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For Muslim teens, the hijab is a symbol of religious expression and personal style 

Crescent School students Marium Zuairia, 16, Duaa Qureshi, 16, Rubaiya Hasan, 16, Wania Tayyab 15 and Tayyinah Kamal, 17, in their classroom on April 6. In school, they wear the white hijab.  Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

Wania Tayyab, 15, remembers the first time she wore the hijab, on a trip to Five Below when she was 12 or 13. “My mom said, ‘You’re growing, why don’t you try wearing hijab?’”

Tayyab says she was worried other customers in the store would look at her weirdly. “When I do something new, I always get nervous,” Tayyab says. But everything was “great,” she says. “Ever since that day, my love for my hijab grew.”

Today, the high school junior wears a variety of hijabs. When she’s at the Crescent School, a private Muslim school in Hempstead, she wears the school uniform solid white one. But when she and her friends are on their own time, they wear colorful hijabs or ones with patterns. They might adorn them with a pin or a ribbon, or, on special occasions, place a decorative headband over them. Tayyab and her classmates might even wear hoop or dangling earrings that poke out from below the hijab.

The girls are interested in fashion; they follow young Muslim influencers on social media such as @fairynadia, who has more than 1.6 million followers on TikTok, and shop online at websites such as Veiled Collection or Modest Behaviour, or at area specialty stores for hijabs, dresses and accessories. 

The teenagers repeatedly emphasized that they balance whatever fashion and personal style choices they make against the more weighty, spiritual purpose of the hijab: to maintain their modesty in honor of their religious beliefs. “When I wear the hijab, it gives me a sense of dignity, sense of pride and gives me a sense of identity as a young Muslim woman in the 21st Century,” says Tayyibah Kamal, 17, of East Meadow, a junior at the Crescent School.

The hijab is part of the religious expression; Muslim women are supposed to cover everything when in public except for their hands, face and feet beginning at puberty, Tayyab explains. Some women also choose to wear a partial face covering over their nose and mouth; makeup is a personal choice, the girls say. 

Girls first put their hair back in a low ponytail or bun, and then cover it with a snug headcap. After that, they don the hijab. Younger girls might start out with a slip-on hijab that pulls over their head and is simpler than the scarflike option.

Sania Daniyal, 16, says she is one of the few students in New Hyde Park Memorial High School who wears the hijab. She says when she first started, she was still in middle school, and she lost some friends who didn't understand her choice. "I think fear of the unknown is what caused the rift," she says now. As she's gotten older, and her classmates have learned about the hijab in history classes, people have been more understanding, she says.

Daniyal estimates she has 100 hijabs, in different shades, with polka dots, with stripes. Hijabs come in chiffon, in silk, in cotton. "I've always been a very fashionable person. I definitely knew I wanted to start using different styles, patterns and textures," Daniyal says. "I love matching my hijab to my outfits. It just makes me feel so happy. It empowers me to live my life to the fullest in a way that represents my faith as a part of me."

Daniyal's mother, Naz Khan, a physician, says when she was a teenager, her parents were new immigrants to America and their mentality then was to blend in. "My mom was very opposed to me putting on the hijab," Khan says. "It was kind of a stigma."

Khan, who does wear the hijab now, says she is impressed by the teenagers of today. "Now the girls are very proud of it. Now the girls want to stand out. There's all these videos on YouTube; they have designer scarves now."

The teenagers say it's a common misconception that you can't be cute while still being modest.

But it can be a challenge for the teens to shop for outfits appropriate for them at a mainstream Long Island mall, says Marium Zuairin, 16, a tenth-grader at the Crescent School who lives in Bellmore. For instance: “I’ll look at a dress, such a good floral dress, but the back is all cut out,” Zuairin says.

That’s not something she feels comfortable wearing — “I have the right to choose who gets to see my body, who gets to see my figure. I want to have that privilege,” she says — so, she shops online for long dresses and hijabs and finds her fashion niche that way.

Rabaiya Hasan, 16, of Westbury, says she purchased many hijabs when she went to visit family in Bangladesh. She likes a monochromatic look, she says. Daniyal says she finds hijabs at religious events where vendors offer choices, and she also gets hijabs as gifts on special occasions. 

Kamal says she likes hijabs that let her express Cottagecore style or color blocking. “I’ll change up the color once in a while, match it with an outfit, something cute. I’m all up for aesthetics,” Kamal says. “You can look pretty and cover up at the same time.”

Wania Tayyab, 15, remembers the first time she wore the hijab, on a trip to Five Below when she was 12 or 13. “My mom said, ‘You’re growing, why don’t you try wearing hijab?’”

Tayyab says she was worried other customers in the store would look at her weirdly. “When I do something new, I always get nervous,” Tayyab says. But everything was “great,” she says. “Ever since that day, my love for my hijab grew.”

