We have been told that our father is suffering in hell because we refuse to wear hijab.

I, like most of us, was born to a family who use religion for their convenience under the name of conservativeness, who are obsessed with their integrity. My story isn’t as heavy as some of the others told here but I still wanted to share, since it was one of the biggest victories of my life. I lost my father ten years ago. He didn’t care much about being covered etc. and the only thing he truly cared about was for us to get our education and be able to stand on our own two feet without needing others. However there had been a meaningless trend in our family and everyone including our cousins were now covering their hair, except for me and my older sister. There was a consensus that one by one everyone would be covered, however this hadn’t happened while my father was still alive, because his priority was our education. After my father passed away, they started to get inside my sister’s head. She has always been a gullible person who can’t voice her beliefs, who lives based on other people’s requests. This being a time when her mental health was shaken, she couldn’t handle the pressure of our older relatives and decided to cover herself. They would tell us that our father was suffering there while we were going around uncovered.

They loaded such a meaningless, nonsensical responsibility on a 17 year old girl who had just lost her father (my sister). I was young then, however all of this seemed so ridiculous and silly that I started to prepare myself for when it would be my turn. I was trying to build up shields for myself. Thus I was the rebel of our family. As I got older they started to pressure me with signs that it was my time to be covered. They even told me that there were compulsions in this religion, and that covering my hair was an obligation. I was very religious on my own terms, I would regularly pray, give thanks. I totally believed in the divine powers, I would perform salat (the ritual prayer of Muslims), I would ask everything from Allah, because that was what felt right to me. However, over time as I got into these conversations about these topics I started to question religion, and I realised that the religion they were talking about and the religion we believe in weren’t the same. From time to time I would be told that I wouldn’t be allowed to go to school, that they would take me to a shop for covered women and forcefully cover me. I always rebelled against it, and I always was a bad kid, they expected anything from me. I didn’t want to see those people, I isolated myself as much as possible and I truly hated them. They never showed any love when we lost our father, instead they mentally drained us by putting tons of pressure on us. Everyone was certain that I would cover myself before going to university because it was basically a rule, that’s what my sister had done. I had made up my mind; I wasn’t going to be covered, no matter the consequences. I had even planned on leaving my family and running away if they wouldn’t let me study. I would live on the streets, I would have to work but at least I would be living life the way I wanted to live, I would find a way. All these thoughts were always on my mind. Then I started having panic attacks, but they said it was from me being spoilt, they didn’t believe me. Still I kept on fighting. My sister was defeated in this fight, she is full of regret now but still she doesn’t have the courage to stop covering herself because of the oppression from our society. She shaped her whole life based on others, she never pursued her own dreams. I sadly have to say that she is now leading a sad life, she is angry at her life. I, on the other hand, always pursued my dreams. There was one thing I was certain of; if my dreams didn’t come true I would never be happy, I could never be.

Now I am studying at the department I always wanted. I can do my hair however I want to; I can cover it, I can uncover it, it is none of anyone’s business. My relatives accepted me for it. After a while I even went to a psychiatrist, I got medical treatment, I got rid of my anxieties. The trauma I went through at that time of my life was truly heavy, but I wasn’t crushed under it. Please don’t let yourselves be crushed too, it all starts with belief and courage. If your family doesn’t accept and love you the way you are, let them separate from your life. Don’t change who you are for anyone, live the way your heart desires. That’s what I always did. I broke and I got broken, but I am now leading a happy, peaceful life thanks to the fight I fought.

Finally, my dear friends, this is truly not what religion is about. There are so many covered people around me and their hearts are so evil that I swear sometimes it makes me hate my own religion. They taught us that everyone else is alcohol drinking, rotten people, like they are plagued. I studied with those people, I saw them, went to their homes, got sincere with them, and from them I received love, affection, sincerity that I never got from my own relatives. I am sure that those who seem Muslim on the outside but have hearts filled with perversion will suffer in the afterlife. That’s how I can just smile and keep going in the face of their criticism and bigotry. I encourage you to do the same. Don’t judge others based on whether they are covered or not, it’s all about their hearts. Kisses to all the girls!

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