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Photo ofRuwida Muhudin

I am a young Black, Muslim woman living in America. The culture here is very different from my native country of Somalia. When I was in Somalia, everyone wore a hijab. When my family moved to Malaysia,  most of the people wore a hijab, too. When I came to America, however, I did not see a lot of people wearing a hijab. In Fargo, North Dakota, there are not a lot of Muslim people.  The first time I went to school, I was in fifth grade and it was only for a few weeks, because summer vacation started. When I arrived at the school, I noticed that I was the only girl wearing a hijab. I had heard that some people think Muslim people or people who wear hijabs are terrorists.  I remember the first time that someone asked me why I was wearing a hijab. I told them it was because I was Muslim, and I needed to wear it for my religion. I did not speak very good English, so it was hard to explain it in detail to them. One time someone even asked if I had hair. They asked me if they could see it. I was insulted. I laughed and told them that yes, I do have hair, and no, they could not see it.  In middle school, there were a few girls who wore a hijab. When I saw the girls, I felt comfortable, and we became friends. A year later, I heard a boy bullying a girl because she was wearing a hijab. I thought, “What is wrong with that boy?” It is her religion, and she has to wear a hijab; he shouldn’t bully her.  In Somalia, everyone around me was Muslim. You can hear the adhan, the call to prayer, everywhere you go. You will not see a girl without a hijab. Every Friday we went to the Mosque with family and friends. The school in Somalia had a place to pray. The boys and the girls prayed in separate places. In Somalia, we didn’t have school on Thursday or Friday. So, on Friday we went to the Mosque to pray.  During middle school, I moved to Malaysia. Malaysia is a Muslim country, but not everyone is Muslim. The call to prayer, the adhan, rings through the air every day. The school I went to in Malaysia was a Muslim school, and all the girls wore a hijab. When it was time to pray, we used to pray in school. When I came to America, the schools were different. I didn’t know where to pray in school, so I had to wait to pray at home. I couldn’t go to the Mosque on Fridays because I had school on Fridays. I was the only girl wearing a hijab in school. It was so different to be the only one. I felt different from everyone else, and not in a good way. Eyes followed me through the halls.  “Are you cold? Do you feel hot wearing that thing?” people questioned. “No,” I would reply. “Do you wear that at home?” someone asked. “No, because I’m only with my family,” I quickly said.  I was not mad at the people who asked. I knew they just did not understand why I was wearing the hijab. I wore it because my culture and religion called me to. Maybe other people would get mad about all these questions, but I did not mind that much. Eventually, I learned that people’s culture and religion are different. I have learned more English, and I can explain why I wear a hijab. I feel beautiful wearing my hijab. 

© Ruwida Muhudin. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person’s teacher.