Modest But Determined

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at 11:43 PM
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To Katia Bouali wearing the hijab is about modesty, but it is most definitely not about abandoning her individuality or determination to live a life of consequence.

“Keep your eyes on the prize,” reads the mug that lives on my desk. Those words are my mom’s reminder of my goal - obtaining knowledge to be somebody someday.

Growing up, knowledge and education have been the priority in my family. My parents sacrificed to immigrate here from Algeria to allow a better life for my older brother and me.

In our religion, knowledge is key. Islam taught me that I, as a Muslim woman who wears the hijab, have the right to be an intellectual with the power to make a difference. The hijab means “cover” in Arabic. Many think it’s just a headscarf that some Muslim women wear, but it’s much more. Hijab is modesty in speech, clothing, and thoughts. I cover my head so I can be treated for who I am as a person on the inside - not the outside. I value my intellect much more than my beauty. I decided to put on the hijab at 13, which was the best decision of my life.

I finally understood myself. I wanted to make my life meaningful, since before then I didn’t know where I belonged. I was alive, but I was not living. I didn’t believe in myself, I didn’t love one inch of myself. So I took my mom’s advice: read. Read, read, read. Read anything, as long as you read, because it will benefit you.

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So I did just that. I read many books. I read articles. I read the news. I learned about current events, history, culture, and most importantly, my religion. I learned more about hijab and I fell in love with the concept. In the mixture of knowledge and religion, I found myself again. I found what I wanted to become, to help people one day. I want to use my power, my intellect and confidence that makes me, me - to bring justice and educate with the power of words.

I cover to be free. I am free. I have the freedom to cover up, and I am not oppressed.

My hijab and faith helped me to realize that I can be someone, and I will be someone. I still have a lot to learn but , we are always in the process of becoming.

With a Perspective, I am Katia Bouali.

Katia Bouali attends El Cerrito High School. Her Perspective was produced as part of Youth Takeover week at KQED