I wore the hijab for a day

Men and women of the Muslim faith invited people of all religions to try wearing the hijab on World Hijab Day, Feb. 1. When two teachers came into my third hour class wearing the hijab, I was empowered to ask if I could join them.

To be frank, the teachers at our school lack religious diversity, none of the teachers wear the hijab on a daily basis. My initial reaction was, “Is this cultural appropriation?” I knew the hijab was a powerful religious symbol to Muslim women and did not want to infringe on their outward display of modesty and freedom. So as senior Meamuna Paracha wrapped a scarf to cover my hair, I asked her. She is a Muslim woman who wears the hijab and the person who helped us perfect our scarfs. She said, “I do not think it is cultural appropriation, but rather cultural appreciation.”

I went back to class wearing the hijab, smiling but also self conscious,”

— Katie Spillman

I went back to class wearing the hijab, smiling but also self conscious. I made a statement about my belief to stand up for this practice that was kind of nerve-racking to make, I did not know what the reaction would be. I was so nervous that I had to type up a sign that read “I STAND for Muslim women and chose to wear the hijab in solidarity.” I wore it so I could feel like other students were not going to judge me. When I walked down the hallway for the first time, I tried to gauge everyone’s reactions. No one made comments. They would look at me, read my sign and quickly look away. As I walked into my fourth hour class I texted my friends saying “It’s World Hijab Day, and I’m wearing the hijab!” expecting an overwhelmingly positive response. However, what I got was several speeches reprimanding me and saying I was being culturally appropriative. I understood where they were coming from, but I had made my choice.

The first physical response I got was a thumbs up, from a student. Next, I received a smile from another student. Then a substitute teacher simply said, “very good.” Several other teachers and students would nod or give some sign of approval. “It’s really cool what you’re doing,” junior Tazeen Malik, who practices Islam said. “I don’t think it’s cultural appropriation, I don’t think any Muslims consider it to be a bad thing.”

Even with all of the positivity, I was terrified of the negative response from other people. The judgement of other students was very present in my day. Other students avoided looking at me or talking to me directly, and I think that even though I did not talk to these students, I at least put a thought in their brain. I think I made them curious at first, and then realize why I did what I did. I hope they look at the hijab a little differently now, and know that it is not a tool of repression. For the students who criticized me, I hope that they know that I was honored to wear the hijab, and I did not take it lightly.

I was honored to wear the hijab, and I did not take it lightly,”

— Katie Spillman

The hijab is very freeing. I felt beautiful and respectable. At no point did I feel oppressed, or less expressive in my outfit choice. I felt like it was just an extension of my personality, I looked like me, but a lot prettier. The attention was drawn attention to my face and my sign, which showed people my personal beliefs. I think that part of me is much more valuable than any hairstyle. I felt like my activism outshined whatever else I was wearing. I got the conversation started and that was my only goal.

The hijab is a stunning symbol of freedom, diversity and beauty. As a high school student and an activist, I made the decision to outwardly show my support because of the countless schools and countries who have banned the hijab. These women should not have to feel scared, or worry if they might be bullied. They should not have to be begged by their parents to not wear the hijab. So, the point of World Hijab Day is to show women that they need to stand up for Muslim women, those who chose to wear the hijab, those who chose to wear any other covering, and those who chose to wear no head covering. There is no reason anyone should be ashamed of their religion, and it nothing else, I hope Muslim women know I stand with them.