St Albans Muslim: Why I choose to wear a hijab
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"As soon as I put a hijab on I felt people staring." This is the stark reality for many British Muslims, despite progressive changes in society over recent years, as there are those who people still do not understand the reasons why some Islamic women cover their heads.
St Albans mum-of-five Yasmeen Khan, 37, converted to Islam in 2006 after meeting her Muslim husband, but didn't decide to wear a hijab until 2021.
She said she had always been a modestly dressed person by nature, but part of her interpretation of Islam is that covering her head when in front of a man who is not her husband is the right thing to do in terms of modesty.
Yasmeen explained how she learned the principles of the faith: "I went to a really nice teacher. She taught me Arabic and we spoke about modesty laws and about being ready. She explained to me that once you put it on you can't stop or it's like turning your back on Allah.
Muslims follow guidelines set in the Qur'an - their holy book - and try to live a life that is pleasing to Allah. Acts such as eating pork, drinking alcohol and smoking are known as 'haram' which means they are forbidden. In Surah 33:59, Muhammad is commanded to ask his family members and other Muslim women to wear outer garments when they go out, so that they are not harassed.
"I asked my husband to buy some scarves for me from Bury Park in Luton - there was nowhere I knew of in St Albans. When I first wore it to work in the office it felt fine but just a bit different.
"People were not used to seeing me in a hijab and then all of a sudden I had a head scarf covering my hair all of the time."
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She revealed how the change had affected her: "People looked at us weirdly when we first got together. I would get funny looks for being a white women with an Asian man. It was almost as if wearing the hijab made me more acceptable to people who did not understand.
"As a convert into the culture, I feel like white women just need a little but more support from other Muslim women; to teach and guide us.
"Some people think Muslim women wear a head covering because they are told to by their husband but this is not true for me at all, or any other women I know.
"We have been together 15 years and we are very happy.
"In my faith I believe that every day is a test. When I die I think all my good and bad deeds will be looked upon by Allah and weighed up. On Judgement Day I believe it will be decided whether I will go to hell or heaven.
"I think it is good to have rules to live by and I teach my children the same thing. Not stealing, not cheating, not being mean to people all help society to function.
"I wear a head covering as a choice though. I am not one for forcing people to do things that they are not ready to do."
Yasmeen's eldest daughter decided to wear a hijab recently, and modesty is an important factor for her as well: "If another women asked me about wearing a hijab, I would help them to understand what it means and show them how to tie their scarf. I created a folder of information to help other Muslim woman considering the move to covering their hair."
In conclusion, Yasmeen added: "I am proud to have a Muslim identity and to wear my hijab. It is part of who I am. It is much more complicated than not showing my hair because I do not want to be harassed by men. Being a Muslim women today in the West, a head covering is part of my proclamation of faith and significance within St Albans."