I moved to the United States almost a year ago and it hurts me when I have to explain to my friends back home that I am much more comfortable being veiled here than I am in my own country. It hurts me even more when an American who knows nothing about Hijab or Islam is intrigued about my veil and politely asks me why I wear the veil versus a person back home who immediately judges you based on your appearance. I am not claiming that everyone in America is non judgmental and is understanding but this past year has taught me a lot about what its like to be veiled in the West. I have never felt uncomfortable here, rarely has anyone starred at me and not once has anyone treated me with disrespect.
The first week I arrived we went to the mall and a lady approached me saying how beautiful my hijab was, she asked me where I got it from and wanted to know more about why I wore it. A few weeks later we were installing the cable at our house and just before the cable guy left he shyly asked me about my hijab and asked why I was still wearing it. Throughout our discussion I realized that he thought all Arab women are forced to wear the hijab and that when they come to America they can be ” liberated” and take it off. This sparked a conversation and as he left he apologized for asking so many questions and said ” I just don’t know anything about Islam or Muslim women and I have never spoken to a Muslim woman before, I was honestly afraid to talk to you because I was afraid I would offend you with my questions.” I was so surprised with how little he knew about our culture and our religion and I just couldn’t understand how that was possible. I immediately blamed the media, I also blamed all the so called Muslim’s who had set a bad example about us and I questioned whether I had done a good job in portraying Islam in the 15 minutes that we spoke. You see it’s easy to start a blog and address your community, it is easy to stand in front of a crowd and defend the hijab especially when half of that crowd are people you know but when you are trying to explain the hijab to someone who has seen it for the first time that is when you are truly tested and I felt that on that day I failed that test.
All of this happened a year ago and since then I have been asking my self how do I better represent Islam and the hijab that I wear, what more can I do? Wearing the hijab in the United States has put me out of my comfort zone and has sparked an interest in understanding Islam on a deeper level and for that I am grateful.