Kiara Walker (Muslim, New York)
I wasn’t a born Muslim. I was raised as a Christian, Seventh- Day Adventist to be exact. And some things in Christianity that I found to be very similar to Islam were: We preferred eating halal/kosher, valued modesty and stayed away from alcohol, unclean meats (pork, etc.) and these were very relevant to me.
So, as a practicing Christian, I had no intentions other than to please God. I abided by all of those morals. One Sabbath morning, I came to Church with an ankle length dark purple dress accompanied with a simple tan colored scarf covering my hair which was my personal idea of what modesty was but to others, it seemed way too extreme and offensive for Church.
Throughout the day, I endured comments from Church goers including children and adults; “ISIS has arrived”, “You know you look like that lady, I think she was Mahatma Gandhi’s wife”, “Hey! Salam alaikum – aaaah! just kidding with you”, all followed by playful laughs. That day, my grandmother received several complaints from sisters in the Church. I even got into a huge verbal feud with one of the sisters in my Church on my views on modesty. I always made sure to tell people that I was only doing this because the Bible said so:
According to 1 Corinthians 11: “that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you… Every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same if her head was shaved…For this reason a woman ought to have the symbol of authority on their head, because of the angels.”
After that encounter with my Church, my confidence in following what the Holy Bible had taught me eventually ended up diminishing. Often, people said things like: “Because times have changed we don’t participate in things like that”, “Jesus died for our sins so we don’t have to do that anymore”, “That was the old ways of Babylon so we no longer do that”, “Wrap it another way and not like a Muslim”, “It’s not good to wear it like that. People will think you worship Allah instead of God.”, “There are others ways to be modest. Why do you have to dress like that?”, “You are beautiful just the way you are. Just take that scarf off already.” Their comments didn’t really affect me much, but it did make me wonder, as Christians, why are we not modeling what the Bible taught us when the Muslims and even Jews were doing it and they don’t even claim the Bible as their Holy Book?
Eventually months later, on October 25, 2016, I started wearing the hijab consistently. However, before leading up to that moment, a couple of people played a major role in my life, when deciding if I should even look into Islam or not. They were the ones who often cleared up most of my misconceptions of Islam, exchanged phone numbers with me, got to know me over milkshakes, a quick sit-down in the park or even dinner and referred me to so many of the resources to learn about Islam which still currently exist in my life today.
But I was convinced that I wanted to wear the hijab by mid- August but I just wasn’t sure how I could actually go about doing it. I confided in my mother, but I feared the rest of my family wouldn’t approve of me adapting to these new concepts of modesty and almost a foreign lifestyle to them. Transitioning into wearing the Hijab while in high school, was a bit difficult for me but it wasn’t anything that I couldn’t handle. By the first month, my family, school, and Church buddies all got used to it but the remarks remained.