De-Hijabi Chronicle: Taking Off My Scarf

I’ve written this piece and deleted it at least five times. I want to make sure I get it right since this was one of the biggest decisions in my life.

About three years ago, I decided to take my hijab off. Something that had been on my head, literally, for about 21 years.

It’s hard to explain why I took it off. I guess the best way to describe it is I wasn’t feeling like myself any more. The scarf wasn’t a part of who I am. My heart really wasn’t in it. Have you ever put something on that you knew just didn’t match who you were? And you were almost uncomfortable with it? That’s basically the feeling I had.

I thought about taking off my hijab for about 5 years before I finally did it. I think I was so worried about losing friends (only to realize later they weren’t my real friends if they cut me off for MY life decision). I was also afraid of disappointing people and being judged. I grew up with a father who always said, “What will other people think?” It was rarely a case of “that’s wrong,” and always the concern of how other people would perceive me, and in turn, us as a family.

Me being stuck in that mindset meant I worried how the community would react. How would my mom react? My family? My friends? All this came into play about my decision to take my scarf off.

Another reason it took me so long: I was worried to lose a part of my identity. I was always the girl who stood out in classes, at events, at restaurants when I hung out with my non-scarf wearing friends. People could easily identify me. I was the strong, independent, outspoken Muslim woman.

(I always matched my scarves with what I was wearing.)

I’m also a journalist, and I pushed other Muslim women to follow their dreams, and not let the scarf limit them in reaching their goals. Would this change everything? Would this change my message? I want people to know that I never felt like my scarf held me back. In fact, it made me try harder. And work harder towards what I wanted to achieve in life. I remember one time I talked to an agent about getting a job as an anchor on TV. He said, “With your scarf, you probably won’t go very far.” Instead of getting discouraged I laughed and told him that I didn’t give a shit about his opinion. That if I wanted to become a TV reporter with a scarf on, I will. He was left speechless.

(I found fancy scarves to go with my fancy outfits at events)

I also never felt oppressed wearing hijab. Ever. It never crossed my mind. When I took the scarf off, a lot of people congratulated me on “being free.” I know that they were just trying to be nice and didn’t really know what else to say. But I was always free. Now, I just feel more like myself.

About a year before my 30th birthday, I went up north and didn’t wear my hijab the entire weekend – just to get a feel for it. To make sure that this was what I really wanted. And it was. Now to just get the strength to take it off and face possible backlash.

It was a few months after my 30th birthday that I finally decided to pull the trigger. I told my sisters first. They told me that I would always be loved by them, with or without my scarf. My mom was next. I expected a lecture, but instead she told me she was disappointed but that it was my life and my decision. She was right. I realized that I didn’t care if others had something to say about this. This IS my life and my decision. I took my hijab off the following weekend. And haven’t looked back since.

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(This was the first picture I posted without hijab on Instagram and Facebook)

I think the best reaction came from my co workers. I just walked into work one day, scarf-less. No one recognized me and everyone was convinced that I was a new employee. I actually regret not recording the whole day. People even came by to see me because they had heard that I had let my hair out (I was a fake blonde at the time). Some people even touched my hair to make sure it was real and that they weren’t dreaming.

(I went from super blonde to super dark in one day.. the blonde days are over folks)

I got a few messages from some people on Facebook. They told me I was wrong and that I was going to hell for my decision. I kindly thanked them for their concern and moved on (*unfriend*). A few others texted me and told me not to lose my religion and to make sure I still kept up with prayer, etc. Why does taking my scarf off immediately make me less of a Muslim?

I do have to mention that I found it somewhat amusing the things people in the Dearborn community said to my closest friends behind my back the moment the hijab came off. “She must be getting drunk now too.” “So does this mean she’s out partying all the time? Going to clubs? Having lots of sex with guys?” “Is she going to dress slutty?”

Let me answer all those questions for you with a big, fat NO. I mean of course my outfits changed a little. Come on. I always wore long sleeves when I went out and pants to my ankles. Now I wear sleeveless and capris. But that’s not slutty. At least not in my mind (I’m sure some would beg to differ).

I kept my Instagram and Facebook photos up of me wearing the hijab. A few people told me to take it down “because it looks bad.” But it’s part of who I was and my past. I’m not ashamed that I used to wear the scarf. Why should I hide that I did?


I’m still a proud Muslim. Yes, I’m a little more liberal than most. But any time I get a chance to tell people that I am a Muslim, I do so. And honestly, I’ve met girls who wear the scarf and are actually getting drunk or are out partying. Or dress slutty. I think that helped with my decision as well. Just because there’s a piece of cloth on your head doesn’t make you a better person, or more religious.

But to those who do wear it despite everything that’s going on in this crazy world, kudos to you. You are strong and beautiful. I have to add here that I also never took my hijab off because of fear of how I was treated with it on. Although I do realize I get fewer dirty stares from people now.

