A little story I’ve always wanted to share. I grew up in Tunisia then I moved with my parents to the U.S. to temporarily live there for my father’s work. I was somewhat forced to wear the hijab when I was young, and especially when I went to high school because it is important to practice Islam regardless of where we live. I went to high school in Virginia and it was an amazing school. Although there was not a lot of members of my community ( I was the only hijabi girl in the school), I fit pretty easily. My family was pretty traditional so I wasn’t allowed to go to prom. I didn’t feel comfortable going in the first place because I didn’t see how I could wear a dress in a hijab. I wished I didn’t wear the hijab so I can go to prom and have this beautiful experience.
It’s okay to be disappointed because being pious is more important. Right?
After graduating, I was lucky and happy that I was granted status to remain in the U.S. so that I could complete my studies in a univerisity in Virginia. Because my father wasn’t around, I was comfortable enough to remove my hijab while I studied and lived in the university. I felt free and rebellious. For the first time I can feel my hair breathe in the fresh air. Not wearing the hijab made me more confident and I joined many non-profit organizations and social clubs at school. My life was so busy.
I had mixed feelings when I graduated. I was ecstatic for completing my degree, but I was also sad that my time in the U.S. will soon finish (because I couldn’t extend my stay). I was offered a really good position in Dubai and I had to leave my life and friends in the U.S.
I’ve been in Dubai for the past four years, and I’ve never felt really free. I’m not free to wear whatever I want, hang out whenever time, hang out with whomever. After all gender doesn’t matter but in Islamic countries, it does. There are many hijabi women out there in Dubai who are free and are content with their lives. I am not saying that hijab limits women’s freedom, however, it is limiting my freedom after I tasted freedom of choice in the U.S. Maybe if hadn’t lived enough in the U.S., I wouldn’t feel this way.
I feel that I am not a woman unless I am covered. I feel that just my existence is a sin. My voice, my body, my gaze are sins unless I cover them. If I am not a covered woman, then I am simply a body of sin. This is how my brain interprets my past and current experiences.
I wish I could forget how free I felt when I was in the U.S. It would make my life much easier and I wouldn’t have these thoughts. Maybe Covid-19 doesn’t help either and makes everything seem much worse than it is. I don’t know, I just wanted to share my little story. Thank you for reading. -Jihane Haddou