11 Struggles I've Faced As An American-Pakistani Who Does Hijab

By Lyba Ali | 18 Jul, 2018

Life is tough when you have to interact with bigoted, Islamophobic, and racist individuals as a hijabi. However, not all struggles are that extreme. Here are some of the struggles I have had the pleasure of encountering as someone who does hijab abroad. Tag yourselves, I am the one struggling to find the perfect shade of black to my match my black outfit. First world problems, smh. Anyway, here goes:

1. When someone asks you, “Aren’t you hot in that?”  

Source: Dharma Productions

Yes but I prefer beautiful teehee. This question is truly a summer favorite and is inevitable to escape. I mean my hijab and full sleeves are doing what SPF 15 cannot so, winning.

2. Also, when someone asks, “Do you shower in that?”

Source: Giphy

This question is followed by a series of other questions: Do you sleep in that? Do you have hair under there? Like my girl, Becky really be acting like she has not seen a nun or pictures of the Virgin Mary. Trust me, I believe in washing my hair and clothes but not while I am wearing it.

3. When your hijab has an appetite of its own.

Source: A.A. Milne

It makes a perfect storage for snacks on-the-go. My friends and I refer to it as an adult bib.

4. When your non-Muslim friends/collegues ask you if you own hijabs in all the colors of the rainbow.

Source: United Plankton Pictures/Nickelodeon Animation Studios/Rough Draft Studios

Yes but I like black. This is the most real experience as a hijabi woman. My colleague asked me to give her a headcount of all the hijabs I owned and in every color/design/material. Girl if my organization skills were that good my mother would be in a state of bliss.

5. When someone declares, “Your English is so good!”

Source: Yash Raj Films

It is either that or how do you have an American accent? Ok, Karen but you only speak English and half the time your Staten Island accent is incomprehensible. You don’t see me complaining, do you? Bee tee dubs my Urdu, Punjabi, and Arabic are just as good.

6. Getting randomly selected at the airport.

Source: Tumblr

Oh me? Who would’ve thunk it? I have recently have had the pleasure of traveling to Pakistan after 14 long years and boy did they have a long list of questions waiting to be answered. Not like I just got off a 22-hour flight in a cramped seat with no personal space whatsoever. Like how dare I go back to where I actually came from.

7. When someone angrily says, “Go back to where you came from!”

Source: Zee Studios/White Feather Films/Viiking Media & Entertainment

Ah, there it is! Me, who came to a country legally and not actually claim rights on the land? Live about my life peacefully instead of massacring and displacing the indigenous people? I think the Native Americans would like to have a word or two.

8. Answering, “Is Malala is your cousin?”

Source: Yash Raj Films

Is Frank McCord your great-grandfather? Too soon? As ridiculous as this question sounds it truly has been spoken into existence. As a Muslim, I do believe all Muslims are my brother and sisters but damn some people really be taking it l i t e r a l l y.

9. “Do you wear that because you are oppressed?”

Source: Warner Bros./CBS

The only oppression I am facing is having to hear the question from my own two ears. I have had a professor call me out in a lecture when she was referring to “veiled, oppressed women in the Middle East.” Truly ironic from an educator that lacks basic knowledge on the geographic demographic but all hell lets loose when you refer to a caucasian as white. Pardon me I could not see the .001% Italian descent through your thick skin.

10. Watching hijab tutorials for the sake of diversity

Source: Tumblr

As hijabis, we have all been there. I have endlessly sat through thousands of YouTube videos to tackle a new lifestyle. But then actually sticking to my regular routine because ain’t nobody got time for that. It honestly just looks easy when they do it okay!

11. Trying to find the perfect shade of hijab to match your desi outfits.

Source: Bright/Kauffman/Crane Productions

I can never have too many scarves. But the struggle is real when it comes down to matching my hijab with an outfit I planned in my head. I just need a dusty rose gold in satin silk to match my lehnga. Am I asking for too much??


At the end of the day, you can never get away with insensitive comments from uneducated people. Even with individuals like that, there are kind souls who will compliment your hijab, your fashion, and your strength and courage in choosing to wear the hijab. Shoutout to those lil cupcakes!


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Cover image via nbcnews.com

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