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Short Story: Hijab, My Crown

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This short story is a guest post from Noor Latif, a talented eighth-grader!

My mother and I pulled up to the school building. Sleepily, I stepped out of the car. It had only been a few days since we had arrived in America, and jet lag was catching up to me. At night, I was wide awake, while during the day, I could barely keep my eyes open. So, at night, I took the time to learn English through online courses because I wasn’t very good at it. My mother, however, was bilingual. She could speak English and French fluently. I should’ve paid more attention in English class,  I thought grimly when I arrived.  Now I won’t understand anything that my new teachers will be saying!

After cramming course after course and lots and lots of prayer, I could read, write, and sometimes understand what people are saying in English (if they weren’t talking too fast). The only thing I had trouble with was speaking it.

A Very American High School

I took tense, nervous steps up to school while my mom scolded me in French to move faster so I wasn’t late for class. As a freshman in high school, I had many ideas of what an AMERICAN high school would be like based on movies like  High School Musical. I worried that people would think that my hijab is weird.

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My family and I are French-Muslim immigrants. I started wearing the hijab a few years ago and everyone thought it was strange. “What’s the point of it?” they would ask. When I tried explaining, they either didn’t care or didn’t understand.

Muslims wear hijab because we believe it is important to dress modestly. So we cover our hair and don’t wear revealing clothes. The hijab allows us to focus on our inner beauty and be judged not by our outward appearance.

Recently, the French Prime Minister announced that women cannot wear hijab in sports. Everyone that my family and I knew all started to drift away and ignore us, not wanting to be seen with us. My dad quit his job because the law firm that he worked for was being unfair to the women in the workspace. My mother and I both wore hijab and were also facing harsh treatment in public, so Dad decided to move to America.

So there I was, sleepily walking up to the school, feet dragging against the pavement. My mom went up to the man that sat at the front desk, stood at the front desk, and cleared her throat. The man’s blonde mop of hair that sat there looked up at us with an expression of disgust. It was quickly replaced with a look of friendliness, and he smiled.

“Hello!” he said in a forced-sounding, friendly voice. “Welcome to Oak Ridge High School! I’m Greg, the receptionist. How may I help you?”

“Hello, Greg. My daughter is a transfer student. Today is her orientation,” my mom replied in a thick French accent. He got up and said, “Oh! You’re the new transfer student! Follow me!”

“Be good,” my mom said in French. I nodded in reply.

“Then I guess I’ll be leaving then! Thank you!” my mom said quickly. With that, she rushed back to the car and in a flash, she was gone.

Greg suddenly completely changed. His friendly face became cruel and he frowned.

“Do your parents force you to wear that thing?” he asked quietly. “A child should not wear that.”

I thought for a second, trying to remember my crammed nights full of English. I asked, “What do you mean? My hijab is my choice.”

“You’re like Sahara or whatever her name is,” he muttered, but he stopped there. This is exactly what I was afraid of, I thought bitterly. He thinks I am being forced to wear my hijab!

“So?” I asked, straining to remember those nights of cramming.

“Never mind,” he said while rolling her eyes, and let’s just say that I had a few ideas of what he could have been thinking. None of it was good.

He sighed, “I guess that I’ll take you to your advisor then.”

He got up from his seat and walked me to my advisor. He led me through what seemed like a long, inescapable maze of twisted hallways and turns and doors with labels.

Eventually, we arrived in a room that had gray walls. On two of those walls lay papers of what looked like student work, all with stars on them. The other walls were covered with art pieces of dragons and flowers. In one corner of the room, there was a cabinet labeled “Papers n’ Stuff,” and another one with a painting of a door with a painted sign that read “Dungeon.” The desks were all lined up in an immaculate 5×5 grid. There was a big, wooden desk at the front with a middle-aged Asian woman sitting at the desk. She had brown hair that was streaked with silver and crease lines forming at the corners of her warm, chocolate-brown eyes.

“Excuse me?” Greg knocked, “Mrs. Park? I’m here with the new student.”

Mrs. Park looked up from the papers she was grading and smiled. “Hello, you must be…” she looked at her computer and quickly pulled up an email, “Anaya?”

“Yes,” I confirmed.

“Anaya,” she repeated, “What a beautiful name! And you have immigrated from France, yes?”

A volcano of sadness erupted in me at the mention of my birth country. “Yes,” I confirmed.

“Well,” she started, then looked behind me and said “Greg, you may leave now. Thank you for bringing her here.”

Greg made his way out of the classroom. “Goodbye!”

Instant Friends

I looked back at Mrs. Park as she took out a paper, my schedule. She handed it to me and explained slowly that instead of taking an elective like everyone else, I would be taking a class called English Second Language, or ESL, to hopefully make me better at English. How nice of them, I thought. InshaAllah, my English will get better.

