When I decided to wear the hijab, my first concern was ‘how will I be perceived?’ I knew my choice to wear the hijab would be seen as backward or a hyper-charged symbol for radical Islam. I immediately began to question my decision to wear the hijab.
While visiting my family in Doha, Qatar in 2014, I wore the hijab as a ‘test drive’ to get a feel of what it was like wearing it in public. Of course wearing the hijab in a Muslim country versus wearing it in a non-Muslim one is no comparison- but it helped ease the hijab into my everyday life. 2014 was also the year I embarked on the lesser pilgrimage with my parents called Umrah in Saudi Arabia. I knew as soon as I saw the Kaaba my doubts about wearing the hijab were trivial. After all, wearing the hijab was an affirmation of my faith.
So what made me doubt myself?
The wave of anti-immigrant and Islamophobic sentiments post 9/11 created a hostile environment for many Muslims. It’s not uncommon to see headlines with “attacks on Muslim women in grocery stores” or while picking up their children from school and the most recent being set on fire while shopping. The hijab symbolizes the xenophobic fears of an Islamic takeover.
Because there is no middle ground, wearing the hijab has deeply divided many young Muslim women. As they have to weigh the costs of being seen as oppressed or an Islamic extremist by society. Their bodies are politicized. It’s damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
By wearing the hijab, I didn’t want to be the spokesperson for all Muslims- apologizing for every misrepresentation of Islam broadcasted on television. I wanted to wear the hijab as an act of worship without it disrupted my ordinary life.
However, as Muslim women, we need to take back the narrative and demystify the hijab. By sharing our collective experiences and fears, we create meaningful dialogue and form solidarity.
I’ve been wearing the hijab for two years now and proud. What’s your hijab story?