Op Eds

The Right to Choose

I’m balancing my phone on a stack of assorted items so I can get my key in the lock when my mom, watching the ordeal over FaceTime, comments on the large Palestinian flag donning my door. She hesitantly says it looks beautiful. She then proceeds to tell me stories of minority students murdered on their own college campuses for their views.

I know she wants me to take down the flag and keep my mouth shut. I’ve been cautious thus far to not flash it in the camera frame when I call her.

I think sometimes she forgets that I choose to wear a hijab every day. I have been wearing the hijab, a head covering worn by Muslim women and a symbol of modesty and religious commitment, for more than 10 years now. It is one of the most important parts of my identity.

It is also impossible to miss.

It’s hard to think of a more glaring visual indicator of being Muslim. If there is ever any Islamophobia around, I am its obvious walking target. There is no more blatant evidence of my beliefs than my hijab — and I could not be more proud of my continual choice, morning after morning, to put it on.


I am used to the questions tied to my choice. I grew up in the South, where I was no stranger to the well-meaning “Aren’t you hot in that?” and “If your parents are making you wear it, you can take it off while they’re not here.”

I’m lucky that these comments have never fazed me, and I know exactly why: My hijab has always been my choice. It is hard to convey the gravity of privilege that allows me to say that. I live in a country that has never, at least legally, asked me to take it off — see: France’s anti-separatism bill banning students from wearing hijab. Conversely, the U.S. has also never asked me to put it on — see: Iran’s hijab laws and morality police, under which, most recently, Mahsa Amini was detained and died in custody.

Amini’s death has sparked global outrage over the past month, from women burning their headscarves during feverish protests in Iran, to women an ocean away in Boston, cutting their hair on the Harvard Bridge in a show of solidarity. Western government officials have released statements and sanctions. Amini’s death and the resulting outrage have flooded all kinds of media outlets, from our personal social media feeds to global newspapers.

I find it incredibly inspiring to see the outpouring of support against this clear transgression of rights. I was personally touched by the number of peers that I saw being so vocal on the issue on social media and beyond.

That is, until I came across some of them sharing the hashtag #freedomfromhijab. Statements like these are counterintuitive. What are we truly fighting against — the hijab, or restrictions on one’s right to choose?

Amini’s death was not due to the hijab, but the lack of autonomy over her own body under the hijab law that led to her detainment — a theme we are all too familiar with. Amini’s death is a symptom of the same problem that plagues India, where women in some states are barred from their choice to actively wear that same hijab, or America, where vital abortion rights are being relentlessly curtailed.

I laud my peers at the Harvard protest in support of Iranian women who emphasized the true meaning of their protest. Signs that read “The problem is not the hijab, the problem is controlling women,” and statements like “I really want people to see that this is not an issue of Islam — this is not the religion that they portray it to be — and I think that is such a common misconception that people in the West are still battling today” — these should be the real focus of the movement.

Protests can look very different in different parts of the world. For many Iranian women, protest has involved their choice to take off the hijab. In the West, it can be the exact opposite.

I believe myself to be in a constant state of protest. The minute I step out of my room wearing my hijab, I am shouting my beliefs out to the world. Despite the skeptical glances and occasional temptations, my desire to feel spiritually connected through my hijab is enough to spur me on against its potential dangers.

Whatever form of protest we take up, there will always be some risk. It is when our desire to preserve our beliefs and rights is strong enough that we willingly take on that risk, that it becomes a testament to our commitment to who we are. I will keep my flag on my door as long as I believe in the cause, just as I keep my scarf wrapped around my head and heart.

Labiba Uddin ’25, a Crimson Editorial editor, lives in Pforzheimer House.