The Pink Hijab with Sparkles…I Wore Only Once
By Aminata Kargbo
During the last days of summer vacation, I was watching the television show Teen Wolf when my mother said to me, “You are about to go to high school in a few weeks. You will be old enough to wear a hijab.” My brain filled with many thoughts and I couldn’t focus on the show anymore.
Muslim women and girls are expected to wear a hijab while praying to cover their heads and display modesty. Many show their commitment to Islam by wearing a hijab every day, but I never considered myself to be that kind of Muslim, or that kind of girl. I immigrated to the United States as an eight-year-old and was surrounded by diverse cultures. This exposure pushed me to notice how my religion treats women.
The Imam states, “Only women have to cover their bodies in public and only women are restricted from leading a prayer.” I started to believe that the Quran limits women from expressing themselves, and, by doing that, makes men superior over women. Choosing to wear the hijab daily would mean I was accepting all of my religion’s restrictions and denying my womanist identity. If I decided not to wear a hijab, then other Muslims might think I wasn’t committed to my religion.
“Aminata!” my mother yelled. “Do you want to wear your hijab?” she asked a second time. I said I didn’t know. “It’s okay if you don’t know,” she said. Surprised, yet happy to hear her response, I told my mother about the doubts I had. She told me she had felt the same way when she converted to Islam. Hearing my mother express similar thoughts made me feel less isolated. She suggested that I could try wearing a hijab for one day when high school started to see if I liked it or not.
On September 9, 2015, I attended my first day of high school wearing a long, pink hijab covered in little sparkles. I felt uncomfortable, I felt I was using the hijab to hide from the world. I felt as if I couldn’t share my own perspective and ideas because I wasn’t the person people perceived me as—a “perfect” Muslim girl.
When I got back home after school, I went straight to my room to take off my hijab. I started to cry. I cried not because of other students or my classes, but because I was not myself. I felt like I was trapped inside a room for eternity, but when I removed my hijab I felt free. My mother came to my room to see if I was okay. I didn’t need to tell her about my day because she could see it in my eyes. She gently said, “Okay.”
The next day, I showed up to school with no hijab and my kinky African hair out in a bun. All eyes were on me during first period, especially on my hair. Later, a girl named Ashley approached me. She told me that she liked my hair. “Thank you,” I said. We soon talked about our backgrounds and experiences. I told her about my religion and the struggles I had with it. When I went home that day, I told my mom about my new friend. She asked if I was okay not wearing the hijab. I hadn’t even realized I wasn’t wearing it. I was just being me. I smiled at my mother and said, “Yes!”
I am Muslim and a womanist. Not wearing a hijab does not make me less Muslim, just as being Muslim does not make me less of a womanist. My choice makes me happy. And I support the choices of other women and girls who choose to wear the hijab—as long as it makes them happy, too.
Aminata Kargbo is a class of 2019 Girls Write Now mentee.