For Muslim women, a headscarf — or hijab — is a visible sign of their faith and identity, and whether to wear one is a big decision. The recent decision by a Christian college professor to don a headscarf out of solidarity with her Muslim sisters highlighted the hijab question, at least for non-Muslims. For Muslim women themselves, especially in the United States, it was an old story.
"Before I wore hijab, making friends with people who weren't Muslim was a lot easier," says Maryam Adamu, who was born in North Carolina to immigrants from Nigeria. Before she began wearing a headscarf three years ago, people didn't know she was Muslim — until she told them.
"I, like, Trojan-horsed my Islam," she says, laughing. "Like, 'You're already my friend. I know you like me. Now you know I'm Muslim, and you're going to learn about this faith.' " Once she started wearing a headscarf, she encountered a social obstacle she hadn't seen before, even in her advocacy work at the Center for American Progress, a think tank loosely affiliated with the Democratic Party. "Now, I have to work a lot harder to get into people's lives who aren't Muslim," she says.