Sorority President Dons Hijab

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Guest writer Amy shares her story as a sorority president, and how she came to wear hijab.

I must’ve spent an hour in front of my mirror trying to wrap that bland, brown, wool scarf around my head that night. I tried wrapping clockwise, counter-clockwise, pinning above and below, finally satisfied with my first attempt at “professional dress” with the addition of a headscarf.

I then had to sneak out of the house – my parents didn’t know yet, and they wouldn’t understand – and conquer my fear. I had to present myself, the president of my sorority, as a Muslim; and not just a Muslim, but one who wears hijab!

(c) Heba Haddad. Used with permission.

My sorority sisters didn’t understand when I walked in – they thought the scarf was a response to cold weather, and made some carefree remarks: I looked like an Eskimo, and did I poke myself with the straight pins? My vice president took my hand and whispered that she was proud of me – she had known for a few months about my new faith, and must have figured that a day like today would inevitably come. Today I was going to start practicing Islam.

So I began the meeting – without removing the scarf, to the surprise of some sisters – and proceeded as normal. I waited until the end of the meeting for a specific ritual offering each sister the chance to describe her life to the group while we passed a stuffed animal around the room. It came to me, at last.

Here was my opportunity to tell them, all of them, that Islam was now a part of my life, and that I would be practicing it fully. I was nervous in front of them like I had never been before. One week ago I thought I would never have the courage to say what I was one breath away from declaring openly. But one week ago I had challenged myself with the question: Why don’t I wear hijab? Am I too afraid, too much of a coward?

So I challenged myself: just try to wear it for a day, and see if you can keep it on. One day turned into two, then three, and then a week. And here I was after a mere six days, ready to conquer my fear. I had faced dirty looks while walking on the street, stares on the bus, and confused questions from coworkers with relative ease. But it was the perception of my sorority sisters though which scared me the most. After six days of actually wearing the hijab, what had seemed outlandish before now felt commonplace. What had induced shyness and fear before now imbued me with courage and pride. And I had felt the dignity and honor of a woman, even in a public place, dignity through modest covering.

And that’s why I was able to take a breath and calmly explain to my sorority that I had become a Muslim some time ago, and that now I was choosing to practice Islam. The head covering, a part of my practice of Islam, would be a fixture and something they would continue to see on me in the future.

And then? Their response was simple and subdued – they didn’t really care what faith I practiced or how I dressed. Some asked a few questions about Islam, others apologized for their comments when I first arrived in the hijab, and one even apologized for a statement she had made to me about “ragheads” weeks ago. And then they supported me, and continued to support me even when I had to bring my iftaar to meetings, excuse myself from retreat activities to pray, or leave events early when alcohol was served.

I didn’t lose any friends because of the hijab; it only showed me how supportive my friends actually were, which made practicing Islam openly much easier than doing so in secret. And eventually one week turned into a month, and a month into years. I have never left the hijab since, and I pray I never will.

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Submitted to I Got It Covered for our May 2010 reader-takeover month. Sister Amy‘s personal blog,”Daughter of Guidance,” can be found at http://ibnatalhidayah.blogspot.com.