World Hijab Day - What about Me?

"Daadi, can you read me a story," my three-year old granddaughter handed me a picture book she brought from her pre-school library. I looked at the title. 'Ramadan'. Feeling pleased with her choice, I curled up with her on the sofa, and started reading. As I went through the glossy, colorful pages, seeing the photos of the Muslim mom and dad, mom in the hijab, dad with a skullcap, I felt marginalized. I don't wear the hijab. In that moment I wished that out there is a picture book, with a Muslim face like mine, and like so many others like me. There isn't only one face for the Muslim woman. We are a diverse group, and each of us chooses to express her faith, and the principle of modesty in attire, in her own way. I don't want the image of the Muslim woman to get framed into one image only. I don't want the man or woman on the street to dismiss me as a 'liberal' Muslim, a 'non-observant' Muslim, or a Muslim with a 'but'. I am passionate about my faith, and I want to be taken seriously - as a Muslim.
That aside, I have deep respect for women who choose to wear the hijab, particularly in this time and in this space. Women of courage, they are standing up for their religious beliefs and their expression of Islam, and are not afraid. They see it as part of their identity and a reminder of their faith and are saying: judge me by my character and not by my looks. They have bravely ignored fashion norms, and are pushing back against hostility towards their attire. When confronted, they tackle it with humor, "I never have to worry about a bad hair day."  Sound oppressed? After every terror incident when the anti-Muslim rhetoric becomes deafening, and I come across a woman in the hijab, I am awestruck.
I am also in awe of the land of the free. Only here can each of us express our beliefs as we see them, wear it on our sleeves (or hair), survive, and thrive.
Today, as World Hijab Day is commemorated, I stand in solidarity with my sisters in faith. And to all my readers: I am a Muslim too.