As a Muslim Afghan Woman who wears a Hijab, I grew up always thinking to myself, “Where do I belong”? Sometimes I still feel like I ask myself this question even now. I guess life is a continuous journey of learning and self-evaluating. Identifying as a Muslim woman who wears a hijab, it gave me a sense of identity amongst Afghan family and friends. Now adding Afghan culture brings a whole set of different rules and expectations. Confusing? I know! This is my life story!
It was hard growing up when I felt like I was the only Afghan woman my age who wore a hijab. I did not always wear a hijab; I began my journey when I entered high school, the “puberty stage”! Being in an Afghan family, I had no real parental support in regards to getting advice about my educational, personal, career and especially my religious journey. I feel that it is very common amongst Afghan families, which is based on what I have heard from other Afghans. I had no clue about my future or myself. I did not know who I could share my thoughts with when it came to religion. Honestly, I never really did have a heart-to-heart conversation about my life, work, career, and my mental state with my parents. I was kind of lost for some time.
I always kind of felt awkward when I was with family friends who did not wear hijab or practice. Even if some did not mean to, I felt a sense of isolation. Sometimes, I got this sense that they portrayed themselves as more modernized. Maybe they had a notion that “she wears a hijab, therefore, she is probably very religious, she is not outgoing, she is probably limited in life, will she get a job with a hijab, I could never be restricted like her”. These assumptions were some that I have heard from others and some that I had thoughts of. However, what made it difficult was the lack of Afghan peers that were my age in, which I could share my feelings with about wearing a hijab and practicing Islam.
I grew out of this phase eventually as I learned to be more independent. I focused on being the best person I could be for myself. People will always judge, criticize, and some may think you might not succeed in life. I feel that a lot of us kind of lose ourselves along the way as we try to fit and mold ourselves into society’s expectations. I had that moment and I think it helped me learn along the way the importance of loving oneself.
I guess what I am trying to say is that life is long and sometimes it can be hard and people make it harder, but do not give up. Always believe in yourself when no one else does. Believe me, if I can do it so can you! Sometimes along the way we want to feel like we belong somewhere as long as it is anywhere. However, the true sense of belonging is within oneself.
Outreach & Events Director