“Erm… lots of different reasons really”
That’s what I tell people when they quiz me on why I’m wearing this scarf on my head. Why now? Why at 27 years old, after living a predominantly western life am I choosing this ancient practice of popping a scarf over my head.
I am a British born Pakistani originally from the North East of England and now living in the Midlands with my husband and young son. At 17 I left home with my white boyfriend and moved into student digs. At 19 I got my first tattoo, a quote from a poem I told everyone had a deep and powerful meaning to me which in actually fact had no significance but made me feel interesting. At 21 I got my second tattoo of a swallow which I had no idea meant “prison bird” but helpfully I was told this by my tattoo artist… just as he was finishing up. I drank what I want, ate what I want, I clubbed harder than my white friends and would look down at my Asian friends. I’m better than them. I’m more liberal.
Essentially I would class myself then as a ‘part time Muslim’. A Muslim that would fast to lose a few pounds. A Muslim who would abstain from pork because it looks disgusting to me.
Just after my 22nd birthday, he came along. My husband. We tell everyone that asks how we met that it was through friends. The blunt truth is I googled “chat rooms” and clicked the first link I saw and there he was. 24/M/UK. There I was 22/F/UK.
We text. We called. We met up every four weeks or in other words, every time we got paid and just over a year after meeting online in that obscure chat room we decided to get married. He was like me. Are we westernised or practising Muslims? Can we call ourselves Muslim while sexting? We can’t define who we are. We’re blurry.
And now here I am – 4 and half years later after marriage and I’ve decided to wear a Hijab. Obviously I’ve made sure I wear bright scarves, ones that suit me and my outfit. It covers my hair properly and it’s a scarf, that’s as modest as they get.
It’s been a year since I started wearing it and my mother still hasn’t seen me in it. She won’t talk to me. I can be a Muslim but not THAT much of a Muslim. I mean what about all those nice earrings I have. I know why I wanted to wear this scarf, but now I can’t remember. I know it involves modesty and the recommendations of being a Muslim but it’s slipping off. Slowly. Was this all just a phase? Have I made a mistake?
Honestly, I miss my skinny jeans, my heavy jewellery, my hair… but then I know my faith and I know what’s right. I know we can’t eat pork, I just don’t know why. I know we can’t drink alcohol but I don’t know why. I know we fast for one month but I don’t know why. Sometimes there’s wisdom in things and you just have to go with it. Sometimes you want to change but you’ll always be the same.
At the end of the day I want to stand 6ft tall and feel free in my choices. Yet, I know with this piece of fabric over my hair I’m limited.
I want my cake and I want to eat it.