Very few things in my life have been truly constant. My hijab, what seems like simply a cloth on my head, has been my identity for over a decade. It has made me who I am, it has protected me in more ways than one, and it is a target for bigots and Islamophobes. Stripping me of my hijab is stripping me of my identity.
The truth remains that hijab is subjective. Experiences amongst all women will differ and I can’t speak for others as much as I can speak for myself. I wore my hijab at nine years old, and it was my decision. While I didn’t completely understand the magnitude of my decision at the time, my hijab made me feel special and pretty, so I kept with it. Eventually, my understanding of hijab grew, and with it, came true love.
I remember the first time I went to school wearing the hijab. The people I was close to would tell me they missed my hair, or that I was prettier without my hijab. It was in that moment that I realized the beauty standard involved beautiful hair that I couldn’t show, and so I grew trying to overcompensate for my lack of hair-showing by being more extroverted or fashionable. It instilled this desire to prove that I am just as special as everyone else. Every single day that passes I challenge preconceived bigoted notions of Muslim Hijabi women. My existence and my contribution to society is a fight in itself.
I am a flag-bearer of Islam. My hijab has impacted my choice in friends, jobs, clothing, and so much more. In some ways, I’ve been able to weed out Islamophobes, anywhere from friendships to employers. As I got older, people became far kinder and more tolerant, but my essential years were filled with hesitation from others. So, while I may have to handle the responsibility of being a representative of Islam in the eyes of society, I will do everything I can to show that Muslim women are capable and intelligent.
It isn’t easy, but I don’t think the perfect Muslim woman is perfect in the literal sense. I think the perfect person, in its essence, Muslim or not, is simply one who tries their best, and that will look different depending on a variety of factors.
I attribute much of my identity to my hijab because I’m so aware of its impact on my personality, mannerisms, and impression on others. There are so many eyes on you, waiting for you to mess up, and while I think true hijab is in the heart and is truly concerned with your kindness and modesty in both your actions and words, society unfortunately has a say in how you should behave.
I think my hijab is the reason I pay attention to how I dress a little more. It’s the reason I’m a little friendlier and more extroverted. My hijab is the reason I speak as kindly as I do. It fuelled my desire to break the stereotypes associated with hijab.
There are days where I crave a simpler life—one where I don’t stand out. A head of hair in the crowd of thousands like me—completely unnoticed. I sometimes wonder what it would be like to just leave the house as is, but then I wouldn’t be me. One of my greatest constants will be gone.
With every tug to fix my scarf, or the slippery chiffon touching my face reminding me of its presence. My hijab is not “perfect.” I am far from “perfection,” but I’m still trying. Muslim women face adversity on a daily basis. The ones who have chosen to wear their scarves, and the ones who haven’t, are strong in more ways than one. They are powerful, innovative, expressive, intelligent, kind, well-traveled, and independent. My narrative is my own, and my hijab does not change that.
Changing Leaves Columnist (Volume 49); Managing Editor (May–November, Volume 49) — Aia is a fourth-year student studying Psychology and completing a double minor in French and Philosophy. She became a Staff Writer for The Medium in the 2021-2022 publishing year and was determined the team couldn’t get rid of her so soon. In her spare time, she can be found café hopping in the hopes to find the best iced chai in the GTA, writing her weirdly complex thoughts down in her notes app, or taking a million pictures a day of her friends. Aia hopes that students find The Medium and feel the sense of belonging she has felt. You can connect with Aia on Linkedin.