Danielle Teal Wears A Hijab For A Day
Today was World Hijab Day. What is a hijab? A hijab is the scarf that Muslim women wear on their head. The intent behind this day is "to foster religious tolerance and understanding by inviting women (non-Hijabi Muslims/non-Muslims) to experience the hijab for one day."
I decided to do it. I decided to wear a hijab for 24 hours to see what it was like to walk in a Muslims woman's shoes especially considering the climate in our country and the negative misconceptions of the hijab. I enlisted the help of a prominent Muslim woman, Regina Mustafa, founder of Community Interfaith Dialogue on Islam. I swung by her place so we could chat about what it's like to be a Muslim woman, do some myth busting and have her show me how to wrap the scarf correctly. Lots of questions are answered in this Facebook Live feed:
My 24 Hour Experience
After Regina showed me how to wrap the scarf, I left my hijab intact because I wanted to wear it on my way home and see if I got any reactions. I didn't expect one to come so soon! My youngest daughter ran up the stairs to get her coat on. As soon as she saw my new look, she said "I don't like it! Take it off!" I was surprised by her reaction. We hopped in the car. On our way home, I stopped by a restaurant to pick up dinner. Forgetting I had the hijab on (it's jersey material and super comfy) it took me a few moments to figure out why the cashier kept staring at my head. My hijab! She's keeps staring at my hijab! I smile at her and she smiles back.
We arrive home. I get the kids fed and put them to bed. I unwrap my hijab off for the night wondering if I'll be able to wrap it as marvelously as Regina had done. The morning came fast and I put my outfit together. In an effort to ensure modesty, I picked out attire that I knew would compliment the hijab conservatively. I started to feel nervous because I know the perceptions of wearing a hijab. In fact, in our Facebook Live feed a man said "F*** Ragheads". I didn't even know that slur existed. It made me apprehensive to think people could be so bold to attack someone without knowing them and judging from appearances alone.
I arrived to work and as I was walking in I saw a man. Before he spoke I thought maybe he would treat me differently. He did stare at me but he was incredibly kind. That was something different about the hijab, I felt people staring at me in a hijab. I caught people doing a double take. People I knew especially did double takes. One persons mouth dropped.
While there were a lot of stares, there was a lot of support too. Both my bosses were very kind in my efforts to experience and discover what it must feels like to be a Muslim woman in our country. And while this experience is just a fragment of what it must feel like it gave me an eye opening birds eye view into the life of a Muslim woman.
When I went to lunch, I saw someone I knew. Her name is Carol. She didn't recognize me at first. I mentioned my name and her eyes lit up. We chatted for a bit. Afterwards, I asked her what she felt and thought when she saw me in a hijab, here's her response:
To be honest my first reaction was definitely a bit embarrassed because I didn’t recognize you. I have to admit that I was quickly trying to think of all the women I knew who wear a hijab and trying to place where I knew you from. Was it work, class, etc. Which as I think back - makes me happy with myself because that was my first thought and not who is this woman in hijab talking to me. I do have to admit that maybe if you hadn’t been wearing a hijab I would have smiled and said hi and kept walking – trying to figure out later how I knew you – but I think I was so excited/interested that someone in a hijab felt comfortable enough to say Hi to me I had to stop and ask so I would be sure to remember them the next time."
Which brings me to this. Wearing the hijab for a day wasn't about me. It was about every Muslim woman that wears a hijab fearlessly, bravely displaying their faith with courage in the face of potential backlash. Me wearing the hijab opened up dialogue. It brought about awareness and dialogue of humanity. Who is the person underneath the hijab? Another interaction was with a guy I know. We'll call him Bob. He saw my hijab but didn't say anything. Just smiled. I asked him "I bet you're wondering why I am wearing this." He said "I noticed but figured it was none of my business so didn't ask." He went on to say "However, I think it's awesome." I explained to him why I was wearing it and he said "Very cool. I 100% support you." His response brought tears to my eyes.
I had a couple of other non-Muslim friends share their experiences. Here's their stories:
I was at the Capitol setting up appointments with legislators. There was a mix of stares and smiles. People that know me stopped to ask why I was wearing the hijab and we had great conversations. A few people (mostly women with hijabs) stopped to thank me for doing this today. I did have one scary experience. While commuting to St Paul, a Pickup truck passed me, then slowed down and looked at me, then got behind me and followed me to my work. They weren't tailgating, but it was uncomfortable. Other than that, this was a very positive experience. I'm so glad I participated. - Laura
So my experience really surprised me, and not because of others' reactions but because of my own fear. In fact, and I'm really quite embarrassed and a little ashamed to share this, but.....I completely chickened out! I put on my hijab and felt only slightly apprehensive, and set out on an easy day of one meeting, and one errand quick errand to Home Depot. On my way to my meeting the conversation in my head turned to fear, for several reasons, and I ended up taking it off. I was a little aggravated with myself, but I told myself I'd put it back on for my errand. After the meeting as I was driving to Home Depot this was all on my mind, particularly my fear and where that was coming from, and of course my privilege was glaring at me in my rear-view mirror. I got to Home Depot and sat in the parking lot for a bit, and chickened out again! I've always fancied myself as a fairly brave person, but this puts that into a whole new perspective. Muslim women who wear their religion for all to see, even though they know there is always a chance they will get dirty looks, or be ridiculed, or worse, are brave. While I'm still reflecting on my fears today, the big take-away was one of just extreme respect for the bravery and authenticity these women display every singe day. As-salāmu ʿalaykum (peace be upon you) - Lisa
I sit here in the last hours of wearing my hijab. I think about how each of us walk around our daily lives and for the most part we don't have to worry about much. But when you put a 2x6 piece of fabric around your head adding a bit of modesty, it changes things. Misconceptions are made. I ask you this, the next time you see someone in a hijab - simply say "Peace be upon you" - that lets them know you care.