Almost eight years ago, I met this amazing young lady in high school. She had a great impact on my personality especially on the religious level. She led by example. She was able to make the perfect state of religious serenity; she made me love anything that has to do with God. I was inspired to start praying, then to wear the veil.
I can’t say I felt forced or uncomfortable about that decision. On the contrary, I defied my parents for this decision. I fought to feel like a better person and be a picture perfect Muslim woman. Back then, I thought it protected me from my fears of past sins and from what Islamist propagandists wanted us all to believe, that we’ll end up in hell.
What I didn’t understand was that I was only harming myself. I was overweight, and this destroyed my self-esteem. My teenage years were horrible. I took a shortcut to look good. I chose to cover up what I couldn’t change. I chose to be a girl undercover. I showed what I thought to be the appealing parts of my body, my face, and my hands.
Over the years, I lost my way to paradise daydreaming about acceptance. My clothes started to get shorter and tighter. I started using make-up that I hated. I dyed my hair for this two-inch lock of my hair that can feel the air. I tried yo-yo dieting until I ruined my body. I watched my skin become disfigured. I willingly participated in the emotional process of draining my soul.
Now that I am at my most mature phase of my life, I realize that wearing the veil at such an early age was the weapon I used to murder my femininity. For eight years, I allowed myself to get heavier, shyer and more miserable. I witnessed how my body lost its natural beauty. I witnessed my hair falling out and how my overall profile became that of a grumpy, senile Egyptian woman.
The whole religious state I was in, including the veil, didn’t make me a better person but instead made me worse. I believed my relationship with God had an instruction manual and checklist where I could keep scores. Everything was a matter of calculation; every decision was fear or desire based. I critically judged those around me. I defended each and every decision I made saying this is what God wanted. I’ve tortured friends for not conforming and doing what I thought to be right in the eyes of God.
My first day without the veil was very simple. I got dressed and stood in the hallway of my apartment. I stood for an entire hour in fear of what might happen when I walked outside without the veil. I was new in town and told myself I can walk down the streets with nobody noticing me. If I felt weird without the veil, I will wear it again. For a moment, I was fearful just like a virgin would be before her first encounter on her wedding night. I was finally taking the veil off.
This decision was mine alone. As I stepped into the street, fresh air was my groom. The breeze messed my hair in a very pure and childish way, reminding me of how my father used to throw me up in the air when I was a small child. I felt weightless flying through the air, and now I have that same feeling without the veil. I feel alive again after eight years of gradually watching myself die undercover of the veil.
I know some people are shocked by what I’ve done. I need you to know that people have the right to change. People can evolve even if they break your taboos or rules. The message is that whatever decisions others take are their own. They will never hurt you.
For those wearing the veil and feeling as I did, I need you to know that I have never felt more relieved and confident. I now embrace my flaws. I feel good about how I look even if the whole universe sees otherwise. I want you to have your personal measure of beauty and your logic of spiritual connections. The most important thing is that you do what’s good for your soul, and only you can determine that.
You’re beautiful, just the way you are.