BHS student reveals her culture
Junior Washima Fairoz reveals her true identity and starts wearing a hijab for the first time since moving to the U.S.
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Walking into school on the first day she wore a hijab, her hands were cold and her body was shaking. Nothing could prepare her for the reactions she was about to encounter.
Junior Washima Fairoz, a native of Bangladesh, is a practicing Muslim, but stopped wearing a hijab when she first moved to the United States. It wasn’t until recently that she decided to stop hiding her true identity.
“The first day [I wore a hijab], I cried in the bathroom because that’s how shaken I was feeling,” said Fairoz. “Everyone was staring at me, and it wasn’t in a good way. Some teachers were like, ‘Oh my god, is that you, Washima?’ Even the lunch lady was like ‘Oh my god Washima I cannot recognize you in that,’ and I just simply said you will get used to it.”
Fairoz feared that she wouldn’t make any friends if she wore a hijab when she first came to the U.S., so she decided to leave that part of her culture behind.
“My mom said to wear a hijab when we first came to the United States because that’s how we live our life, but I refused,” said Fairoz. “I said let me have a chance to make friends and see what happens because I heard that people don’t see people with hijabs in a positive light.”
Fairoz has always been an outgoing, friendly person, so she feared that she wouldn’t make friends if she wore the headpiece.
“The thing that stopped me from wearing a hijab was the idea of being lonely,” said Fairoz. “I was terrified. In my country, I was always bubbly, and I like friends and talking to people.”
Fairoz first started to notice people treat her differently around the same time she stepped down from her position of class president.
“I decided for the sake of our class to step down, and then I realized that people stopped talking to me,” said Fairoz. “I was so depressed [that] I used to cry every single night.”
To add to these feelings, Fairoz felt like she had fewer friends as well.
“I’m actually confused whether people stopped talking to me because I stepped down from presidency or because I’m just not popular anymore,” said Fairoz. “So then I decided that it’s time to accept my real identity.”
One of Fairoz’s friends, junior Lauren McCallum, is one of the only that Fairoz believes hasn’t treated her any different since the change. McCallum said that Fairoz never told her that she would start wearing a hijab, and instead she found out in her address to students at the Pigeon assembly.
“I think addressing the school and explaining that wearing a hijab is something she always wanted to do helped give her the push she needed,” McCallum said.
McCallum thinks that although not everyone will be supportive of Fairoz’s decision, some people are simply curious about her decision.
“I think it’s new to people, so they’re probably just interested,” said McCallum. “Obviously not everyone will be on board, but there are people like that everywhere. Personally, I still treat her the same way as I did before because she’s the same person, the same Washima, just with different clothes, and that doesn’t matter. She’s just expressing herself and her culture, which is a great thing.”
Fairoz found that she hadn’t been true to herself for years for the sake of making friends, and some of those same friends didn’t accept her for who she really was.
“I have sacrificed my whole identity because of you [my friends],” said Fairoz. “I absolutely admit that you guys have given me so much, but at the same time you guys have taken my confidence and my self-respect and have given me so much anxiety. The people who gave me that are not worth having in my life.”
Fairoz hasn’t felt the same in social situations since the change, and she even decided to not attend the Spirit Rally because of it.
“Before, I felt like I was part of BHS, and now I’m alone,” said Fairoz. “I didn’t go to the Spirit Rally because we had to have a partner for our class dance and I was scared that nobody would dance with me.”
Almost a month later, Fairoz said that people continue to look at her differently and that it bothers her very much.
“I’m sick of people staring at me still,” said Fairoz. “It’s okay to ask questions, but don’t stare at me like I’m a monster. I stopped going to the cafeteria for lunch because people stared at me. I go to Mr. Ferrell’s room now because people are so welcoming there.”
The reaction to Fairoz’s decision hasn’t all been negative. She emphasized that many people have been supportive of her and applaud her for her courage.
“Some people have really encouraged me to be the way I am,” said Fairoz. “I have always been the same Washima. It’s just a piece of clothes, but on the positive side people have said that I am brave for doing it.”
Fairoz has never come to McCallum about people judging her, but McCallum knows exactly what she would say if she ever did come to her.
“I’d tell her that there is no need to worry about what other people have to say about it because it’s something that is making her happy and helping her express who she is and where she comes from,” said McCallum. “I’d help her realize there’s no reason to feel ashamed or different just because American customs aren’t like that. It doesn’t make her any less of a person.”
Fairoz feels like she’s been hiding this part of herself for years, and given the mostly negative reaction, she wishes that people would still see her as Washima.
“[I] absolutely [feel like I’ve been hiding this part of myself], but not anymore,” said Fairoz. “I feel like people have been scared of me. They stopped talking to me, stare at me weirdly, or glance at me in the halls dirtily. I’m still the same Washima.”
Despite her struggles with this situation, Fairoz chooses to look at the situation in a positive light.
“It [wearing a hijab] made the fake people go away, so now I have the true people.”