Though the United States has always been a melting pot, the political climate has been more divisive than usual lately.
American history was greatly shaped by the events of 9/11, leading to a lot of widespread fear and misunderstanding around Islam in the world today. Like any different culture, practitioners of Islam have their own traditions, customs and history. Although some news outlets cover Islam as if it is something completely external to American culture, the truth is that our country is home to many Americans who practice Islam—and who have all throughout our history.
Still, certain symbols behind the religion and culture remain misunderstood—which is why one woman stepped up to help explain.
Lamyaa is a 17-year-old teen from Pennsylvania whose father lives in Saudi Arabia.
Part of Lamyaa’s beliefs include wearing a hijab, a traditional covering or veil which can cover the face, head and chest (though the specifics vary from woman to woman). In Lamyaa’s case, she often wore a hijab as a head covering which wrapped around her neck and on top of her head. Unfortunately, she received several harassing messages online rooted in cultural misunderstanding.
She posted one of the messages she received in a group chat on her Twitter:
Rather than simply get angry, Lamyaa decided to use the opportunity to teach.
Taking a cue from the hateful message, she decided to ask her father his reaction to the news that she was considering taking her hijab off (though she actually wasn’t). As expected, his reaction was calm and loving as any father’s would be. She shared his response online as well.
Though the account has since been taken down, the tweet went massively viral and inspired a conversation.
According to Lamyaa, the reaction to the exchange made up for the initial negativity:
“I have gotten many heartwarming messages of people showing me support, but also of people wanting to learn more about Islam or wanting to be a part of it . . . I felt like I could help in a way, and it was very humbling.”
Above all, Lamyaa’s story shows that we understand more about each other when we are open to conversation.
The choice to wear a hijab is not necessarily rooted in any kind of oppression or subjugation. In Lamyaa’s case, the garment reminds her of her faith and to be kind and gracious in her interactions with others. Rather than being quick to judge others on our decisions, this story shows that being open-minded and curious can lead to a better understanding for everyone.
A special salute to Lamyaa for handling the situation so gracefully!
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