Muslim women in Chicagoland discuss importance of hijab: Chicago Tribune

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Wearing a hijab is as American as apple pie because it involves having the right to make a choice, which is what the United States is all about. That is the conclusion one can draw from the views expressed by several Muslim women, including an Indian-American, in an article carried recently in the Chicago Tribune.

Dilara Sayeed, founder of vPeer, who ran for the Illinois State House in 2018. (Photo: courtesy Twitter)

Entitled “Prejudice and progress: Local women with hijabs talk about what’s it like to wear the Muslim headscarf in Chicago,” the May 23, 2019, article features Indian-American Dilara Sayeed, and other women tracing their ancestry to Syria, countries in Africa, and Palestinian Territories. Sayeed earned her degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

She founded the tech startup vPeer, and ran for the Illinois House of Representatives last year. She told the Tribune that when she decided to wear the hijab at the age of 19, her Indian-origin father told her, “You’re in America now; you don’t have to do this.” To that, Sayeed said she  replied, “It’s because I’m American that I can choose to cover, Daddy,” she told the Chicago Tribune.

Another Muslim American, Saeda Suleiman, a college student from Oak Lawn, who was interviewed for the article, said, “If I don’t wear the hijab, I feel less secure, less powerful.”

And graduate student Naima Zaheer of Oak Brook, Illinois, told the Tribune that wearing a hijab was a way to demonstrate that one will not go with the mainstream view of what a woman should look like or wear. “It’s a big ‘screw you’ to beauty standards, you know?” Zaheer is quoted saying in the Tribune.

Sayeed, whose mother does not wear a hijab, is quoted saying that the hijab spells her identity.

“It is the way I see myself as an American Muslim woman,” said the Indian-American, noting that in her view being liberated means having the free choice to wear any clothing, whether it be a bikini or a hijab. But she decried that people see the hijab as something forced on women.

“It’s a challenge every single day,” Sayeed told the Tribune, adding, “When I put it on, I have to prepare myself that when someone first meets me, they’re going to think, possibly, that  I am quiet, reserved, suppressed, not empowered,” she added. Dialogue was the way to overcome prejudices, Sayeed emphasized in the article.

 

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