Discussing hijabs has always been a sensitive matter in this part of the world.
A hijab is a head covering worn by some Muslim women, and the Arabic word “hijab” means to veil. Perhaps there is a negative stigma surrounding them because of westerners’ unfamiliarity with hijabs.
“The first thing that comes to my mind when I see them is that they are foreign and from a different culture,” said Jakeria Deramus, a senior nursing major from Prattville. “I don’t think we know the full meaning behind why people wear them, but I think we should look more into it.”
She also shared her thoughts on the proper approach to the topic.
“We should approach them how we would anyone else,” Deramus said. “We should speak and smile at them other than just looking at them strangely. I feel like if we greet them, then they would feel more comfortable.”
Prospective Ph.D. student Rania Al-bawwab, from Amman, Jordan, has been wearing a hijab for the past 16 years and feels that wearing the hijab has more to do with the religion than the culture.
“Most people relate this to culture; however, it has nothing to do with culture,” Al-bawwab said. “(It) has to do with my religion. In Quran, we are being directed to cover up, and we do that to honor Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ.”
She also discussed her struggle with peer pressure regarding hijabs.
“My dad is a physician, and my mom is a lawyer. I come from the suburb where people try to westernize, thinking that is the happiness,” Al-bawwab said. “It took me years and years of struggle to start wearing hijab because people would tell me ‘faith is in the heart,’ and they told me to live my life.”
However, Al-bawwab explained how empowered she felt wearing it.
“I feel like I am worshipping my God, and God is protecting me,” Al-bawwab said. “It is a beautiful feeling. It is the key to so many locked doors.
“Islam just tells you this is for your happiness, and then you have the choice and the free will.”
Al-bawwab said that she has always felt respected wearing the hijab, and she has had people respond in a good way to her in Troy despite her fear of being misinterpreted before she came here.
“Before I came here, I was advised to take off the hijab, since Muslims are not well-represented in the media and TV,” Al-bawwab said. “But after I came here, everyone is so nice, and I realized that people were even trying to help me more. I am not sure if it is for the fear of being sued, or is it out of the kind heart.”
Ishtiaq Khan, a graduate computer science student from Hyderabad, India, says that women wear the hijab as a symbol of modesty and privacy, especially in the presence of adult males outside their immediate family members.
He, however, says that the hijab is not optional.
“It is mandatory in Islam for women to dress modestly,” Khan said. “Generally, women are instructed to cover from hair to toe. There’s no other choice, actually.”
He feels that women wearing the hijab are given strange looks only in countries with very little Muslim population.
“People should be educated about hijab and its role in Islam,” Khan said. “Other than that, they should respect others’ traditional, cultural and religious values. This might make lives of women wearing hijab normal.”
Arwa Alhazmi, a sophomore marketing major from Mecca, Saudi Arabia, has been wearing hijab since she was 15 and says that she is happy to be identified as a Muslim with her hijab.
“We must cover our hair from stranger men, but it is OK if we take it off while we are with the girls,” Alhazmi said. “I feel great, and I am very happy to show people that I am a Muslim with my hijab.”
Rather than receiving strange looks, Alhazmi mentioned that she actually gets many compliments on her hijab.
“One time a girl at Wal-Mart said that my hijab was beautiful and asked if I could teach her to do it,” Alhazmi said. “One of the other girls asked if it was OK if she wore the hijab since she does not like to brush her hair every day.”
Addie Glass, admissions enrollment specialist at the international admissions office in Troy, feels that no one should be judged solely on her appearance.
“I think people should stop being close-minded and should take time to learn about different cultures,” Glass said. “We as humans are different from each other, and just because someone dresses a little bit differently does not make them any different than any other person. If we were all the same, it would be very, very boring.”