Muslim women uncover myths about the hijab

  • Story Highlights
  • The hijab is the head scarf worn by Muslim women
  • Wearing one as a Muslim teenager in the U.S. may offer challenges
  • Some wearers say they get strange looks and sometimes angry remarks
  • But those who voluntarily wear it say it can help them in their faith and teen lif
Rowaida Abdelaziz says wearing the hijab sometimes interferes with usual U.S. teenager activities, but that it's worth it to her faith.

Rowaida Abdelaziz says wearing the hijab sometimes interferes with usual U.S. teenager activities, but that it’s worth it to her faith.

By John Blake

(CNN) — Rowaida Abdelaziz doesn’t want your pity.

She doesn’t want your frosty public stares; the whispers behind her back; the lament that she’s been degraded by her father.

What the Muslim high school senior wants you to understand is that she doesn’t wear the hijab, the head scarf worn by Muslim women, because she is submissive.

“It represents beauty to me,” says Abdelaziz, the 17-year-old daughter of two Egyptian parents living in Old Bridge, New Jersey.

“My mom says a girl is like a jewel,” Abdelaziz says. “When you have something precious, you usually hide it. You want to make sure you keep it safe until that treasure is ready to be found.”

The nation has heard plenty of debate over racial profiling. But there’s a form of religious profiling that some young Muslim women in America say they endure whenever they voluntarily wear the hijab.

The hijab, also known as the veil, is the headscarf worn by Muslim women around the globe. It’s a simple piece of cloth, but it can place young Muslim women in Western countries in difficult situations.

Some hijab-wearers say that strangers treat them as if they’re terrorists. Others ask them if they’re a nun — or even allergic to the sun. In some cases, their worst critics are not Americans, but fellow Muslim Americans.

The pressure on Muslim teenagers in the U.S. who wear the hijab may be even more acute. Their challenge: How do I fit in when I wear something that makes me stand out?

Randa Abdel-Fattah, who has written two novels about this question, says wearing the hijab can “exhaust” some young Muslim women in the West.

“You can sometimes feel like you’re in a zoo: locked in the cage of other people’s stereotypes, prejudices and judgments, on parade to be analyzed, deconstructed and reconstructed,” says Abdel-Fattah, a Muslim who has Palestinian and Egyptian parents but was born in Australia. Continue reading

The politics of hijab: A bit of black cloth


The hijab (headscarf) has burst into the passionate and often confused discussion of current events and has become a highly charged battle standard on both sides of the veil. It has become an object of rage and indignation for many non-Muslims who see the practice as a backward custom, but one which is defiantly elbowing its way into the popular culture with increasing demands to be respected along with the identifying dress of other world religions. The phenomenon which most interests me, is the western woman convert to Islam with no experience of veiling growing up in the West who embraces hijab. It is however a phenomenon with what appears to be a remarkably short and identifiable history.
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