Hot and Cool

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Tasneem Sadok is Muslim, and the attention her headscarf attracts blows hot and cool.

As a teenage girl who wears the headscarf in accordance with my religious beliefs, it’s always a relief that the most invasive question I usually get asked is, "Don't you get hot under there during summer?"

Sure, under a blazing summer sun the fabric that covers my head, arms and legs makes me marginally less breezy than my non-wearing counterparts, but the true heat comes from its less literal consequences.

It’s hot when my travel-loving family has to be frisked and held at customs nearly each time we board. It's become a part of the process we factor in when deciding when to wake up the day of a trip.

It's hot when the student sitting behind me decides it would be okay to pull my scarf off in the middle of class, because she was "curious about what was under there.” I felt pretty hot the entire next week of school.


It's hot each day I have to carry on my shoulders the image of an entire population, and singlehandedly try to counteract the maliciously saturated idea of what being a Muslim means.

And it’s scorching each time an ignorant comment from someone I don't know makes my heart sink at how little progress we've made.

Ironically, it was those suffocatingly hot times that also provided the coolest relief. It was the lead transportation security officer who barged into the holding room and asked the agent why my father was being questioned over others. It was my friends who followed me into the restroom to comfort me with hugs and jokes, and the teacher who made sure I was okay. It was the people in my life who chose to know and love me as a human being and slowly shed their own misconceptions. And it's the people on the street, who don't know me, who've chosen to do the same.

Whenever I think of how uncomfortably hot it can get being a Muslim female in America, I am reminded of how much the people here can make it a refreshing life of opportunity.

With a Perspective, I’m Tasneem Sadok.

Tasneem Sadok is 19 and a college freshman in Santa Clara.