Wearing Hijab: My Identity and a Political Act

New post in my ongoing Hijab Series is written by sister Faiza Ikram

Where I live, wearing the hijab is difficult.

You would not think that a piece of cloth could come with so much strife, but today, wearing the hijab is not just a religious act but a political one in the U.S.

So to me, my headscarf is a part of my identity. I wear it to both please Allah (SWT) and show others that I am a Muslim. However, the hijab does not necessarily make me more or less “Muslim” or more pious than women who do not  wear the hijab. It is an essential part of the Islamic faith but not the entire faith or religion. 

My hijab is my sword in a country where I am Othered… painted as an alien or demon who does not belong to a land she was born in. When I choose, every day, to wrap a cloth around my head, it is not a simple act, it is a rebellious one. A rebellion against those who believe people who look, think, and act like me should “go back home.”

Sometimes, the thought of removing my hijab crosses my mind but it’s such an integral part of me that I could never part with it. Almost without much thought, I wear my hijab each time I go out. It’s as automatic as putting a shirt on. 

What keeps me wearing hijab is knowing that it pleases Allah (SWT). So it’s easier to wear it when people treat me differently, when store managers give me the silent treatment or ignore me, or when people speak in a rude tone that they wouldn’t normally use with someone else. 

When I was 16, someone called the police on my mom when she was picking me up from a tutoring center. My mom arrived early so she was driving around the parking lot. The call to the police reported a suspicious person driving around a parking lot in a minivan. A police officer arrived and searched my mom and the van. My mom felt humiliated by the encounter and cried once we got home. I was upset and tried to justify the police being called on my mother by telling her that she shouldn’t have kept driving around the parking lot. It was later that I realized the only reason the police was called on her was because of how she looked and her hijab. I knew about the direct remarks and discrimination that hijabs faced but this seemed different. The prejudice and discrimination here was more insidious and hidden.

I am a feminist. I hesitate to say that because the word has so many negative meanings associated with it. However, since I’m discussing my identity and my hijab, it’s essential that I bring in feminism. Wearing hijab is a feminist act as long as you do it of your own accord. For me, choosing to wear hijab and revealing only what I want revealed is empowering. 

Hijab should always be a choice. No one should be forced to wear the headscarf or take it off. It has always struck me as ironic how many non-Muslims don’t see the forced removal of the headscarf as “oppressive” but see Muslim women choosing to wear the headscarf as oppressive or women in Islamic countries being forced to wear the headscarf as oppressive. It is deemed oppressive whether the hijab is forcibly put on or forcibly taken off.

While hijab is a part of my identity, it is a tool others use to strip me of the other parts of my identity. I am an American-born Muslim with Pakistan parents. But it does not matter that I was born and raised in the U.S. Women and girls born and raised in the U.S. who wear the hijab are oftentimes told to “go back home.” Oftentimes, what people are referring to when they say “back home” is the general Middle Eastern region (even if the hijabi isn’t from the Middle East!). 

This is why the hijab is important to me. Yes, the primary reason I wear it is because it is a part of my faith and religion, but to me the hijab is also a statement. A statement of confidence in who I am, my identity, and where I come from. It is a loud statement that says I am proud to be Muslim, that I belong here, and I am not going anywhere.

Author Bio

Faiza Ikram lives outside Chicago, Illinois. She is a mom, grad student, and blogs at Twenty Something Mom Boss, where she helps Muslim moms with young kids go after their goals and live a fulfilled life by empowering them to invest in their self-care and personal growth.

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  • As-salam Alaikum,
    I read one article about one sisters hijab related event in your blog. (Faiza Ikram …. Chicago, Illinois).
    Islam is not properly understood by some of our non-muslim brethren. It is not their fault. Partly our fault, that we sometime do things which are not in accordance with islamic principle. This gives a wrong image of islam. I encourage all muslim brothers and sisters not to loose heart by unpleasant events. Insha Allah this patience will soon bring invaluable reward and love from Allah Ta-ala. And we should not start to dislike non-muslims because of these. We are nothing but well wishers of mankind and wish well being of all.

  • I come from a country where Alhamdulillah there is no issue dressing modestly or wearing hijab and it’s not a Muslim country. It really makes you appreciate the tolerance a lot of people have for one another, but also sometimes I feel like I’ve grown up in a bubble, where I don’t fully understand the struggle some Muslims face in 1st world countries. InshaAllah Allah makes it easy for everyone and may He fill peace and tolerance in our hearts for one another.

  • Women wearing hijab are looked down everywhere. May Allah ease it for everyone who’s struggling. It’s just a piece of cloth for the world but so much in Allah’s sight. SubhanAllah!

  • How educated we are and how much civilized we grow and how friendly we live together, still there are people who see us different and stay against us. especially with our dress code.. Well, if only they start looking at it as any dress code and respect our faith. I’m glad I live in a community where hijab is a part of our lifestyle. Alhamdulillah

  • Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the hijab and how it shapes your identity, Faiza. Your words truly resonate with the experiences of many hijab-wearing women in the U.S. Wearing the hijab as a personal choice, while also fighting against the political and societal implications it brings, takes immense strength and courage. Your words serve as a reminder to embrace our individuality and stand proud in our beliefs and identities. Keep up the great work, sister!