As a Muslim, my religion insists that I fear only Allah, which seems like a pretty straightforward request to fulfill. But in light of increasing post-election threats and acts of violence against Muslims and African Americans, we must recognize that some of us need help to reach and keep this level of faith.
For many, wearing the hijab and dressing in loose-fitting garments to guard our modesty is an outward expression of our obedience to Allah. To the shock and dismay of many in the Islamic community, some Muslimahs are considering shedding their hijabs altogether. With stakes as high as heaven, it would seem like upholding your decision to wear a hijab wouldn't be an issue, but it is.
Muslim women, particularly those who openly and proudly wear the hijab, are easy targets for harassment based on the simple fact that our difference is highly visible. For many of my Muslim sisters, the daily threat of being taunted, attacked, or deported cannot be taken lightly. For some, removing the hijab is an act of self-preservation.
Depending on where I live and the social climate, I may be so fearful that removing my hijab seems like the right thing to do. I live in an area where Trump/Pence signs flourish, which makes me apprehensive. I don't think all Trump/Pence supporters are bigots, but it would only take one overzealous, lost soul to try to whitewash “America Great Again,” and I’d be the next headline. Wearing a hijab—or any marker of my beliefs or culture that some may consider an un-American threat—makes me an easy target. While I may be willing to die for what I believe in, this shouldn’t be my first thought as I walk down the aisles of the supermarket.
The burden of such a heavy decision isn’t made easier with criticism. Whether or not I choose to wear my hijab as a reaction to Trump’s rhetoric and the election results, my decision should be met with compassion, understanding, and respect. Fellow Muslims, instead of judging me, say an extra prayer for me. Any spiritual repercussions of my decision are mine to bear alone. I want to feel safe. I have to figure out how to do it.
Whether or not I choose to wear my hijab as a reaction to Trump’s rhetoric and the election results, my decision should be met with compassion, understanding, and respect.
This raises an important question: What can be done to achieve a sense of safety?
Community is more important now than ever. If those who share a hateful worldview are assembling, those of us who aim to preserve our previously established freedoms, like women’s birth control options or the basic right to live free of fear, need to do the same. Social media has had its uplifting moments: Those in the world of children’s literature have joined the safety pin movement, drawing their characters donning safety pins in solidarity, and actually wearing safety pins themselves. This act has been met with mixed reactions, but it's a nice gesture that can start important conversations and motivate people to take action.
Beyond the safety pin movement are those rallying for calls to be made, letters to be written, and bigotry to be fought with conscientious dialogue. Individuals connected by race, faith, color, occupation, or a simple desire to live in a hate-free world are coming together to share intervention strategies if they see Muslims or a member of any marginalized group being intimidated.
It is important to not feel alone in a time like this. I’ve found myself reaching out more to my Muslim and non-Muslim sisters. I've made a point to engage with like-minded folk who don't tolerate bullying and instead, stand up for what's right. Surrounding myself with this kind of rhetoric is what gives me strength.
Sure, I could remove my hijab in an act of self-preservation, but if I’m only worried about myself, who will worry about my neighbor? If I find myself in a precarious situation, and my neighbors are only concerned with their own problems, there will be no one to help me. This isn’t a fight for individuals; it’s a fight for all of us to exist in a world where we are free to have faith without fear.
This isn’t a fight for individuals; it’s a fight for all of us to exist in a world where we are free to have faith without fear.
Besides, I have children. What lesson would I be teaching them if I succumb to the idea of intolerance? This is supposed to be the land of the free and the home of the brave—that mentality must extend beyond sporting events!
Being brave in the face of injustice is not new to African Americans. My ancestors were brutalized for desiring freedom and equality, and we continue this same fight today. I gain hope from the successes of those who came before me. I, too, can prevail.
That unshakable confidence is what I need and turn to every time I break out a scarf. As an African American woman, choosing to take off my hijab wouldn't make me immune to harassment in Trump's America. Unlike a hijab, my skin color is not something I can take off and set aside in a drawer, nor would I. Acknowledging that things may get worse before they get better helps me tap into the strongest parts of myself—the parts that know my personal victory can be a stepping stone for a larger victory in the future.