In the spring of 2004, Dr. Waheeda Samady decided to wear a black head scarf, or a hijab, for the first time in her life, even though she has always been a practicing Muslim.

Her classmates in medical school immediately asked if someone she knew had died, she said. Their second conclusion, she said, was that her father had married her to a man who insisted she wear a veil.

Many acquaintances had a hard time believing that she wanted to wear it.

Samady, 25, talked about her decision to publicly display her religious beliefs at a panel discussion Thursday at Palomar College. The discussion, Women in Islam, was part of a four-day series of events sponsored by the Muslim Student Association to dispel misperceptions about the faith.

Samady, a resident at Children’s Hospital, said she doesn’t like talking about her experiences with the scarf because it’s such a small part of her religion, yet it’s the most visible symbol. She said not all Muslim-American women wear scarves, and if they don’t it doesn’t detract from their devotion. It was a combination of wanting to reject the dictates of fashion trends and of increased interest in her religion, Samady said, that prompted her decision to wear the hijab. Women are often judged for how they dress, she said, and since the scarf represents modesty and purity, she decided to wear something meaningful to her.

“The most feminist thing that I do sometimes is wearing the scarf,” she said. (MORE)


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