Thursday, 5 January 2012

3 Unexpected Effects of Wearing a Hijab

Electric Shocks!

I've always seemed to attract static generally but that appears to have been magnified since I started wearing a scarf. Now whenever I shake a student's hand for the first time they almost always get a shock! It does work however as a great defense against overly-curious children. I had an incident of a little Italian girl deciding one day that she had had enough and she wanted to see my hair ( "basta! voglio togliere!"). She rushed forward and grabbed my scarf only to find herself being shocked by visible sparks flying everywhere! Now she thinks I'm some supernatural being (I suppose I am partly to blame for the propagation of this myth as I once said to a class of particularly rambunctious pre-teens that, "I actually cover my hair because I'm Medusa. But the snakes only come out when children don't do their homework..."

Nationality Confusion

It's funny that by simply covering my hair, people who meet me for the first time have become unable to place me anywhere on the map. Generally, Brits think I'm 'foreign,' Italians think I'm Arab, and the local community of Muslims think I'm an Italian convert...  One Italian lady said to me, "So where are you from?' When I replied, 'England' she looked very confused but responded, 'Oh... yes... in England they have people from everywhere don't they?' She paused, then added, 'but you speak English very well.'

Only last month, I was stood waiting for an airport shuttle bus in Bologna when a confused English tourist passed by trying to work out how to buy tickets. She asked in a loud voice, 'does anyone here speak English?' Before I could answer, she had already looked me in the eye, began to ask 'do you spe...?' but trailed off, shaking her head as if there was no way I could possibly help her. Straight away (and on the defensive) I went into 'posh telephone voice mode' and gave her an overload of information just to prove that I was no less British than her.    

Later that day, I arrived back in England and hailed a taxi. Using my official telephone voice once more, I said, 'Good morning! I'd like to go to Ennerdale Road please' and got in. The first thing the driver said was, 'So were are you originally from then eh?' I wasn't sure if he meant my home city (and not really having one) I said, 'my family originally came from Northampton actually.' He continued, 'yeah but where are you originally from?' I realised what he meant and responded, 'I'm English.' 'But you're Muslim,' he said, furrowing his brow in the rear view mirror, 'A British Muslim? That's not right though is it?' I inhaled in anticipation of an awkward journey and squirmed in my seat as he went into a rant about 'Asian Islamics.' He defended his position with the awkwardly phrased, 'I mean, I'm from English yeah? and I'm Christianity. But I don't want no Iraqi law. I can't be a Muslim anyway. I'm an alcoholic me.' So I just smiled at him through the rear view mirror and tried to neutralise his comments in such a way that he would say, 'yeah I agree with you there'. By the end of the journey he seemed slightly calmer, having realised that I wasn't a terrorist and wished me a Merry Christmas.I gave him a tip in good faith that in the future he might remember meeting a friendly Muslim who wasn't "oppressed."

Coming to Terms with my Face

As strange as it sounds, the hardest thing about starting to wear hijab was I didn't have anything to distract from my face and I had to get used to what I actually look like. I've always been a bit paranoid about my appearance (some of us being blessed with more cheek, chin and nose than most!) but I've found that now I feel far more confident in my own skin. I'm far happier with how I look now without worrying about frizz and makeup. I guess I came to the conclusion that a big smile on your face is more than enough.

Finally, just a little side note: My favourite reaction to my hijab so far has been my Grandad who said, 'Well Sarah, you know we love you whatever you wear. But to be honest... I've always thought your hair was a bit strange anyway.' : D


  1. assalamualaikum wa rahmatulahi wa barakatu!

    masha'Allah i really enjoyed this post! it was comical and so typical. I mean people look at us hijabis/niqabis as foreigners and no way could we be "english" of "canadian" etc... even some Muslims think i am Malaysian or from Indonesia or Singapore LOL! I actually even got "Afghani" once!! I seriously have no clue how I look Afghani, she was confused I was a revert. Its always entertaining to hear other reverts stories especially when you're living in a foreign country. Im from Canada and I live in the US and i get stares and mouth drops because i'm a) Chinese (there are NO asians here) b) Muslim in hijab/niqab c) wearing an abaya! its interesting to say the least! I've been called " a ninja" by kids loollll thanks for sharing! Now i know you're not Italian and not from Italy either!! Alhamdulilah!


    1. So glad you liked it! It's funny. People always thought I was English - no questions asked - now I get Lebanese, Iranian, Turkish, Syrian, Moroccan... It's funny how a face can be from so many places : D I think your mix is even more interesting. Today I had a teenager in my class walk up to me, demand to see my hair & then tug on it : s it's such a bizarre scenario to be in. I mean, you wouldn't go up to someone in jeans & say 'I demand to see your knees' oh well! Alhamdulillah it doesn't happen very often. Hope you're having a lovely day x

    2. Its so interesting to read this article and comments.I dont wear hijab and want to do so but I feel I lack the strength to continue it and will soon leave it and that will be worse .
      As the article said I am also concerned about my looks as I dont have a very fancy skin and my hair are better than my skin and they help me in my looks .I wish I can be that strong as you are. I would love any tips if you can give

    3. Just to add I am in europe but belong to Pakistan . In my country women dont cover their hair (although it is islamic country).The maximum they do is to put a loose shawl around or some put is slightly on head too. When i am here I am conservative and when I go there and wear hijab I am too modern (they think hijab is modern and followed by west) .I am so confused

  2. Haha, what a funny way to tell you that he has accepted your faith your grandad. With much love to you, sister...

    1. and to you too! thanks fr taking the time to read my article - hope you enjoyed it : D Have a lovely day!

  3. I loved your last one. Though not a Muslim, I do cover when I go to certain local events or places and I always feel like if I look in the mirror with a scarf on, all I can see is NOSE. I'm glad you popped over to Djibouti Jones today, I've enjoyed scanning your blog too.

  4. Hi, I'm from London and am going away to Lecco, Lake Como and Milan and was wondering whether it's hijab friendly?

    Would love some advice.


    1. Salaam Haleemah, there are quite a lot of hijabis in Milan and so I don't see why you'd have any problems. There are also small mosques in Milan (although I doubt there are any in the smaller towns of Lecco and Lake Como).
      Have a lovely time!

  5. Your grandpa is funny ^^
    This is not the first time I read a muslim women wearing the hijab, speakig about the link with self acceptance and better self esteem. I am not muslim, but my feminist side love this aspect of the hijab.

    Sorry for the loss of the "british look" :/

  6. Even though I am non-Muslim, I have given wearing hijab a try and in doing so it put to rest what I had wrongly assumed. Wearing modest clothing and a head scarf offer a profound new sense of self. It should be more personal, but sadly hijab brings controversy.


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