What it is like to be a Hijabi in college

We spoke to three girls

With regards to recent events, Islamophobia has widely disseminated throughout the United States of America. Hence, in a world that is so infatuated with the concept of double standards, it is only natural that headlines pleading the innocence of Muslims, and attempting to shed light upon the cruelty inflicted upon those who practice the faith, are proving scarce. As a matter of fact, it has become so unlikely for us to hear about such acts of violence, that headlines such as “Muslim student upset after Gwinnett teacher asks if she has a bomb” and “Deli owner attacked by thug who yelled ‘I kill Muslims’” do not seem to faze us anymore.

Not only has this stigma against Muslim men and women fortified hateful speech against Islam, but it has also opened the wide, awful and bloody gates to hateful crimes such as stabbings, the vandalization of mosques, and verbal violence targeting women who wear the Hijab. Defying the course of this absolute bigotry, and in an attempt to highlight what it is like to be a Hijabi in college, we asked a couple of Hijabi students some questions.

K. Kaur (Sophomore), E. Skye (Sophomore), and H. Flores (Junior) kindly took the time to share with us what it is like to be a Hijabi in college, and what being a Hijabi means to them personally and to Islam.

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In your perspective, what does the Hijab represent?

E. Skye: “The hijab is not indicative of a higher form of piety or a stronger faith, as people often believe it to be. The word I have used to explain hijab to others is ‘reminder.’ For me, personally, hijab is the ideal by which I live: the tangible, always-present reality of Islam so that I never forget. I can have thousands of things to do in a day – tests, papers, problem sets, errands to run, meetings to attend – but every morning before I step out of the door, I wrap a hijab around my head and make sure I’m dressed modestly, and that puts everything into perspective. Women who wear hijab are not better Muslims than those that do not – it is just that our form of trying (as hard as we can) to get as close to God and his Messenger as possible, is a little more visible.”

H. Flores: “Personally for me the hijab means more than just a piece of cloth that covers my hair. It is a component of my modesty. It demonstrates my commitment and struggle to get close to my creator.”

What is it like to wear the Hijab on a college campus?

H. Flores: “I feel a sense of empowerment when I wear the hijab on campus. I am not going say that it is easy but definitely a rewarding experience. For me wearing the hijab defies stereotypes of what it means to be a Muslim woman.”

E. Skye: “There are hard parts and easy parts to wearing the hijab on a college campus. In a place as diverse as Georgetown, you don’t really see out-and-out Islamophobia, which is fortunate for me. No one has ever called me terrorist, or told me to go back to my country, or assumed that I am oppressed by the men in my community. However, I have been the only hijabi in every single one of my classes thus far in my college career. Every time a discussion of Islam, or an event in the Middle East, or feminism, or social justice, comes up, people eagerly listen to what I have to say because often I am the only Muslim in the room.

“It is both a good and bad thing – good because some of these people have probably never met a Muslim before, and they can learn a lot from what I have to say, but bad because I by no means know everything. I could come off as ignorant, or explain something incorrectly or incoherently. The reasoning persists throughout every facet of social interaction in college: I am the first Muslim some of these people have ever met, so I have to comport myself well so that they don’t get the wrong idea about Islam or Muslims. The pressure is always high.”

Have you been discriminated against because you wear the Hijab?

H. Flores: “I have never been physically bullied. For me, I experienced more of micro aggressions because I wear the hijab. I have had a man try to move seats on the plane because he sat next to me. It’s these little things, like the long stare, or just comments made about either my hijab or the fact that I am a Muslim woman.”FullSizeRender-2

E. Skye: “The worst I’ve gotten so far are people who believe they are entitled to ask us invasive questions because we wear the hijab. I’ve had casual acquaintances ask me if I am having an arranged marriage, or if my father beat me until I wore the hijab.”

K. Kaur: “In general, I have been very lucky to not feel targeted in that sense.”