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Ohio Muslim Women: Hijab Is Symbol of Faith, Not Oppression

Born and raised in Ohio, University of Toledo student Walaa Kanan believes her hijab is a symbolic profession of her commitment to her faith and devotion to God, Toledo Blade reported.

“It’s my way of serving God and I believe that it’s mandatory; that is like reason enough for me,” said Kanan.

“I’m a little bit different, though. I started wearing the hijab a lot younger than what is normal. I started wearing it … in second grade.”

Because she was young and “didn’t grasp the full meaning behind wearing it,” she said family members thought her choice to wear the hijab was just a phase.

“They were like, ‘Oh, she’s a kid. She’s probably gonna wear it sometimes’, but I stuck with it.”

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Unlike Kanan, Zobaida Falah, a Sylvania entrepreneur, only started wearing the hijab as a freshman in high school.

“Growing up in Kentucky I was visibly the only Muslim,” Falah said. “I was literally the token Muslim in my class, my school, and even in my city.”

“That was a huge burden on me because I felt I had to perfect everything I did, or I at least had to second guess every action that I did, because I didn’t want to be perceived in a negative way,” she said.

Not Oppressed

Many people believe that Muslim women are forced by the men in their lives to wear hijab. This is a myth that Muslim women want to dispel immediately.

“In reality, it’s the woman’s choice. 100 percent,” Falah said.

“My father didn’t force me to wear it, my brothers didn’t force me, my husband didn’t force me. It was 100 percent my choice, I chose to do it.”

Unable to control her irritation at the thought of being labeled oppressed Kanan agrees.

“It’s so baffling to me that people think they have the right to come tell me whether or not I’m oppressed,” she said.

“That’s literally so counterproductive to feminism. Like, you’re gonna tell me that something I’m doing by choice is oppressing me and I shouldn’t do it. Like, you’re oppressing me by telling me I shouldn’t do what I feel like doing.”

Working on correcting misconceptions, Falah said most Muslim women enjoy opening up about their faith so never be afraid to ask educated questions.

“This is an open invitation. If you’re a non-Muslim and you have questions, feel free to walk up to us and ask us questions. As long as they’re not offensive. But let me just end with, no, we don’t shower in these,” she said.

Islam in Ohio

Ohio is the USA’s 34th largest state by area, the 7th most populous, and the 10th most densely populated. The state takes its name from the Native American Seneca word for ‘Great River’.

The United States Census Bureau estimates that the population of Ohio was 11,689,442 on July 1, 2018, a 1.33% increase since the 2010 United States Census.

According to a Pew Forum poll, as of 2008, 76% of Ohioans identified as Christian. Besides, 17% of the population is atheist, while 1.3% (148,380) were Jewish. At the same time, there are small minorities of Muslims (1%), Hindus (<0.5%), Buddhists (<0.5%) and other faiths (1-1.5%).

According to the same data, a majority of Ohioans, 55%, feel that religion is ‘very important’, 30% say that it’s ‘somewhat important’, and 15% responded that religion is ‘not too important/not important at all’.

Moreover, about 36% of Ohioans indicate that they attend religious services at least once weekly, 35% attend occasionally, and 27% seldom or never participate in religious services.