A graduate student at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, said that she has decided to stop wearing the hijab, a traditional Muslim head covering, out of fear of retaliation from Islamophobic members of her community.
Hajer Al-Faham, a doctoral student in American and comparative politics with an emphasis on race, immigration and Islam, wrote in an opinion column to The Seattle Times that she “felt compelled to stop wearing [her] hijab out of concern for [her] safety.” Al-Faham, who has worn the hijab for the past 16 years, explained that the attitude towards Islam in America has made her feel threatened.
“The environment that I and many other Muslims navigate has become increasingly perilous, to the extent that I and other Muslim women have to choose between our safety and our freedom of religion,” Al-Faham wrote.
Al-Faham experienced discrimination throughout most of her life, she wrote, especially in post-9/11 America. She persisted in her decision to wear the headscarf because of its personal importance to her as a Muslim.
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“As the most visible symbol of Islam, the hijab occupies a provocative position in discussions of multiculturalism and tolerance in the United States,” Al-Faham wrote. “But when I wore the hijab, I was not motivated by politics, but by a desire to experience my faith on a deeper level.”
The New York Times reported in December that hate crimes against Muslims and mosques tripled in the weeks following terrorist attacks in Paris, France and San Bernardino, California, according to data from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism.
The spike particularly included assaults on hijab-wearing students, including an incident that occurred a week after the Paris attacks in which a sixth-grade girl in the Bronx, New York, was punched and verbally assaulted by three boys who tried to take off her hijab.