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.