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A Christian in Hijab
A year ago in university campuses across the United States, students and staff marched and held rallies advocating education reform and protesting recent tuition hikes, salary reductions, and layoffs. On my lunch break one day between teaching classes at the University of California, Irvine, I made my way to the Student Center, past the booming chants of protest, the students of the Korean Club selling $2 cups of Bobo tea and a local rock radio station giving away t-shirts.|
One small booth made me pause. Pamphlets in hand, scarves on their heads, a group of young women from the Muslim Student Association were speaking quietly to passing women. I stopped to ask what they were doing. They told me that non-Muslim women were being given the opportunity to wear a hijab for 24 hours to experience what Muslim women experience. In the end, the women could keep the beautiful scarves.
Immediately I thought of my sister, who converted to Islam while a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee 18 years ago. It took some years for the family to adjust to my sister’s conversion. Although we were not raised as strict church-goers and belonged to perhaps the most open of the Protestant denominations, the Disciples of Christ, her leaving the faith in which she’d been raised was like a personal betrayal and a sign of loss of the girl we knew and loved. As for me, I groped forward in understanding it while on the outside playing the role of supportive sister.