Art by Sophie Liu

by Jenin Mannaa

Oh, don’t you dare look back!
Just keep your eyes on me.
I said you’re holding back.
She said, “Shut up and dance with me!”

“Shut Up and Dance with Me” by Walk the Moon is my mom’s all-time favorite song, so you can imagine her joy when the lyrics reverberated through the speakers at Disney World. She clasped my hand and spun me.
When she embraced me, I looked over her shoulder to see a man sneering at her. In passing, he mumbled, “Raghead.”

At eleven years old, I become hyper aware of the anger my mother’s hijab
could incite. I realized that I was safe from Islamophobia when not wearing a visual indication of my religion, which is why I avoided wearing the hijab.

It was February 1st—World Hijab Day—when I decided to overcome my
cowardice regarding the hijab once and for all. My fellow Muslim friends and I decided to organize a “hijab salon,” where we would tie the headscarves of the women that desired to partake in the holiday. We stationed ourselves in the cafeteria. When no one turned up for the first ten minutes, I automatically assumed the worst. Who would possibly show their support amidst all the controversy associated with Islam? As a Muslim, I personally found it difficult abandoning the sanctuary that my
uncovered hair provided for me.

To my surprise, a tentative freshman approached me. In a small voice, she requested, “Can I wear the pink head scarf?” Immediately, my insecurities diminished. We weren’t going to be alone in our celebration of World
Hijab Day.

As the morning progressed, a few teachers made their way into our little circle. After wrapping my Spanish teacher’s hijab, she disclosed, “This is the most beautiful I’ve felt since my wedding day!” An English teacher I’m not familiar with joined us, noting that as a practicing Catholic, the hijab reminded her of the veils worn at the Roman Catholic church. I smiled at the realization that World Hijab Day meant celebrating the solidarity of various religions in support of one.

By the end of the morning, my friends and I wrapped the hijabs of students of all grade levels, teachers, librarians, custodians, and lunch ladies. As we gathered for a photo, I felt my heart swell with pride. I’m proud of myself. In wearing the hijab, I terminated my personal reservations regarding my faith. Moreover, I helped construct a community that celebrated Islam and created an awareness of intersectionality that ultimately helped mend the differences between various religious groups.

I’m proud of my support system. The respect I have for my friends and my school’s faculty increased tenfold with the realization that they had no incentive to wear the hijab besides showcasing their acceptance of my
identity. Most of all, I’m proud of my religion. Covering my hair does nothing to mitigate how beautiful I feel representing Islam.

About Jenin Mannaa

Jenin Mannaa is a rising senior at Dunlap High School. Her stellar academic performance has granted her entrance to the National Honors Society at her school. Jenin has expressed her love for advocacy through her involvement on the Dunlap Speech Team as Junior and Senior Captain. Within speech, her primary goal has been expressing her identity as a Muslim American woman. Jenin attended IHSA State for Oratorical Declamation her junior year of high school. Within her speech team, she was also awarded Sophomore and Junior MVP. Jenin’s passion for the arts is evident through her involvement in Stage 323, where she was inducted in the International Thespian Society. She has also been involved in Concert Choir, Women’s Chorale, and Show Choir throughout her high school career. Moreover, her devotion to garnering support for ethnic minorities motivated Jenin to create Dunlap’s UNICEF Club, which educates students about the tribulations of underprivileged individuals in impoverished countries. Within UNICEF, she leads fundraisers, and within the first few months of the club she raised approximately $500. During her summers, Jenin has spent over 200 hours volunteering at the Unity-Point Methodist Hospital within the daycare or shadowing various doctors within Peoria.

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