Poem: When I First Learned the Word “Hijab”

When I first learned the word “hijab”

My life instantly became more complicated

Suddenly there was a name for the scarves I wore over my head

I, however, was not wearing a hijab

I was wearing the scarves the ladies in the 1950s movies wore

Suddenly, it became inappropriate to wear my favourite garment

Suddenly, I was appropriating someone’s culture

I was confused

On one hand, I saw beauty in the veil

Meant to shield a female from the eyes of prying men

Meant to symbolize a relationship with Allah

Meant to symbolize the protection He gives His people

But on the other hand, I saw constraint

under the veil

the hair is hidden

the body is hidden

sometimes the face is hidden

It seems awful, because isn’t beauty meant to be shared?

Yet the more I thought about it, the more I convinced myself that it was wrong to do what I did

that in order to wear this garment, I must commit to a new religion

I realize now that I was more in love with the community religion creates

I, however, have not outgrown my confusion

It seems wrong to wear my scarf around my Muslim friends

I feel judged

If I wear it around town, I’m expected to act like a Muslim, never mind the fact that it’s my accessory

Yet there are days when I want to be hidden

When I want to be cloaked in a chador

when I want my face covered by a niqab

Or even a burqa

when I want to brave the seemingly oppressive garments

But there are also days when I want to wear nothing

Short skirts and low cut shirts

But I can’t have both

Not today, not anymore

When I first learned the word “hijab”

my life changed forever

And I’m not entirely sure it was for the better

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Poem: When I First Learned the Word “Hijab”

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