From time to time, a non-Muslim will ask me if I have been wearing the hijab for most of my life. When I answer that I started wearing it at the age of 20 without telling my parents, and that my mother does not wear the hijab, I see their eyes widen in surprise. My response sparks some curiosity in them; it makes them re-evaluate the stereotypes fed to them by the media.
And while it’s great that sharing just a few sentences (hopefully) have a positive impact on their perception of Islam and Muslims, what they hear is just a fragment of my story. If they saw the whole picture, they would know… the entire tale is not that glorious.
Donning the hijab was a deeply personal decision for me, as it is for many women. But there was also a war raging inside of me, because I knew that the decision to put on this piece of fabric was accepting an uphill battle for as long as I wore it.
I feared the discrimination, and even danger, that can come with being visibly Muslim in a Western country. I was afraid that people would take my hijab, which is a display of proud loyalty to God, as a sign of disloyalty to my country. I knew that putting on the hijab in public everywhere I went, regardless of the political situation, was accepting a risk to my safety and dignity. This is especially true today, in the wake of Trump and his supporters.
However, I quickly realized that there’s a certain type of prejudice that many Muslims have towards hijab-wearing women as well, which can be even more hurtful than anything from the outside. Not every Muslim sees a “hijabi” and thinks, “Masha’Allah, she must be trying to please her Lord.” I’ve heard, directed towards me, “Don’t think you’re better than everyone just because you’ve started wearing a hijab.” (Okay, but I’ve never actually thought that…)
I’ve seen people brutally berate a hijab-wearing woman for the way she dresses, acts, and even doesn’t act, yet also defame her if their criticisms push her into taking her scarf off. They expect a girl, wearing the hijab, to represent the epitome of Islamic practice before non-Muslims, when all she’s trying to do is maintain a connection with her creator.
It’s as if people start expecting perfection from a girl as soon as she starts wearing a headscarf, but also assume she must be full of herself, or judging everyone she comes across, if she actually does something right.
You know… Cut us some slack. I realize that some people have had bad experiences due to the criticism of some ‘hijabis’ towards Muslimahs who don’t cover their heads, but it’s unfair to paint us all with the same brush.
There’s no escaping people’s judgments, within the Muslim community or outside of it. I feel that even if people aren’t going to be supportive, it would be nice if they would at least give hijab-wearing women the benefit of the doubt. You know… Cut us some slack. I realize that some people have had bad experiences due to the criticism of some “hijabis” towards Muslimahs who don’t cover their heads, but it’s unfair to paint us all with the same brush. Nobody likes, nor deserves, to be judged based on the actions of other people.
To my “hijabi” sisters: Stay strong, and hang in there. I know this isn’t the easiest path to be on, but insha’Allah (God-willing), your courage will be worth it in the end.
To my sisters who don’t cover their heads: I’m sorry, I do know there are so-called “practicing” Muslims out there who won’t be gentle towards you, just because you’re not wearing a hijab. I’ve been in your shoes, and I know it’s not the best feeling. But I promise, not everyone who wears a headscarf is judging you. I’m certainly not.
This article wasn’t just meant to be a rant to “prove” that women who wear a headscarf have it harder than those who don’t. It’s to share my experiences, which haven’t been the easiest. Everyone’s life is different, but for me, personally, I’ve generally felt a lot more judgment and pressure from people since I started covering my head.
I think there’s definitely room for improvement on both ends. It’s important to remember that this isn’t a competition. We’re all on our own journey to God, and should either be supporting each other, or at least not pulling each other down. We’re in this together.
“The believers are but brothers (and sisters), so make peace and reconciliation between your brothers/sisters. And be mindful of Allah, so that you may receive mercy.” (Qur’an 49:10)