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Hijab - American Experience



By Dina Rabie, IOL Staff



"I am a Muslim and these are the rules of Islam and I am sticking to them,"



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Hijab Day Diaries



WASHINGTON - Sara Uddin smiles as she adjusts her black hijab after performing Friday prayers with scores other Muslim girls and women.

Now it is time to go out again, and Sara is always ready for any questions, stares or even negative misconceptions about the small piece of cloth that covers her head.

"I want to defeat all stereotypes with my hijab and the only way to do it is to speak out about it," she told IslamOnline.net.

Sara, 22, has been wearing hijab for nearly 4 years now.

"When I first wore it I was in high school in San Diego, California, and it was great. The place is so much diverse there and people are exposed to different cultures and different faiths," she recalled.

"But when I came back to Washington I did notice a couple of stares from the non-Muslim community, I knew they might not be the same."

Sara says that though she does not receive any real attacks because of her hijab, negative viewpoints are something she certainly faces.

"I am a Muslim and these are the rules of Islam and I am sticking to them," says Sara.

"I feel that it is a good thing whenever I get comments because it gets me to explain that this is who I am and this is why I do it."

Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one′s affiliations.

"I am American, I was born here and I have friends here," says Sara, who works in a bank, confidently.

"And I am a Muslim and these are the rules of Islam and I am sticking to them."

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Though there are no official figures, America is estimated to be home to nearly 7-8 million Muslims.

No Barrier

"I do not want them to see me as abnormal. I want them to know I am a normal person with a hijab rather than a rebel," says Jasmin.

For Amina Saleh, 24, hijab has never been a barrier to reach any of her goals in life.

"I work in public health now, and I meet scores of people on daily basis. I never felt that my hijab makes me less competent in their eyes."

Amina, who now lives in Maryland with her parents and two sisters, was not wearing hijab when she first came to the US 13 years ago with her family.

But when she did at the age of 20, she did not feel much difference in the way people treated her.

But Jasmin Ullah, from Herndon, Northern Virginia, believes there are many stereotypes about hijab in America, and it is hard to fight them sometimes.

"When you first walk to a room they do not expect you to be outspoken," says Jasmin, 16.

"Back of their minds they think ′she can′t really want this′, they think you must be a quiet subservient woman who has no opinion to express."

Jasmin, a college student who also has two jobs, boasts that in most cases when people get to know her they understand that hijab does not by any means restrict her personality.

"I do not want them to see me as abnormal. I want them to know I am a normal person with a hijab rather than a rebel."

Jasmin, who began wearing hijab at 11, believes that there are many obstacles, but not barriers, ahead of hijab-clad American Muslim women.

"Post 9/11 America is much more prejudiced than before."

Sara, the banker, agrees that hijab sometimes brings more challenges to Muslim girls and women in society.

"I think that is another reason to be open about it and speak out in general," she insists.

"So even if there are hurdles, I'm keeping it on."

Jasmin, who has Bangladeshi background, says Muslim girls and women should always find a way to overcome obstacles and do what they want in life.

"For example I like to swim, and that could prove to be difficult. But my hijab should not be a barrier; it should encourage me to find a creative way to do what I love with my hijab."

Jasmin believes the recipe for any hijabi girl is that she should be herself.

"If you are a political activist, do not be afraid of expressing your views. If you are an athlete, go for it. If you are in a class room, you should be good at it.