As I sat down and attempted to write this several times, I realized how personal my hijab (headscarf) story actually is because no amount of words can truly do the experience justice. That being said, I’m just going to dive right in.
Iâ��m first-generation American, a young Muslim woman born into an Indian family. Indians donâ��t think I am Indian enough, Americans donâ��t think I am American enough, and Muslims donâ��t think I am Muslim enough. Any first-generation born knows the struggle of clashing cultures. Keeping up with different languages, foods, holidays, values and expectations can be exhausting.
The hijab is the covering Muslim women are required to wear after reaching puberty. I only started wearing it the day before freshman orientation for college. I come from a pretty religious family and I suppose I was "religious" in the sense that I prayed, basically going through the motions. Other than that, I was (or wanted to be) a regular American high school girl.
When people ask me why I made the decision, I still struggle to find an answer because I don't know exactly why I decided at that particular time myself. It was something I knew I wanted to do since I was young, but kept pushing it off saying maybe after high school, after college, after getting married, after Iâ��m old and showing my hair didnâ��t matter anymore. I was just terrified of how people would treat me.
A question a good friend asked me a few nights before I started college hit home for me, though. â��What if you never even get to that point in your life?â�� she inquired. I sat quiet on the phone, surprised and overwhelmed by her question, letting it sink in. It was this thought of mortality that pushed me to wake up the next morning, put a scarf on my head in the heat of the summer, and walk out my door.
The minute I put it on, I knew more than just a religious transformation had begun. I still struggle with how differently people perceive me. Why were people staring at me instead of the girl with the pink hair and tattoos on every inch of her body? Why was she considered liberated, and I was considered oppressed? I was still the same person under the scarf and it’s insane how much physical appearance changes a person’s view, whether that person be a stranger or a friend. Even people within my own religion treated me different. Some “non-hijabis” started being censored because the “religious hijabi” girl was around while some “hijabis” put me under a microscope like a specimen to be scrutinized.
People fail to realize that being from a certain religion or culture doesn't mean you don't have the same temptations, desires and feelings. There was anger, frustration and sadness, but there was also confidence, liberation and peace. I discovered who I wanted be and how I wanted people to see me. The hijab itself doesn't make me religious or make me do certain things while preventing me from others. To me, it’s a reminder to be a good person and it gives me confidence as a young Muslim-American woman.So, I’ll leave you with some not-so-secret secrets. Yes, I do have hair under this thing and it’s brown. No, I don’t wear it in the shower. I can take it off at home. When it’s hot, I do get hot underneath and while I love wearing it, there are those times I just want to do my hair nicely and let everyone see.