There are a few other things I’ve learned from taking the hijab off:

  1. Bad hair days are REAL.
  2. Lipgloss (sometimes lipstick) is the enemy when your hair is down.
  3. I now understand why my friends all hated having the windows down in the car.
  4. Doing my hair for an event really is quite the task.
  5. Dry shampoo is my best friend.
  6. So are buns.
    pic 5
    (Photo Credit: Steph Rhoades)
  7. If I get a zit on my forehead it’s front and center now. I used to be able to hide it with my scarf.
  8. Humidity is also the enemy.
  9. So is rain.
  10. And snow.
  11. My ears get really cold in the winter. Not used to that.
  12. So does my neck.
  13. This mean neck scarves and hats are my friends in the winter.
    pic 4 - Copy
  14. Matching earrings to outfits is fun — but I had to buy a lot more earrings.
  15. I actually get to go through TSA pre sometimes when the airport is busy.
  16. No more “random screenings” or custom checks at the airport.

To all the Muslim women (and women in general), don’t let what other people think control how you present yourself to the world. And always be yourself. Always.

Those Cupcakes Look Great: The Struggles of Ramadan

It’s 9:30 a.m. and my stomach is already growling… and I have about 12 hours left to go.

To top it off, someone brought in two dozen delicious melt-in-your-mouth looking cupcakes. And set it on the desk in front of me. Not to spite me or make me jealous, but I’m sitting next to the desk where they usually set food. And today’s cupcakes look especially delicious.

I’m fasting. Just like millions of Muslims do each year during Ramadan. And when I say fasting, there’s no eating, drinking, smoking or even chewing gum. And no, not even water (that’s the question I get asked the most). I fast from dawn to sunset, every day for about a month.

I think it’s cute when co-workers hide their food from me when they’re eating lunch. Believe it or not, it doesn’t bother me when people eat in front of me. The smell sometimes gets to me, but that’s where the patience you’re supposed to have during Ramadan kicks in. For some reason, I become more patient (definitely not my top virtue). Ramadan also teaches you to empathize with those less fortunate than you. That’s one of the reasons why Muslims fast.

During Ramadan, I realize how important the smaller things in life are; things we usually take advantage of. For instance, that first cup of coffee in the morning; that apple and peanut butter I snack on during the day; the bowl of ice cream or frozen yogurt I have when I get off work. It’s so minute in my daily life, but in Ramadan, I realize how amazing it is that I can have those things during the day; how blessed I am that I have the resources needed to satisfy and sustain me.


(I miss having coffee so much!)

By the way, Ramadan is not just about refraining from eating and drinking, but you’re supposed to be on your best behavior during Ramadan. You’re cleansing your body AND your soul. In my case, best behavior is not swearing (my friends know I can have a potty mouth sometimes).

This year, Ramadan takes place during the start of the summer, during the longest days of the year. We follow the lunar calendar, and so the month of Ramadan moves back ten days every year. I remember when it used to be during winter time. That was the best. But despite the long summer days, I’ve made it so far. I’m still here. And I’m surviving. Probably because I had Suhur this morning. That’s when Muslims wake up before dawn to have breakfast and chug some water. Some Muslims just stay up all night and eat and drink so the day isn’t as hard. In my case, I woke up at 3:30 a.m., clumsily, with eyes half shut, stumbled down the stairs to the kitchen, had some bread and cheese, a few glasses of water, and went right back to sleep.

I have to be honest, throughout the day there are moments of hunger where you wonder, “HOW AM I GOING TO MAKE IT?” And then those moments pass, and you go on with your day. Until Iftar time, when you break your fast around sunset. Those last few hours of fasting can be difficult sometimes. Mostly the last half hour, because you know you’re SO close, yet still so far away.

Iftar time is great, though. Not just because you’re finally eating after a long day of fasting, but it’s also because people usually break fast with family and/or friends, and it’s such a great feeling. Many people take turns inviting others to their home for a delicious dinner. Everyone at the dinner table is there for the same reason. They went through what you went through. They are fasting for the same reasons. And it doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, you unite at that table and eat TOGETHER for the first time in about 17 hours (less or more, depending on where you live).

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(Broke fast at a friend’s house, and relaxed and hung out after)

Muslims usually break fast on dates. That’s the tradition. And people really eat anything that gets cooked. You’re not as picky about food or what’s on the dinner table at that point. You just know you want to eat. A lot of people ask me if I binge eat once I break fast. Personally, I don’t. I can’t. Fasting makes your stomach shrink, and you pile all this food onto your plate thinking you’re going to eat everything in your sight. But you get halfway through and realize it’s just not going to happen.

Which brings me to the question I get asked a lot: Do you lose weight in Ramadan?

I do, and that’s only because I try not to eat heavy stuff or chow down like a mad woman after breaking fast. In the past, I did eat like a mad woman and actually gained weight during Ramadan. But thankfully, I figured it out and was able to make changes.

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(My favorite thing to get after Iftar — Frozen Yogurt!)

Many of my non-Muslim friends tell me they wouldn’t be able to fast because they’re diabetic of have other health issues. People hate on Islam, but believe it or not, it caters to the needs of people a lot of the time. If you have a health issue or are sick, you shouldn’t fast. Also, ladies get a break: women on their period cannot fast during that time. Pregnant women also don’t have to fast.

Even though I have about quite a few hours left until Iftar, I’m doing good. I feel great, and I’m looking forward to having dinner with my family tonight. We’re thinking of getting Mexican food. A carne asada has my name all over it.