The way a woman dresses can express what she wants you to see or know of her. A hijab clearly expresses that a woman is Muslim. This is one of the reason that pushed me to wear the hijab without thinking. Though I believe the way a woman dresses is between her and God, alone. I always wanted to share the story of why I started wearing the hijab. Not that I don’t find my story particularly unique but I know many people can probably relate to it.
Going back to when I first converted, I tried wearing the hijab a week but I didn’t get treated well for it. Though I feel I didn’t know enough about it at the time to wear it, that is not the only reaason why I took it off the first time. My family in particular didn’t like me wearing the hijab at all. They also did not know at the time that I was a Muslim and they are/were not big fans of Muslims anyway.
They would say,
“Take that rag off your head. You are German, stop acting like a Muslim.”
Some Muslims who knew me before I converted would even say,
“Why would you wear the hijab? We already know what you look like without the hijab.” “It is not necessary to wear it.”
As if they thought I was wearing it to please them!
I don’t know why I felt obliged to listen to these people but I did it. They pushed me away and scared me to embrace my religion all together. I was always caring about what others would say because let’s be frank, we do not live in a Muslim-Friendly World.
Nonetheless, I told God that wearing the hijab was too big of a commitment for me.
After taking off the hijab then, I still knew I wanted to wear the hijab someday but I didn’t know when. Non-Muslims and Muslims did not only push me away to stop wearing the hijab, they also pushed me away to stop practicing the religion for almost two years.
Before I wore the hijab, I was not visibly Muslim. Only my closest friends knew I was Muslim and that I converted. I felt shy or scared to fully embrace my religion.
It was not until my last two semesters in college I started to bluntly let people know that I was Muslim. The more that people would say bad things about Islam, the more I would speak up about my faith.
I was an international and political science major. So, Islam and Muslims were often topics of discussion. In political science classes, I would hear xenophobic and Islamophobic comments all of the time about my religion.
Those people didn’t even know there was a Muslim among them, until I had to state my religion.
I would have to say “Hey! I am Muslim and I know what you are saying is a lie. Muslims are not terrorists and most are not bad people. Islam is a peaceful religion.” People actually refused to vote for me in one of my political science classes, where I was running for president, once they found out I was Muslim.
So what finally pushed me to wear the hijab?
Before the moment I decided I was ready to put on the hijab. I already knew I wanted to wear hijab. At that point, I knew what it said in the Quran and hadiths. In my last semester of college, especially, I was studying veiling in the Quran, for my senior capstone project, for my international studies major. I knew from my studies of the religion, that I would definitely wear the hijab eventually, I just didn’t know when. Only God knew.
Eventually in my last semester, we reached to talking about the Arab-Israeli conflict, and I remember how I got so upset, I had to publicly admit I was Muslim, again. I had to mention to them that they should tone down the racism and ignorance. That night I was so upset about the situation, I decided I would stop having to publicize my religion. I was sick of having to state my religion.
I wanted people to know I was Muslim before knowing anything else about me.
I, like almost all Muslims, are not the stereotypes people assume we are. I figured I was probably one of the only Muslims they will ever meet, so why not show people my religion. The hijab was the only visible thing that made my religion obvious. The only reason I wasn’t wearing the hijab in the first place was because I was scared about the repercussions. At this point, I was telling everyone I was Muslim anyway, so I had no reason to hold back. So that night, I went home and decided I would wear the hijab the next day. I didn’t do it at the end of the semester. I did it during the week. I know I shocked a few classmates the next class.
Overall, when I wore the hijab in public, full time, I know I shocked many family members and friends, as well.
It was easy for me to hide my religion before to my friends and family, until I started to wear hijab. To others, it’s now obvious the religion I practice. That is part of the reason why I wore it, I wanted to be visibly Muslim.
Until I started wearing hijab at 22-years-old, in my last semester in college of 2015, I didn’t understand oppression either. For a few months after putting it on, I felt discouraged wearing it because of what people would say or the possibility that someone would harm me for wearing it. Regardless, I knew I was wearing it for myself. I was and am wearing it for me. I finally am at the point where I am confident in my religion and with the hijab I wear.
Kaya is a blogger, activist, and writer.