NEW JERSEY — Rowaida Abdelaziz, 17, feels blessed with her hijab, and sees the simple piece of cloth covering her hair as a source of liberation.
“It really feels good,” the New Jersey high school senior told the CNN on Wednesday, August 12.
Abdelaziz, the daughter of two Egyptians, willingly chose to put on hijab.
“My mom says a girl is like a jewel. When you have something precious, you usually hide it. You want to make sure you keep it safe until that treasure is ready to be found.”
Abdelaziz believes hijab has brought purpose and a beautiful dimension to her life.
When you actually wear it, it opens your eyes. It makes you want to explore your religious faith,” she says enthiustically.
“It felt like I was missing something and now I’m complete.”
Sarah Hekmati, who first wore the hijab at the age 15 while growing up in Detroit, Michigan, says that decision has liberated her.
While fellow teens were struggling at a critical time in their life, she was confidently rediscovering her own self as a Muslim woman.
“It gave me a sense of identity,” says Hekmati, the daughter of Iranian parents.
“I really liked the purpose behind the hijab — a woman covering herself so that a man should know her for her mind, not her body.”
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one’s affiliations.
But the hijab sometimes brings Muslim girls and women unwatned attention.
“You can sometimes feel like you’re in a zoo: locked in the cage of other people’s stereotypes, prejudices and judgments, on parade to be analyzed, deconstructed and reconstructed,” says Randa Abdel-Fattah, an Australia-born author of Palestinian and Egyptian parents.
Hekmati, the Detroit Muslim, says sometimes she meets frosty and angry looks from strangers who treat her as if she is a terrorist.
Others seem baffled and keep asking why she is covering her hair.
“One guy asked me if I was allergic to the sun,” she recalled.
Abdelaziz, the New Jersey high school senior, also had her share of public myths about her hijab.
But she says the most irritating kind of stereotype is when people assume that her patents supressed her into wearing the hijab.
“It’s not oppression; it’s not that I’m accepting degradation — it’s about self-respect,” she always answers them.
“It represents beauty to me.”