Amplifying External Voices


Point of View –Suraiya Rasheed

Introduction: World Hijab Day and My Dilemma

With world hijab day this week (1st Feb), I wanted to share some reflections as someone who is a practicing Muslim, talks about Religion every day but chooses not to wear the Hijab, and battles with the decision regularly also!

At the end of most of my sessions on Religious Inclusion or Islamophobia, I inevitably get a question about the hijab.  Why do people wear it? How can I start wearing it at work? Have you ever considered wearing it? To which I say I can only share my personal thoughts and experience, not speak on behalf of all Muslim women out there.  So that’s what I will do here.

My Background: Growing Up Without the Hijab

Growing up nobody around me wore the hijab. Lots of family members wore traditional dress and a head covering when praying, but the hijab as we see it today, in my view is actually quite a new thing for the UK.

Through my teenage years, I saw cousins and friends begin to wear the hijab and then take it off, then put it back on, and mostly take it off again.  It demonstrates the conflict that many British Muslims feel.  The battle between heart and head.  In our hearts we feel it is the right thing to do, “show the world who you are and be proud”, but our head is telling us “don’t stand out”, “don’t make yourself more different”, “your not religious enough”, “what will people say”, “how will you make friends/ get a job etc. etc.”

My Struggle: The Conflict Between Heart and Head

Over the years I have been more confident in wearing the hijab in public.  Wearing it on the way to the mosque rather than quickly putting it on at the doors.  Wearing it for a whole evening when attending events such as Open Iftar.  As I write this I realise it must sound strange and I know not everyone feels the same or has the same experience as me.  But the fact that I can wear it, and feel safe, is a huge deal for me.

My Experience: Wearing the Hijab in Public

When I do wear it I feel proud, I feel protected, I feel part of something bigger than myself, part of a community.  When I do wear it I feel like I never want to take it off.  But then the head creeps back in, the thoughts, the fear of standing out.  Like somehow I am less brown if I don’t have my head covered.

When I see others wearing it, I feel inspired, in great admiration and respect for them, and instantly connected to them because we have something in common (our faith), I feel envious that they have the confidence to express themselves.  But I know that is not what others see and that’s what holds me back.

Others see oppression and control, which could not be further from the truth.

Although that battle is still there for many, I feel like as a society we have come so far.  Especially when in a multicultural city like London.  Today it is commonplace to see the hijab and that just demonstrates how far we have come in acceptance, understanding, and mutual respect.

Conclusion: What World Hijab Day Means to Me

That’s what world hijab day means to me.  The symbolism of how we have come.  The fact that we can choose to express our faith through dress and that we feel safe and accepted enough to do this openly.  I know the world is not perfect.  Islamophobia is still rife.  But we are so much further ahead than we were.  The fact that we have a world hijab day shows that.


**Photo uploaded from Shutterstock**

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