Becoming me

Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

The transition between childhood and adulthood is not denoted by a fine line, but sometimes there is a definitive moment that rearranges everything that has gone before and shapes everything that comes after. For me, that moment was the first day of my freshman year in high school, on September 6th, 2011, when I started wearing the hijab.

A few months earlier, I was asked a hilarious but thought-provoking question. One of my friends inquired, “Hey Simal, since you’re Muslim, why don’t you wear the kabob on your head?” Of course, I couldn’t help but burst out laughing: the hijab of course, not the kabob. I really didn’t have a definite answer, but I knew that there was no concrete reason why I didn’t wear it. This little conversation, which lasted less than a minute, is what sparked my interest in the hijab. Of course, there were many other factors, but this one really hit me because no one had ever made me take such a hard second look at myself. It was then that I began to research the hijab and its place in Islam. What I found reached beyond my expectations. I discovered the true, spiritual beauty of hijab in such a short period of time that the garment became easy to fall in love with. I developed a greater understanding of the fact that hijab empowers women and in no way oppresses them. Women are exalted in Islam: we are not thrown under the authority of our seemingly powerful male counterparts, as media might portray us. Hijab isn’t just what you’re wearing; it’s also the way you act and speak to others. Hijab has the ability to make all of us, within Islam and perhaps outside, put aside our physical appearances and focus more on personality, listen to opinions and thoughts, and connect in a polite manner. I’ve learned that hijab is a form of modesty. Not only does hijab make you dress without showiness, but it also shapes your character so that you become modest in the way you speak and interact with others.

The first few times I stepped out into the world as a hijabi, people stared, as expected. But I was much too consumed by my own happiness, as I should be, to think about all the eyes on me, about the whispers of confusion and judgment. I understood at firsthand that, if you do anything out of the “ordinary,” you will be stared at and pondered upon, yet this lesson in how I was perceived only made me persevere. Somehow, with my hijab I did not have a single worry about how other people viewed me. The hijab made me stronger — stronger in my beliefs, and stronger in the way I act and portray myself. Of course, sometimes I feel as if I am a walking billboard for Islam. Yet I try to portray my religion through my character, and I try through my own example to decrease the Islamophobia that was inflamed after 9/11. I came to know that I have the bravery to believe in something, even if I was the only one who believed it in my community.

Today, hijab is an integral part of my life. It’s a part of my personality, my character — and it adds a whole new dimension to my wardrobe! Although I chose to wear the hijab on my own, after constructing my own thoughts and ideas about it, the support and encouragement I received from my family and my peers motivated me to pursue this side of Islam throughout high school — and everywhere hijab and I are headed next.

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