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If you asked me a year ago how I felt about my hijab, I would honestly reply that I was ashamed. I would tell you that I wore it for my parents, and if it was up to me I would take it off in a heartbeat. I would tell you that I felt ugly wearing it, that I couldn’t wait to be far away from home so I could take it off. I wanted to let my long, thick, black hair out. I wanted it to dance in the wind, blow around wildly in different directions. I wanted it to be free… I wanted to be free.
I tried so hard to fit in. Any time I would talk about pictures, from prom or any other event, I always made sure to mention the fact that I left my hair out. I wanted to be beautiful like every other girl. I wanted people to compliment my hair. Who wouldn’t? I wanted guys to see me. Even if they didn’t notice the beauty I had on the inside, they would at least be able to see my physical beauty. I wanted to be noticed. I guess I just wanted to be like everyone else.
I would wake up every morning and, as I pinned the last strand of the cloth that sat on my head into place, I would groan, thinking of how much I wanted to be different from the way I was – or rather, the same as everyone else. Now that I think back to it, I realise that it was honestly pathetic. Then, I felt as though nothing would be better than to be like everyone else, but now that I look back, it hurts to see how stupid I was. Maybe it was because everyone I talked to about my hijab thought it was a stupid concept. Hair was meant to be left free. People would ask, “Who’s attracted to hair? I mean, come on, why cover it? It’s just hair.” They’d constantly say that covering my hair was oppressing me and that I should just take my hijab off. I would quietly put my head down in agreement, ashamed of my religion.
It was sometime over the summer of my junior year, or maybe even the beginning of my senior year, that it hit me. Maybe I didn’t have to be like everyone else. What if I was meant to be different? I didn’t need to show my body to be beautiful. I could be beautiful with my brains instead. I could use my intellect to show people that I truly was an amazing girl – that I truly am an amazing girl.
Wearing a hijab is not a sign of oppression. Rather, I see it as a sign of freedom. Freedom to do anything I want, freedom to believe in anything I want. I realized that while wearing the hijab I was appreciated for my opinion rather than my hair or my body. I was appreciated for who I was rather than how I looked. Real hijab isn’t just about throwing a piece of cloth on your head, it’s about covering your body with loose clothing in order to concentrate on changing who you are within. True hijab comes from inside, just as true modesty comes from within, and this is the reason why the hijab is worn.
With my hijab on, there is nothing that I cannot achieve. I am determined to show society that as a Muslim girl, I am just like everyone else. Yes, I can speak English. No, I don’t shower with my hijab on. Yes, I do have ears – and I even have hair! No, my hijab doesn’t get too hot in the summer, and no, it doesn’t magically stay in place. I use a safety pin, which means that I end up poking myself in the head while I’m trying to pin in my hijab almost every day. Yes, I am allowed to wear any color I want.
Today, I can honestly hold my head up proudly and say that I am proud to wear my hijab. I can be a normal girl even with my hijab because to me, it isn’t just a piece of cloth that my parents have forced me to wear any more. To me, my hijab is my identity.
Bisma Zaman is an American born Muslim. She is 18 years old and is in her freshman year of college. She attends NJCU in Jersey City NJ and is pursuing a bachelors degree in Biology. Bisma is the 2nd of 4 children and likes to write and read in her free time.