In honour of #worldhijabday, I thought it’d be suitable to share my story and relationship with the hijab.

I’m not perfect, but then again who is? I was 12 when I first started wearing the hijab. At the time, I had just started considering my faith outside of Islamic classes at the mosque and I wanted to try and symbolise that with the hijab, after talking to my mum. I remember being so scared to wear it because, you see, I had this massive fear of being different. I didn’t want to stand out. I didn’t tell my friends I was going to start wearing it, I didn’t discuss it with anyone besides Mama Akther, I just showed up to the bus stop on the first day of high school wearing it. My friends at the time made me feel great, they told me “it suited me” and that “it looked great.” I then became a little more confident. I remember thinking ‘Maybe I could do this. Maybe it would be alright standing out a little.’

I was so grateful for the vote of confidence from my friends. But, little did I know the next two weeks would be astronomically horrific. The thing is, the world has amazing people in it. For example, my friends at the time. But the world also has a group of vicious, horrible people in it too. In my first two weeks of high school, a group of boys called me names, snickered at me and made fun of my hijab by mimicking it with their uniform. I was mortified. I didn’t blend in. I stuck out like a sore thumb, and my being different clearly brought out insecurity in these boys leading them to bully me. I went home crying one day and locked myself in my bedroom. From then on for the next two years, I would leave the house wearing my hijab and take it off before I got to school so my parents would think I was wearing it. I felt so ashamed. Ashamed of myself for being a coward. Ashamed that I let what these boys thought of me get to me. But most of all ashamed that I didn’t feel like I could trust my parents enough to tell them what was happening. The worst thing of all was that even after I stopped wearing the hijab, the bullying didn’t stop. (I’ll leave that story for another day though).

After two years of this secret, at one of the darkest points in my life, I broke down in tears and told my mum what was/had been happening. Who, by the way, already knew but decided to wait for me to come to her. My mum told me that what people think about me doesn’t matter. The only person whose opinion really matters is my own and Allah’s. We had a real deep conversation whilst she washed the dishes and I listened. I then made the decision that I was ready to put all of this behind me and try again. After all, this was my relationship with God that I was messing with. So, a couple months into Year 9 on a Wednesday morning I went to school with my head held high (this time with the hijab wrapped around it), ready to try again. My friends were awesome, my teachers encouraging but the most important thing to me was that people treated me like me. Most people just gave me reassuring smiles and didn’t asks questions. They just talked to me as they did the day before.

Over the years, with the rise of modest dressers and ample Muslim fashion bloggers online, my hijab ‘style’ has changed drastically. I don’t cover all of my hair most of the time. I like a little or sometimes a lot of it to be showing. Some days I choose not to wear the hijab at all and I wear my hair down. And that’s okay with me. My relationship with the Hijab and God is forever changing, growing and evolving and that’s okay. I feel comfortable with the way I do/wear my hijab, I change my style depending on how I feel. Whereas, before I dealt with childish boys who had vile comments to make, now I deal with girls/women who wear the hijab and some who don’t and some grown boys/men telling me that I might as well take it off. But here’s the thing, we should be uplifting and encouraging each other not putting each other down. I feel liberated and confident when I wear the hijab, a sign of strength in all of the stigma built around it in society today. So, when countries are banning women from wearing the hijab, I see insecure people, scared of difference. Scared of a sign of strength and confidence and belief in something far greater than themselves. People need to remember that the hijab doesn’t make Muslim women oppressed or it doesn’t mean that we can’t think for ourselves, it is a symbol of my faith. I feel empowered. I feel brave. I feel liberated. But, most of all I still feel like me. I’m still Anisah with my headscarf or without. I’m still a Muslim. I’m still me.