By 8:45, Sarah grudgingly gave up on trying to make her hijab look half decent. The exam was going to begin in just 15 minutes, so she threw on a cardigan and rushed out the door. The crisp autumn air helped calm her nerves before taking the exam, but she still felt self-conscious; she couldn’t help but think that she had picked the wrong day to start wearing a headscarf.
As she walked into the lecture hall, Sarah felt like every pair of eyes was on her. The sounds of shuffling notes and hurried footsteps seemed to fade into silence as her thoughts grew louder in her head. Were people really looking at her more than usual? Did her scarf make her seem oppressed, or like an extremist? Was it pinned up too sloppily?
She found a seat near the back, so that she wouldn’t be too noticeable. Nevertheless, she sensed a pair of eyes on her. As Sarah looked to her right to see who it was, the professor cleared his throat at the front of the room. The girl who had been looking at Sarah quickly turned her attention to the front of the room, but not before Sarah saw the frown on her face.
The exams were distributed, and Sarah began working her way through it. She struggled to ignore the thoughts still racing through her mind, which were now about the girl who had been staring at her before the test began. She definitely hadn’t imagined that. But why were some people so openly prejudiced? Her friends had warned her of this when she told them about her intention to start covering her head. She knew how non-Muslims were going to perceive her now that her Muslim identity was openly displayed, but she hadn’t expected so much negative attention so quickly. Maybe her parents were right… She should just keep to herself during her classes, and avoid interacting with non-Muslims unnecessarily. Maybe eventually, people like the girl sitting near her would stop paying attention to her, if they knew that she wasn’t bothered by their judgments.
About 40 minutes later, she saw the girl get up to leave. The girl glanced at Sarah once again, and went to the front of the room. Shortly after that, Sarah finished her own exam and went to give it to her professor. He handed her a folded piece of paper before she walked out, and said that a classmate had asked him to give it to her. Sarah hesitatingly opened it out in the hallway, and her face turned pink as she read it.
Hi! I hope this doesn’t make you feel awkward, but I noticed that your cardigan is inside out. I just wanted to let you know because it happened to me once and I walked around like that all day but nobody told me. Embarrassing, right?
By the way, your headscarf is really pretty. 🙂
Sarah turned to look back at the lecture hall, where just moments ago, she had felt anxious and paranoid because of a classmate’s innocent concern.