“I don’t always like to make my identity so easy for people.”
Edited by Rebecca Werner
Transcript for Never Felt Pressured to Wear It
When I was younger I started school at a Islamic private school: Annoor Academy, which was in Knoxville, Tennessee. And we learned how to read Quran, we learned how to write Arabic. But at the end of the day, there were a lot of things that we were taught that I don’t think are necessarily true. We were taught in school that if a woman did not wear the hijab, that she was going to go straight to hell. My mom doesn’t wear a headscarf and neither does her mother. So my grandma on my mom’s side doesn’t. And I remember the first day we were told that all of the girls in the room whose moms didn’t wear it started crying. We were screaming-crying. And the teachers didn’t get why we were crying; they all wore it. And I went to my mom about it and, you know, she told me that’s not true so I feel like with this culture it’s very—it’s almost what you make of it because you can read the Quran, like, a thousand times but you’re still going to take the words differently. And you know, it’s something that when we go to the mosque to pray, we do wear it out of respect. And when we’re visiting parts of the world that—where women are expected to wear it, we’ll wear it. But it’s not an everyday thing. And I’ve never felt pressured to wear it.
To wear the hijab would definitely be a—it would be a huge alteration for me in general. When you wear it, you can’t show any skin other than your hands and feet sometimes. So what you’re going to do is always wear a long-sleeve whether that’s an abaya which is, like, the full dress kind of or just making sure, you know, it’s nothing see-through, nothing tight, so no tight jeans or anything like that. You’re going to wear something all the way down your ankles. And then you’re going to make sure none of your hair shows. You’re not trying to be the center of attention, you’re not present in the world for everyone to look at you. You’re living for God. I’ve always kind of felt like it just kind of dulls someone’s shine. But at the same time, who’s to say that you only shine because your hair is showing and you can wear whatever fancy outfit you want? So there’s a lot that I am mixed-up about and maybe that’s why I choose not to is because I don’t have a firm stand on the issue. It’s a very difficult choice to make. But for some women it’s really easy because down their family line all the women have worn it and so they just say, “Well, it’s about time I do.” I definitely look up to everyone that I know that does wear the hijab. It’s just not—you know, I’m not ready to live a life like that, I guess. And I—I can’t always get down to the reason why. I don’t know if it’s just because I really like to do my hair and make it pretty or if I just really enjoy looking not like an Arab woman. But it’s something I’m very conscious of. What do people think of when they see me? And sometimes I like that opaque “I don’t know what she is” because if I were to wear the hijab, they automatically know I’m a—I’m a Muslim woman. I don’t always like to make my identity so easy for people.
I’ve thought about it a lot and I think the only thing I can come down to is it’s not a decision I’m ready to make and it’s also not my personality because I am the kind of person that definitely likes to be out there and active. And while lots of women that wear it are, you know, they’re—they’re out there protesting, they’re out there getting positions in political fields that I never knew were possible, but at the same time, I guess the surroundings that I’m in right now? They don’t make it comfortable for me right now. And it’s not to say I would be threatened at all, you know? There are women on this campus that do wear the hijab and I’m pretty sure they’re not threatened, but it’s one of those things where it would be changing a lot of who I was to do that. And I think I’m at a point in life now where I’m always changing myself for what I feel is better. And I don’t know if that decision would make me feel better about myself currently.
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