By Nadeen Hassan

Since the age of four, I wore a headscarf during weekdays. I attended an all-Muslim school in Park Slope, Brooklyn called Al-Madinah. A hijab was part of the uniform for girls from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade at our small school.

But the weekends were different. On Saturdays and Sundays, I would stand in front of the mirror to brush my curls and apply lotion to make sure my hair would not frizz. When I stepped out of the house, I could feel the cool air flowing through my scalp. Honestly, during those weekends without the headscarf, I felt the most confidence. I was obsessed with showing my hair. Not only did I feel pretty, but I also felt the same as everyone else. Even though my hijab did not make me feel bad about myself, I was extremely happy to take off the black abaya and white hijab. I felt the hijab prevented me from expressing myself through outfits. It made me feel like I did not have a style. I never hated the hijab, but the younger me never wanted to wear it outside of school.      

But something changed on August 18, 2015: I chose to commit to wearing the hijab all the time, even weekends. I was getting ready to go to my best friend’s birthday lunch. I was wearing a white shirt, blue jeans and a green necklace. I brushed my hair, walked to my bedroom drawers filled with hijabs, and picked out a green and beige one to match my outfit. I wrapped it around my head and knew it was the right time. I understood this was a commitment.

I was nervous because I did not know how my family or friends were going to react. My parents always assumed my sisters and I would eventually commit to wearing the hijab, but they never pushed it. Even though a Muslim woman needs to commit to the hijab when she reaches puberty, my parents didn’t want to force the hijab on us. They witnessed many young Muslim women hiding behind their parent’s backs because they were forced to wear the hijab. With us, they wanted to have a relationship with trust.

My sister walked into the bedroom and witnessed me wrapping the headscarf around my head and congratulated me. I knocked on my parents’ bedroom door and told them that I had decided to wear the hijab. My mother was extremely proud of me. My father, half-asleep, was also proud, though not as expressive. I walked outside the house with it on and I felt proud of myself. I was not worried about how society would represent me or treat me. I felt that I was the same person, except more expressive because now, everyone knew I was a Muslim. The hijab added to my confidence rather than stripping it away.

The truth is, my love and promise to God guided my decision to wear the hijab. I felt it was a missing piece of my identity, a reflection of my modest beliefs. The hijab describes who I am and what I believe in. It shows a sense of strength because I wear it despite the current political situation; it is a sign of strength and bravery.  My hijab also allows me to connect with people who share the same values. Wearing it teaches others about myself. It shows other people that they can do whatever they want for themselves. Perhaps most of all, my hijab demonstrates that I will not value a degrading opinion such as “Muslims are ‘terrorists.’” Regardless of politics, I will not allow another individual to convince me to remove it.

The hijab is a part of me.

The hijab has taught me how to advocate for myself, my Muslim sisters, and women. Today, many women are standing up for their rights and not letting anyone bring them down. The more women fight for their rights, the more we can achieve. My choosing to wear the hijab symbolizes this stand. I choose to wear the hijab because I want to show people that we are not different. We are the same with the headscarf. We can do anything. We are strong.