Hey APC! My name is Hasya, and I am a 17-year-old girl living in East Malaysia. I am Melanau, which is an ethnic group indigenous to Sarawak. I am currently doing Foundation in Science at the University of Nottingham.
I had made the decision to wear the hijab full-time in 2016, the year I would start eighth grade. From the moment I walked in on the first day of school donning a maroon hijab, I could feel people’s attention immediately being diverted towards me.
“You’re wearing the hijab now?”, “Are you wearing it every day from now on?”, “Do you shower with it?” My girlfriends, who had known my wishes to wear the hijab since the year before, defended me fiercely and reacted with much more ferocity than what was necessary. Even though most of my friends are not Muslims themselves, they respect my beliefs and have supported me since day one. And for that, I am extremely grateful.
I was one out of very few Muslim girls who wore the hijab during school hours. I was subject to a lot of questions as I was in an international school and most of my classmates had never been around a hijabi. I didn’t mind; their curiosity was harmless.
As the years went by, my hijab became a huge part of my identity. My low self-esteem and shyness disappeared as I slowly grew out of my shell. The positive representation of hijab-wearing women in media and social media played a huge part in boosting my confidence.
All of my classmates became my ‘hype people’. A fellow hijabi joined my class in the tenth grade and we bonded through hijabi jokes and our more ‘halal’ lifestyles compared to our classmates.
From a young age, I had grown up in a very tightly knit community where everyone knows everyone, and a country where a lot of the population are Muslims, so there is a heightened sense of awareness about our customs.
Of course, I know that once I venture deeper into the world, I won’t be constantly surrounded by such a supportive crew. I retain no personal experiences of discriminating acts directed towards me because of my hijab. I have yet to meet people whose negative behaviour towards me is solely due to the piece of material covering my hair.
How disheartening it must be, for a girl like me to fear society due to the steady rise of Islamophobia. I really don’t get why a piece of colourful cloth scares people to the point of them spewing out poisonous slurs and ugly remarks, without them truly understanding how it feels to be on the receiving end.
What do you know about that girl in the blue hijab? She could be going out every Saturday to buy groceries. She could be studying every day only to be rewarded with less-than-satisfactory grades. Maybe she enjoys watching K-dramas? She probably dies a little inside every time she thinks about her future. She could be just like you or the exact opposite.
Whoever she is, she is someone no less deserving of basic human rights.