About two months ago I made one of the biggest decisions of my life when I chose to start wearing the hijab (head scarf). I wear it as a symbol of who I am and what I believe, even if it means standing out from the crowd.
I made this decision knowing fully that I live in a society that largely fails to understand the concept of hijab and its meaning to the millions of Muslim women who observe it.
For too long, people have been told that Islam encourages and oppresses upon women and hijab is portrayed as a form of this oppression. I would like this chance to explain what the hijab means to me and those who choose to wear it.
While it is true that the action of force, which is not in line with Islamic teachings, is used in particular communities regarding hijab, it is becoming more common for Muslim women in the West to make this decision.
There are many purposes to the hijab – the main one being modesty. The Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus, is always depicted in Christianity with a scarf over her head; portraying her as a modest, honorable, humble and pious woman.
So then, why is a Muslim woman who so closely resembles the Virgin Mary, perceived to be oppressed? Mary, also a strong female figure in Islam, was merely upholding her obligations to her religion put forth by God. It is the strong-willed Muslim woman who follows in Mary’s footsteps centuries later.
The hijab is invaluable to the Muslim woman. A Muslim woman once said, “What do we do with the things that we value most? We protect them.”
The hijab is what protects the things most valuable to me. With this protection comes freedom. Free to be oneself, free of any societal pressure to be accepted and noticed physically. I cannot stress enough the precious feeling of this freedom, for it can only be experienced in the shoes of the Muslim woman.
It is this great country that encourages and fosters the idea of freedom of religion and expression. The cars we drive, the books we read, the friends we hang out with, and the clothes we wear are all expressions of who we are.
For me, it is my hijab that expresses who I am. I am a Muslim-American, a woman who will not settle to be judged solely on her skin exposure, and a woman who deserves respect nonetheless.
Sahar Babak is a senior business administration major. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.