Soraya Asfari, 17, is a rising senior at Wake Tech Early College.
This summer, WUNC hired seven teenagers as part of its Youth Reporting Institute. One of them wears the hijab. She said that decision inspires many questions from strangers. Soraya Asfari explores why young Muslims choose to wear the traditional head scarf.
Muslim girls get questions all the time about the hijab.
Does it get hot in that? Do you shower with it on? Do you sleep with it? Can you wear it in front of your family? Can you take it off in front of girls? Are you bald?
Here's the deal.
- Yes, it can get hot wearing the hijab.
- No, I don't wear it in the shower or to bed.
- Yes, I can take it off at home.
- No, I'm not bald.
And the hijab isn't weird.
According to the Pew Research Center, of the approximately one million Muslim women living in the U.S., a little more than half wear the hijab, or the Muslim head scarf.
Rafia Sheikh is a normal teenager who enjoys spending time with friends and family, hates school and adores her cat. She wears a hijab that she picked out at the mall.
Wearing the hijab is a symbolic step which Muslim girls choose to take on their own. When Rafia put on the hijab, she knew that her online persona had to change as well.
"I deleted all my pictures on social media showing my hair so no one — hopefully no one — saved any of those," said Rafia.
She decided to wear the hijab after the Chapel Hill shootings in February, when three young Muslims were shot dead in their home. After the tragedy, Rafia knew she couldn't put it off any longer.
"Your life, it can be gone in a second," Rafia said. "You never know when it's gonna be. You never know why. You can never really prepare for that moment, but when that moment comes, you're gonna wanna be prepared, so just putting my hijab on, really I feel helped me."
Wearing the hijab is a big decision and a serious one. But don't forget, we're teenagers too.
We care about our image and what people think. We get insecure sometimes, just like everyone else.
My friend Kawther Asad gets upset when people make assumptions about her based on her hijab.
"They should see how the true Muslim women are," Kawther said. "There are so many Muslim women that are doing great things, and it's just a cloth on our head. It doesn't stop us from going to school and getting our education.
"Yusor was in dental school, and that just shows how much we can do and how much we can go and help with charity and help with kids and everything. This cloth on our heads doesn't stop us."
Kawther's talking about Yusor Abu-Salha. She and her little sister Razan were victims of the Chapel Hill shootings. They are heroes to me and many other young Muslim women because of the way they embraced their hijab and their faith.
Rafia likes to quote a tweet Yusor sent out to explain her feelings about wearing the head scarf: "Hijab is my constant reminder that we aren't living for this world."
"That part really stuck to me," Rafia said. "And it's just a big reminder that we aren't living for this world, and we shouldn't focus so much on the goods in this life, that we should really just live for God and do our best to try and get paradise in the hereafter."
It's meaningful to Rafia, but wearing the hijab is also kind of fun. Head scarves come in all sorts of colors, patterns and sizes. We look at them all the time at the mall.
As for my preferences, I like the solid colored hijabs: black, purple, brown, pink. Rafia likes the bright, bold patterns, but it's more than the look for her. It makes her feel "S-E-X-Y."
"It's a very sexy thing because only when you get married, only your husband can really see you," Rafia said. "He can only see your hair. He can really only see who you are, so I feel like that's very mysterious about you."
Rafia and I are both students at Wake Early College, a diverse school. When we walk into the cafeteria for lunch wearing our hijabs, no one asks questions or thinks anything of it. We're all mixed up with everyone else, and that's just the way we like it.