Once upon a time, I feared having to wear hijab. Like many, I did not know or understand the reasons Muslim women wear it. I knew that females usually start to wear hijab after they hit puberty--or after it hits them. So, when it was my turn to become a young woman, my first thought--and my first fear--was whether I would have to wear the veil that covers my hair.
Eventually, I learned the true meaning of wearing hijab. I made a conscious decision to wear it, but I started gradually. First I wore hijab to the mosque (the Islamic Center of Southern California) and long-sleeved shirts and pants everywhere else. Then I wore hijab to the houses of my friends. Finally, after spring vacation in sixth grade, I wore hijab for the first time to school. This is what I was most apprehensive about at the time and it proved to be the most enjoyable of my hijab experiences. It was really very exciting, being the center of attention. My classmates asked me many questions about my hijab throughout recess. After noticing this, and probably since she was curious herself, the teacher suggested that during history class we continue with this question-and-answer session.
That was four years ago. Over the years, I have experienced the benefits of wearing hijab that are mentioned in the Koran. The first is that I am respected as an individual and am not looked upon as a sex object. The second is that I am recognized by people as being a Muslim. Wearing hijab helps me get to know others and them get to know me. If I did not wear hijab, I would not be asked about it. I would not have as many opportunities to talk to people about hijab, which usually leads to the subject most important to me--my religion.
While I have had a wonderful experience with wearing hijab, I believe no one has the right to force another to do anything, including this. Often, misguided emphasis is placed on wearing hijab. People shouldn't make others feel guilty if they don't wear hijab; rather, they should teach them why they should wear it. Informing people of what they should do is different from badgering them about it.
Wearing hijab is one of the few outward manifestations of a person's faith. It is a way for someone to show her faith and for someone else to see it. Wearing hijab is sometimes viewed as a way to practice one's faith that is relatively easier than others. It is easier for me to be sure that my hair is covered than it is for me to be sure that I do not gossip.
Wearing hijab is something that has molded and improved my character. Still, I believe people too often focus negatively about the wearing of hijab. The reason: It is simple to judge others. If someone sees another with hijab, it is easy to make assumptions about whether she is "good" or "bad." But as the old adage goes, "You can't judge a book by its cover."