I started wearing the hijab when I was 11 years old. It was the middle of the week, the middle of the school year, and right after 9/11. I know…FUN.
But before anyone goes jumping to conclusions, let me back up a little bit. I was an all-American girl who happened to be Muslim until, suddenly, I was a Muslim girl who should go back to her own country. The problem with that was that this IS my country.
So let's talk about it. What is the reason Muslim women wear the hijab? Simply put, the hijab is worn to show modesty, and Muslim women are not the only ones who don one. Many women around the world wear head coverings for similar reasons; nuns for example. The hijab is not considered to be a form of constraint or oppression. In fact, it is most often considered a form of resistance, especially for women who wear it in the West. As Americans, we are often so passionate about women being able to dress how they want and not be judged that we forget that doesn't always mean short shorts and a tank top. It also means long sleeves and a head scarf, a hoodie and baggy pants, full glam makeup or no makeup at all. As a woman who wears a hijab, I am often asked questions that insinuate I am unhappy or being forced to participate in my own religion, and that is not the case for the vast majority of Muslim women, though there are extremes in every society.
Lets go over some common questions about the hijab.
- Is it hot? Well, sometimes, but you get used to it.
- Can you be forced to wear it? No. Islam does not allow anyone to be forced. Practicing Islam is free will. Though some women may be forced, it has nothing to do with our religious rulings.
- Do you wear it in the shower? Yes, we use Hijabishoulders shampoo. *JK* No.
- When can you take it off? We are only required to wear the hijab in front of men we can marry. We are allowed to take it off in front of females and children. This is our time to shine. Our Alter Ego, if you will.
- Does it have to be black? Nope! We can wear any color we want.
- Can your husband see you without it? Yes. Hence the giant families.
- What happens if you take it off? Family may take it a little hard, but aside from that, nothing. Islam is a religion of free will. It is between the person and God.
- Why don't men wear one? Men have rules of modesty as well. My simple answer is that they just aren't pretty enough to need to wear one.
- Why do some Muslim women cover their faces? Just like any religion, there are degrees of religiosity. Clothing choices range from no hijab at all to fully black, loose dresses with face coverings as well.
- Can you go swimming? Yep! There are modest swimsuits that are similar to scuba suits that we can wear. In the last decade, the modest fashion industry has stepped up it's game and there are tons of options for us.
Muslim women are no different from any other women. We like to dress up, wear makeup, travel, play sports, and everything else the average person likes to do. We have even begun to make our way into the limelight with some famous athletes including Ibtihaj Muhammad, an AMERICAN sabre fencer who won us an Olympic medal; Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, Memphis' own famous collegiate basketball player; Zeina Nassar, who is a famous professional kick boxer; and even Ilhan Omer, a U.S Representative to Congress. Though the hijab is part of our identity, it does not define us. That is the great thing about being American; we are free to wear and practice what we wish. Freedom is the foundation of this country and my hijab is a statement to that every single day.