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My unveiling ceremony (NYtimes)

CAIRO — I wore the hijab — a form of dress that comprises a head scarf and usually also clothing that covers the whole body except for the face and hands — for nine years. Put more honestly: I wore the hijab for nine years and spent eight of them trying to take it off.

I chose to wear the hijab at age 16, soon after my family moved from Britain to Saudi Arabia. I wanted to save my sanity, and so I struck a deal with God: I’d cover up, as I was taught a good Muslim girl should, if God would save me from a breakdown that I was sure would come in that country where women were considered the walking embodiment of sin. I wanted to hide — from eyes and hands that made going out anywhere, especially unaccompanied, hellish.

Almost immediately, I missed the wind in my hair. When I caught my reflection in a window, I did not recognize myself. I wanted to reconcile the internal and external me, but I was to discover that choosing to wear the hijab is much easier than choosing to take it off.

I finally summoned the courage to stop wearing it in 1993, when I was 25 and had moved back to my birthplace, Egypt. For years, despite my inner doubts, I represented to others my choice to veil as a feminist one. If a woman could choose to wear a miniskirt, surely I could choose to cover my hair? I wanted people to address my mind and to not objectify me, I would say. Ultimately, I could not sustain that line of thinking because, as a feminist, I demanded that people address my mind and not objectify me, regardless of how I dressed.

What helped me part ways with the hijab was a conversation my mother had with a family acquaintance. Asking after my brother and me, the man wondered if I was married. When my mother said I wasn’t, he replied: “Don’t worry. She wears a head scarf — she’ll find a husband.”

Then I understood: I wasn’t the hijab poster girl I thought I was. I was just a hijab.

(Find the rest of this piece on the NYtimes, where it was first published.)