An Inspired Hijabi Tells Her Story

toka 219-year-old Hunter student, Toka Shalan, tells her story of what inspired her to wear hijab. Her transition to wearing hijab was easy because she grew up in Bay Ridge and attended Al-Noor, a private Islamic school.  She was surrounded by many Muslim women; some of them were her mother’s friends while the majority of them were high school friends. “I fell in love with the way they looked using different color scarves as well as different ways of wrapping it around their head,” she said. “It amazed me how they would walk down the streets of New York confidently wearing their headscarves and letting people define and respect their identity as that of a Muslim woman.”  She explains that was her inspiration of putting on her hijab. “It has become a part of me and a part of what I am identified as in society, as an Egyptian-American Muslim woman.”

Throughout her nine years of wearing hijab, Toka witnessed first-hand racism and discrimination. “One day, as I was walking with a classmate who wore the Niqab (A veil worn by some Muslim women in public, covering all of the face apart from the eyes) near my high school, two teenage boys came from behind us, pulled on our headscarf from the back and ran away laughing,” she said. “There would also be days where I would be walking home alone or with friends and people would tell us to ‘Go back to where we came from’ or ‘Take that thing off your head! Don’t let them oppress you!’

She ignored these hate remarks and continued to wear the hijab that “liberates” her. Ayesha Nusrat, a 23-year-old Muslim Indian from New Delhi published a similar story in the New York Times. 

Even though Muslim women are still discrimination against for wearing hijab today, many others respect and admire the fact that they cover. “In college I’d receive compliments about how pretty my scarf looked and how they thought it was pretty cool that my scarf would always match what I would wear.”

Toka said her greatest experience wearing hijab is when curious people approach her  and wonder why she  wears hijab. The people’s wonder give her a reason to believe that not only is she approachable, but she can also express to them the sense of freedom she feels while wearing hijab. “Some of my friends even tried the Hijab on just to see how it would look on them and they’d walk down hallways or streets just to see how others would see them or treat them.” Toka said that when her friends put on the hijab for a day it changed their perceptions and ideas about women who veil. Some of the girls who experienced putting on hijab said it made them more noticeable in a crowd, but felt nothing of oppression like some people assume. They had made the choice of putting it on simply because they wanted to know how it felt and realized that veiling was a form of expression.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. eva626
    Apr 29, 2013 @ 05:22:46

    I remember a few incidences where ignorant people would make a fool of themselves by acting in such a way by pulling off Muslim girls’ hijabs, its was very sad. But eventually everything turned out ok. And plus the more you strive for Islam, the more you are rewarded INShaAllah. Great post once again.!

    btw nice to meet you. -Eva


  2. inspiredhijabi
    Apr 29, 2013 @ 17:00:08

    Yeah, it’s really upsetting to know that ignorance still exists no matter how many try to educate. But hamdullah, we get through it okay 🙂

    That’s definitely true– the more you strive, the more you are rewarded. & nice to meet you, thank you for commenting!


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