By Laura El Alam
I’m considering becoming a Muslim, but I’m hesitant about wearing hijab. What should I do?
For women in the West who decide to embrace Islam, wearing a headscarf (also called hijab or khimar) can be the most difficult step. There may be various reasons why a woman hesitates to cover her hair.
Over the years, fellow converts have told me:
- I’m not ready to tell everyone that I’ve become a Muslim, but a headscarf will effectively make that announcement to the world.
- What if I’m harassed or discriminated against because of hijab?
- I’m a feminist and I’ve always associated modest dress with oppression.
- I’m afraid my loved ones will think I’m “un-American.”
- I just don’t feel like my true self with a headscarf because it’s not part of my culture or heritage.
- Won’t it be hot or uncomfortable?
- Someone told me that hijab isn’t really mandatory. Lots of Muslim women don’t cover their hair. Why should I?
First I would like to say that these feelings are normal and human. You’re not a weak Muslim if you’re a convert who’s struggling with the idea of committing to hijab. It can be difficult to make significant, visible, deeply personal changes, and wearing hijab takes courage and determination. When I was learning about Islam over twenty years ago, one of my first comments was, “I could never wear a scarf or give up my blue jeans and T-shirts!”