger in my faith I felt troubled by the joy I found in flaunting my beauty. I took small steps and started to dress more modestly. I wanted to make the decision on my own and to do it solely based on my faith in God. When I reached that, I intended to wear it the next time I went out. However, I stayed home for 3 days, not sure how to emerge with it. Until that rainy afternoon when my mother asked me to go out with her, I knew that was my chance. I covered my hair with very shaky hands, I took a deep breath and stepped outside. The moment I put it on and stepped outside, I felt free from all those worries that had been holding me back. With that first step, the rain washed away all of my fears and anxieties. Joy filled my heart.
I have been wearing the hijab for almost 15 years now and my experience has mainly been a positive one. There has been the occasional shout out from a car passing by; “terrorist!”. As well as the occasional assumption that I am foreign and can’t speak English. Overall, I am thrilled with my decision.
What I Want You to Know:
- I’m not a terrorist: Committing a terrorizing act in the name of any faith is a red flag for what that individual believes and not a reason to condemn the faith they claim.
- Yes, I do get hot in it sometimes: The body gets accustomed to wearing a head cover and long sleeves in the summer, but when it’s 90 degrees outside I think it’s safe to say that everyone is hot!
- No, I wasn’t forced: As mentioned above, taking a step on my personal spiritual journey led me to wear the hijab.
- I speak English fluently: A hijab is just a veil on the head that any woman could choose to wear to obey the rules of her faith. Some nuns wear it too! It doesn’t make her old-fashioned, ignorant, or uneducated.
- I’m not oppressed: My hijab hasn’t stopped me from enjoying life. From swimming in my burqini (modest swimsuit), to getting my hair done, to zooming around an escape room with my buddies, the possibilities are endless!
- No, I don’t have to wear it while I sleep or shower: I don’t have to wear it in front of my husband, brother, son, or grandfather either. The hijab is only required in front of any pubescent or adult male a woman could marry one day.
- I strive to be perfect, but I’m not: I too have bad days. The religious symbol on my head doesn’t mean I am perfect. I could be lazy and not return the shopping cart to its appropriate spot, or grumpy and not smile back, or exhausted and snap at my child at the checkout line.
My Challenge to You (Pick one or both!):
- Wear it for a day, or even an hour to get an idea of how I feel. If you do manage to do it please share your experience!
- Go up to a woman wearing the headscarf and strike a friendly conversation. Compliment her on the color or pattern of her scarf, I know that always brightens my day.
What is a Hijab, Khimar, Burqa, and Niqab?
They all essentially mean the same thing: covering up. The hijab is a head covering. The khimar is a large veil that comes down to the waste. The burqa is a large cover that goes from head to toe and is worn in certain countries. The niqab is a face veil. No matter the word to describe it, it is a daily reminder of modesty, wearing long modest clothing that conceals its beauty and being modest in behavior.