Choices in life can be difficult, and Danielle has had her fair share of them. After 13 years working in the Entertainment industry and hobnobbing with the rich and famous, Danielle has made the complex decision to settle down. In her own words, she has gone into “hibernation,” exchanging the bright lights and big city for rain and darkness in a small town south of Amsterdam. This departure has allowed her husband to focus on developing his career and Danielle to raise her two small children and dedicate herself to writing her debut novel.
Danielle is sitting in front of me; petite, composed, confident and direct. The story she just described is not unlike the situation countless other professional women in dual career households are faced with. But there is one other choice that makes her different. This is potentially a more risky choice than leaving a successful career and loving friends to move to a foreign land. Danielle has chosen to wear a hijab.
I come from a country that has declared a War Against Islam. Some extremists back home would have me believe that Danielle is dangerous – associated with terrorists – simply because she wears a soft, jade colored scarf around her head that is fastened with a small gold pendant.
I think that is ridiculous and it is easy for me to dismiss; I’m not surprised that my insular country would make ignorant stereotypes. But as I listened to Danielle in quiet astonishment, what was more difficult for me to accept is the realization that she is the first practicing Muslim I have ever discussed the purpose of this prominently worn scarf with. It made me wonder about my assumptions. And although I didn’t want to believe it, I not only had assumptions, but judgments, about why the scarves were worn. I believed they were used to demonstrate modesty and deference, and as a feminist, I couldn’t support it. But Danielle was about to firmly put my ignorant assumptions in their place.
Danielle happily explained to me why she chose to wear a hijab – and it was a decision she made later in life after she had children. In Danielle’s words, wearing a hijab is “a simple way to be who I am.” It is a way for her to remember to focus on her true, internal self and not the external, physical aspect of being human. Her hijab is a symbol of her commitment to improving and learning as she goes through the journey of life. It has nothing to do with silencing herself and everything to do with evolving into a stronger person.
As I looked at Danielle: Woman, Mother, Writer, Wife and Wearer of Hijab, I had a new found admiration for the scarf neatly tucked around her smiling, confident face. I now understood the very different meaning it has for her versus my uneducated assumptions and why this choice was crucial in supporting the accomplished woman sitting before me.
The piece above was written by Christy Mommsen during Writing nonfiction class in Amsterdam Writing Workshop in last March. Though the name was changed into Danielle, everybody knew who it was in the story, as I was the only one who wore hijab. It was Lisa Friedman, the teacher, who delivered the story so good that everybody was on silent, capturing word by word she read. And I couldn’t help to weep during that session :). Thank you Christy for your beautiful writing.
Today marks a year for me as hijab wearer. Life has been so remarkable. Meeting new people with varied and valued background is like tasting some flavors of ice cream rich with toppings on it. It is sweet, smooth, sometimes sour, yet I’m always tempted to lick it.
About the book that I write, Yes! finally it’s just done couple days ago. *yay*. I know there are so many roads to go to realize my dream. But at this moment, I just want to thank myself and enjoy this accomplishment. If I’m lucky, a publisher may be interested in publishing it. Or If it’s not, I will just keep it and present it to my children someday. So they will know that their mother, with joy and fear, putting word by word into a sentence. And sentence by sentence into a story.