I am originally from Sudan but grew up in Abu Dhabi – UAE. I started wearing hijab when I was 15 years old.
For me, it was just the natural thing to do. I went to do my undergrad in Electrical Engineering in Sudan then I came to the US for my master’s. In my first semester at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, was September 11 and everyone freaked out. My professor called me every day to make sure I was okay.
Some of my friends and family asked me to remove my hijab to be safe but my thought was I am safe! How can you not be safe when you are worshiping God?
If my time to go today then it’s my time whether I wear hijab or not. It is not going to change my destiny so I never removed it. However, I went through a lot of harassment. I remember in Kinkos when I was trying to print out my project, the lady who worked there refused to help me!
Oh man I made a scene by complaining to her manger in public ( it was crowded ) and demanded my right to be served like anyone else or explain to me why are you treating me this way? Of course, the manager apologized in public to me and gave all my service for free.
Honestly, for this position, the female percentage was 30% ( if I remember correctly) but doing it with hijab and going through all the water surviving training with full cloth was a challenge. One thing I learned was you are what you present; if you present confidence, people will treat you with respect.When I finished my master’s in Electrical Engineering in Alabama, I joined the oil field as a field engineer with a title called MWD ( Measuring While Drilling). I was working offshore for Schlumberger.
Of course, hijab affected me in many ways. First, I cannot be rude to people regardless how I feel because then it won’t be oh! this lady is rude. It will be the girl with the scarf is rude or Muslims are rude. I learned to be in my best behavior. Also, I learned to work harder than everyone else because everything I do represents Islam, not me.
Years passed by and I moved from Schlumberger to another company ( Baker Hughes) and finally to Halliburton. When Halliburton called me for a Field Engineering position called Directional Driller, I thought they made a mistake as it’s known that no one hires females for this position but I answered the call and went to the interview in Casper, WY. I got the job on the spot.
I was the second female they hired for this job and the second female to have this job in USA. And of course, the only Muslim with a scarf over her head. I worked in remote areas and it was very challenging. Some people really hate Muslims and for them, I was the devil walking in heels. But doing my job better than everyone else and knowing my rights, I put everyone in their place and became the go-to-person when there was a problem.
After one year in the field with Halliburton in ND, they moved me to the office here in Houston, Texas to develop the first Well Design Course the company ever had. Shortly afterwards, I became the Houston Training Manager to train all Field Engineers globally.
I also became the company’s voice for female and diversity and was the keynote speaker in many events to inspire women to become engineers. Did I mention I am half way through getting my private pilot certification?
One thing I want to tell every hijabi woman is that hijab does not put you down. In fact, you put yourself down when you treat hijab as a heavy piece of cloth instead of feeling it as a natural part of who you are. And for Muslims who think the only way to melt in the western society is by dress like them, your dream is so small because no leader was ever a follower. A leader is the one who stands differently in the crowd. People respect those who respect themselves.
And for my friends from other religions, I want to really thank you for your love and support.
And for the ignorant, well may God bless your heart and lighten your soul with the truth one day.
Republished with kind permission from Worldhijabday.com