Monthly Archives January 2014

“…these two boys were making terrorist jokes about me. They said something like, “she might blow up on you, man…” Everyone heard; I was humiliated and wanted to stop wearing hijab. In gym class, a girl had sexually harassed me. She would say explicit things, grab my face and ask me why I was Muslim. She told me I should get naked. I had to crawl under a stall away from the shower where she pushed me in. Nobody bothered to help; finally I told some adults who took action.”

Assalamualaikum; I have been a revert for five months. I grew up in Mexico believing in the trinity, although I always questioned it. The church wasn’t working for me so I went to my high school’s library and found the Quran. It had everything I was searching for and more. My family thought it was a phase. I would practice Islam very late at night and sneak out the house with hijab. Finally, I took shahadah when I was just 17; I felt excited and nervous at the same time. I wore hijab openly and even prayed at the beach without a care. People wouldn’t look me in the eye, even cashiers. My family occasionally makes Arab jokes, and at school I was harassed. My school has 3000 people with only five hijabis; I stand out since I am the only Mexican Muslim. Once, when I was minding my own business in the halls,

these two boys were making terrorist jokes about me. They said something like, “she might blow up on you, man…” Everyone heard; I was humiliated and wanted to stop wearing hijab. In gym class, a girl had sexually harassed me. She would say explicit things, grab my face and ask me why I was Muslim. She told me I should get naked. I had to crawl under a stall away from the shower where she pushed me in. Nobody bothered to help; finally I told some adults who took action.

Apart from that, there were plus points to wearing the hijab. In hijab, men let me walk by without honking horns at me. I feel beautiful and so empowered.

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“…asked me if I wanted to take my coat off. It was cold in the room so I said I would keep it on. She looked concerned and insisted that it wouldn’t matter if I took my coat off. I reassured her that I would be okay. She asked if I was worried about showing my skin, made reference to my hijab and asked if I came with my husband. I felt a little angry and upset at her assuming that I couldn’t make my own decisions. It’s demeaning to be patronized and molly-coddled like a 4 year old child. “

At school I had a couple of classmates who were male Muslims. One thing I noticed was that on wearing the headscarf, my contact with them almost ceased to exist. When we did happen to converse, they seemed very cautious and were more overtly respectful. I thought of my headscarf acting as if it were a physical barrier for those who understood what it symbolized.

It was comforting for me to not have to initiate awkward conversation by ‘telling off’ male friends when they made unwanted advances or comments. Instead, it felt like my headscarf did the talking for me by implicitly suggesting ‘I do not flirt’ or ‘I do not date’. In general, although male attention was not eliminated completely, it was reduced greatly.

I do not think my circle of friends changed much after wearing a headscarf. Because my old non-Muslim female friends were familiar with my personality, we all still got along with each other and were very close.

One thing that I realized after high school was that wearing a headscarf will subject you to a lot of assumptions. Of course, I already knew this, but it was only after I wore a headscarf that I felt the heavy weight of what this actually means. Part of my decision to wear a headscarf was to escape the burden of conforming to societal pressures of what a woman ‘should’ look like. But my extended family and even my sister would call me old-fashioned, a ‘grandma’or backwards for not being as trendy or fashionable as my cousins or other girls my age, and for being uninterested in fashion.

Another belief I think people hold of me after wearing a headscarf is that I am quiet, vulnerable, weak, stupid or otherwise simple-minded. I had an optician’s appointment where the woman, caucasian and in her mid 50’s, asked me if I wanted to take my coat off. It was cold in the room so I said I would keep it on. She looked concerned and insisted that it wouldn’t matter if I took my coat off. I reassured her that I would be okay. She asked if I was worried about showing my skin, made reference to my hijab and asked if I came with my husband. I felt a little angry and upset at her assuming that I couldn’t make my own decisions. It’s demeaning to be patronized and molly-coddled like a 4 year old child.

When people hold such strong assumptions about you, it strips you of your individuality. Sometimes I feel like I have involuntarily molded myself into what others have expected from me. At times, I do feel like going out without a hijab, because I think I will be treated better and feel more confident if my religious background or ethnicity remains ambiguous.

Despite this, the advantages of wearing a headscarf outweigh the drawbacks in my opinion, which is why I have decided to keep it on.

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“One time flying home from school, I decided why not wear my hijab? As a white woman, I had flown many times before with no problems. However, I knew right away that they were treating me differently. TSA gave me a full body pat down (a woman officer did the pat down), and had to run tests on my laptop.”

As a college student and revert in America, I had not yet found the strength to wear Hijab full time. However, whenever I went into town where I would not see people I knew, I would wear my hijab to practice and get used to it. The Muslim community in my town is fairly large, so seeing a woman in hijab was not really that unordinary. Nobody ever gave me a hard time for wearing it.

One time flying home from school, I decided why not wear my hijab? As a white woman, I had flown many times before with no problems. However, I knew right away that they were treating me differently. TSA gave me a full body pat down (a woman officer did the pat down), and had to run tests on my laptop.

On the plane, I usually chat with my seat mates, but the man next to me tried very hard not to make eye contact with me and was very short with me when I asked him in a friendly manner how he was doing and where he was going. A child sitting across the isle from me even looked scared of me when I tried to smile at him. Children usually love me, and I tend to get along with them very well, so this was extremely unusual.

I wanted to tell these people: I am an American, just like you! Just because I choose to wear a scarf on my head doesn’t make me a terrorist.

Overall, a very eye opening Hijab experience. I hope the American people can see as a whole how beautiful and peaceful the religion of Islam truly is. Insha’ALLAH (God-Willing) I will be able to wear Hijab full time one day soon.

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