She then started to explain to me how today would be like my orientation day and tomorrow, I would have classes like the rest of the students. I began to look over my schedule:

 

Block Course Teacher Room
1 English Mrs. Lee 12
2 Science Mr. Jones 15
3 Physical Education Mrs. Volvok Gym
4 ESL Mr. Brenard 15
5 Math Mrs. Park 16
6 History Mrs. Abed 21
No Elective – Free Period

 

With that, I headed to my English class. When I got there, Mrs. Lee greeted me with a smile and asked “Anaya, right?”

“Yes,” I replied.

“You can take a seat between Zahra and James,” she pointed.

I walked over to sit down and heard all kinds of nasty comments about my hijab, and also some nice ones about it being unique in a beautiful way. I ignored them all. James had blonde hair, brown eyes, and small, elf-like features. Zahra (I immediately noticed to be a Muslim name) wore a hijab. This made me a little happier that I would not be alone.

A few hours later in Math, I realized that Zahra was in most of my classes. The only difference between us was that she had Math and History at different periods than me. She and I hit it off immediately; instant friends. We found out that we both had similar stories. We had both immigrated and English was not our first language. She used to live in India but had to leave because the Prime Minister said that the hijab is not allowed to be worn in school. Her family started to face harsh treatment too, so they moved to America as well. I also learned that Zahra was really smart and could be really funny if she wanted to.

I told her my story, which was similar to hers, and learned that Zahra was the youngest of five children. Five!

“MashaAllah!” I exclaimed. “You have a big family! I am an only child. What’s it like to have older siblings?”

“Like someone always has your back,” she replied proudly.

“That sounds nice,” I said, dreaming about what it would be like to have an older sibling.

Number 1

After a few weeks, I was starting to warm up to my teachers and I discovered that I liked my advisor and my English teachers, Mrs. Park and Mrs. Lee. They were both immigrants (from Korea), so they both understood the hardships of not being a native English speaker. A month later, I learned that Zahra had got into a school writing competition. First prize won a yearbook feature, the story on the school website, and $100!

“You will totally win!” I encouraged her as she turned in her papers. “You’re such a good writer!”

“InshaAllah, you are right,” she said nervously. That night, I prayed.

InshaAllah, inshaAllah, inshaAllah…

After submitting her story to the contest, we went to the soccer tryouts to see if I could make the team. I tried out for the goalie position, where other people were making jokes about us, but I ignored them and prayed that I would make the team to prove I can do anything! As a result, I blocked every single goal.

A couple of days later, as I was putting my ESL things in my locker, I saw the soccer teams had been announced. I had made the team! After school, I called my mom and told her the good news.

Alhamdulillah!” she exclaimed. “Ayaan, did you hear that! Anaya made the team!”

“MashaAllah, my little soccer star!” he started hollering in victory. “Go show ’em what you’re made of!”

On that happy note, I changed my hijab to a sports hijab that wouldn’t fall off and went to practice. There, we did drills like weaving around cones and passing. It was fun, but tiring. Our first game was in 10 days, so we practiced as much as we could.

Days later, we got jerseys. They were orange with the team name “Tigers” on them. I got jersey #1 and smiled. I’m #1, I thought. I’m #1.

The day of the soccer game was full of Gatorade, sweat, and yelling from mom, dad, and Zahra from the sidelines with all the other families. It was stressful because the team we were playing was good. In the last few minutes, we were tied and when the opponent tried to score, I blocked it! We won, and I left the field on top of my teammates’ shoulders.

Hijab Is My Crown

A few weeks later, the results of the writing contest came out. It read “First Place: Zahra Baig”. We jumped up and down in joy. I read her submission once it was posted, and it was about her life in India; the discrimination, and her eventual move to America. In the end, she wrote, “Hijab is my crown. The crown that I wear proudly.” This made me smile.

Eventually, we made it to the soccer finals and easily sent the other teams packing. We won four games in a row. When I was interviewed for the school newspaper, I told them my story and when I was asked a specific question, “How does it feel to be a Muslim soccer player, after all of the discrimination you have received?” I replied, “I don’t need other people to tell me what to do or who to be. All that hate, I ignore. Like Zahra Baig once said, hijab is my crown. I wear it proudly.”

I learned that everyone has a crown, something to make them proud of themselves. Hijab is mine, so what’s yours?

 

Related reading:

 – The Purpose of Hijab: Reclaiming The Narrative

The Purpose of Hijab: Reclaiming The Narrative

Podcast: Hijabi Girls in a Barbie World, Episode 1

Podcast: Hijabi Girls in a Barbie World, Episode 1

Keep supporting MuslimMatters for the sake of Allah

Alhamdulillah, we're at over 850 supporters. Help us get to 900 supporters this month. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Noor Latif is a rising 8th grader. She lives in Sacramento, California. She likes to read, write, and play tennis in her spare time. She is proud of her Muslim identity and is passionate about social justice issues, especially women's rights.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Umm Zaynab

    July 18, 2022 at 4:41 AM

    That’s a beautiful story ❤️ jazakallah Khair for sharing. Allah SWT protect you and shower you with His mercy and love. Ameen

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