"To Become a Hijabi" By Marwa Balkar

At a time when all the girls are taking their hijab off out of fear, you’re putting it on,” the stranger told me. I giggled nervously. I was just delivered a reality check from a woman who probably thought she was empowering me. I spent the rest of the day doubting my choice. I am putting on the hijab during a time where Islamophobia is alive and thriving. Could I handle this? Was I strong enough? Putting the hijab on is difficult as is, but doing it while you’re in the public eye adds a different flavor of stress to the situation. I wondered how those around me would react. I feared judgement and misunderstanding. Finally after two months of mental preparation, I decided to make the commitment. I can do this.

The staring is the first thing you notice. You try to read the person in the one second you spent making eye contact with them as they continue to stare when you break away. Then in an attempt to ease my discomfort, I justify the action. Hijab seems like such a foreign thing in the western world, which insights attentive eyes. The problem lies in not knowing what the intention is behind the gaze. With so many hijabis being verbally and physically attacked, one cannot help but to fear the attention.


The xenophobia was also a brand new experience. Within the second day of wearing it, a man followed me calling me “ISIS” and “burqa bitch”. I ignored the first and giggled at the latter. I even complimented the man for his originality as I’ve never heard “burqa bitch” before. I quickly learned the humor is the best remedy for situations like this. If the ignorant bring you down, then you’ve allowed them to succeed. I also receive a plethora of backhanded compliments.

“You would be way better looking if you didn’t have that thing on your head”
You are absolutely right, irrelevant stranger. Thank you for reminding me exactly why I wear hijab. I have no interest in being desired by someone who prioritizes the aesthetic of a woman, instead of her inner characteristics.

            On the other hand, hijab has been the biggest blessing in my life so far. I have never experienced something so empowering before. There is nothing more liberating than being able to enter a room and merit respect without relying on your outer beauty. There is nothing more liberating than knowing that who you are on the inside is powerful enough to move masses. I always thought that hijab would limit my potential, but the exact opposite happened. Thanks to misrepresentation, hijabi women are often judged as weak or incapable. So when you do achieve something great, it comes off as doubly impressive. Your potential increases when you learn to use people’s subconscious ignorance against them. I see my potential as infinite. Because of hijab, I have now realized where the real strength exists, within myself.

 By Marwa Balkar

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7 comments

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dina raafat

I am so proud of you marwa you look beautiful and courageous to stand before the bigots and Islam haters but I know you’re doing it for your Muslim sisters in the whole world keep up the good work and take care of yourself may Allah be with you and protect you in every move you do thank you you’re a pride for every Muslim woman including me wearing hijab best regards from Egypt

Nathan Matthews

Marwa Balkar,
How does it make you feel that people can be so easily swayed in their opinions by as simple piece of cloth?
I, for one, am incredulous at how the Hijab completely turns people both in a negative and positive way depending on their world view.
The same can be said for how people are affected by the looks of a person. So I have learned from your article how the Hijab can be an equalizer.
I am sad that it is needed. I hope I can raise my children to judge only on what is inside of people.
Respectfully,
Nathan M

Elizabeth

This is such a cool article. I’m not Muslim but just about every hijabi I meet, work with or am friends with exudes a confidence that I really admire. (I also like this line of clothes because I like shirts/sweaters with good “bum coverage” and those are hard to find sometimes! Lol) best wishes to you!

Mahmoud Mustafa

The way you dress is no one’s business but yours providing that does not adversely impact on society (as with the face veil or niqab). So if the ‘hijab’ gives you a sense of empowerment and fulfillment, then so be it as long as you continue to wear it in light of knowing that it has no basis or grounds in the Quran (God’s divine text) and as such cannot be regarded as a religious obligation. There’s a stark difference between God’s holy verses and, historically, men’s puritanical and often misogynistic interpretations (scholarly and culturally sourced “Islamic jurisprudence”) that form the basis for most of the misconceptions about Islam by a significant number of it’s followers today and thus , in effect, abandoning the divine in favour of a matrix created by “religious clergy”.

Labeeba Fatima

This is soo beatiful and inspiring.! You are an amazing person..! You have nothing to fear.
Lots of Love ❤️

Mirza Arshad Hussain

Mashallah Beautifully stated! I am so proud of you Marwa.God bless you, I hope this is the beginning of many articles that you will write.

Jamie Manzuik

Beautifully stated! I am so proud of you Marwa. I hope this is the beginning of many articles that you will write.

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