Today, the high school junior wears a variety of hijabs. When she’s at the Crescent School, a private Muslim school in Hempstead, she wears the school uniform solid white one. But when she and her friends are on their own time, they wear colorful hijabs or ones with patterns. They might adorn them with a pin or a ribbon, or, on special occasions, place a decorative headband over them. Tayyab and her classmates might even wear hoop or dangling earrings that poke out from below the hijab.

Teenagers from East Meadow talk about the multiple ways they like to wear a hijab.  Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa-Loarca

The girls are interested in fashion; they follow young Muslim influencers on social media such as @fairynadia, who has more than 1.6 million followers on TikTok, and shop online at websites such as Veiled Collection or Modest Behaviour, or at area specialty stores for hijabs, dresses and accessories. 

The teenagers repeatedly emphasized that they balance whatever fashion and personal style choices they make against the more weighty, spiritual purpose of the hijab: to maintain their modesty in honor of their religious beliefs. “When I wear the hijab, it gives me a sense of dignity, sense of pride and gives me a sense of identity as a young Muslim woman in the 21st Century,” says Tayyibah Kamal, 17, of East Meadow, a junior at the Crescent School.

A RELIGIOUS CHOICE

The hijab is part of the religious expression; Muslim women are supposed to cover everything when in public except for their hands, face and feet beginning at puberty, Tayyab explains. Some women also choose to wear a partial face covering over their nose and mouth; makeup is a personal choice, the girls say. 

Girls first put their hair back in a low ponytail or bun, and then cover it with a snug headcap. After that, they don the hijab. Younger girls might start out with a slip-on hijab that pulls over their head and is simpler than the scarflike option.

For those who aren’t Muslim, I wish they knew this isn’t a form of oppression. This is my free will, my own choice. We wear it because we want to.

— Duaa Qureshi, 16, of East Meadow. 

POLKA DOTS ARE A FAVORITE

Sania Daniyal, 16, says she is one of the few students in New Hyde Park Memorial High School who wears the hijab. She says when she first started, she was still in middle school, and she lost some friends who didn't understand her choice. "I think fear of the unknown is what caused the rift," she says now. As she's gotten older, and her classmates have learned about the hijab in history classes, people have been more understanding, she says.

Sania Daniyal, 16, shops for hijabs during the Eid Bazaar at...

Sania Daniyal, 16, shops for hijabs during the Eid Bazaar at the Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury, April 9. Credit: Jeff Bachner

Daniyal estimates she has 100 hijabs, in different shades, with polka dots, with stripes. Hijabs come in chiffon, in silk, in cotton. "I've always been a very fashionable person. I definitely knew I wanted to start using different styles, patterns and textures," Daniyal says. "I love matching my hijab to my outfits. It just makes me feel so happy. It empowers me to live my life to the fullest in a way that represents my faith as a part of me."

Daniyal's mother, Naz Khan, a physician, says when she was a teenager, her parents were new immigrants to America and their mentality then was to blend in. "My mom was very opposed to me putting on the hijab," Khan says. "It was kind of a stigma."

Khan, who does wear the hijab now, says she is impressed by the teenagers of today. "Now the girls are very proud of it. Now the girls want to stand out. There's all these videos on YouTube; they have designer scarves now."

PRETTY + MODEST

Sania Daniyal, 16, wears the hijab at the Islamic Center...

Sania Daniyal, 16, wears the hijab at the Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury on April 9. Credit: Jeff Bachner

The teenagers say it's a common misconception that you can't be cute while still being modest.

But it can be a challenge for the teens to shop for outfits appropriate for them at a mainstream Long Island mall, says Marium Zuairin, 16, a tenth-grader at the Crescent School who lives in Bellmore. For instance: “I’ll look at a dress, such a good floral dress, but the back is all cut out,” Zuairin says.

That’s not something she feels comfortable wearing — “I have the right to choose who gets to see my body, who gets to see my figure. I want to have that privilege,” she says — so, she shops online for long dresses and hijabs and finds her fashion niche that way.

Duaa Qureshi, 16, of East Meadow, shares a selfie wearing...

Duaa Qureshi, 16, of East Meadow, shares a selfie wearing her colorful hijab.  Credit: Duaa Qureshi

Rabaiya Hasan, 16, of Westbury, says she purchased many hijabs when she went to visit family in Bangladesh. She likes a monochromatic look, she says. Daniyal says she finds hijabs at religious events where vendors offer choices, and she also gets hijabs as gifts on special occasions. 

Kamal says she likes hijabs that let her express Cottagecore style or color blocking. “I’ll change up the color once in a while, match it with an outfit, something cute. I’m all up for aesthetics,” Kamal says. “You can look pretty and cover up at the same time.”

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