On Wearing a Hijab for the First Time: They Never Really Did See Me

Photo by Franco Folini (CC BY-SA 2.0)

At The Weeklings, Khirad Siddiqui reflects on wearing a hijab at age 13, as a young woman in Plano, Texas, seven years ago. She discovered “affirmation and reassurance” in the writings of Malcolm X, an American Muslim who also felt that his “peers failed to understand him as a complete and multifaceted human being.”

I can remember every moment of the day I first started wearing hijab. I can remember waking up early on my thirteenth birthday because I couldn’t contain the excitement I felt. I can remember the exact shade of the pink fabric, and the way it felt tighter than I had expected. I can remember my father’s smile, and the length of my mother’s hug. I can remember the slow morning drive through my hometown in Texas, and the way my parents asked me one last time before they dropped me off if I was sure this was what I wanted. I can remember the conviction of my answer. And, of course, I can also remember the fear. I can remember too the way my teachers would avoid eye contact with me, and I can remember how tentative my friends were when they asked if my parents had forced me into it, as if they were suddenly scared for me, or of me, or both. I can also remember how slowly, through stilted conversations and glares from passersby, I felt the world constrict around me. I can also remember how suddenly everything felt sharper: people’s voices, their smiles, and their comments. Nothing was friendly anymore. That day shaped me, and I remember all of it.

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