Saturday, September 13, 2008

Explaining hijab to non-muslim kids

I am now doing a part time job dealing with primary school kids from age 5 to 12. Looking somewhat different from the majority of the people in this school, kids would approach me and ask why I have “that thing” on my head. I knew I would have to deal with this question since I’m the minority in this country, but I wasn’t expecting it to come from an 8 year old on my very first day. 

My first reaction was a 20 second silence. Not that I didn’t know what to answer but I was thinking on how to give her a simple answer which is not confusing. In the end my response was “because I have a different religion”. Older kids would ask a lot of other questions regarding the head scarf like “do you wear it when you take a shower” “don’t you feel hot” “what else must you cover” “do you wear it at home”. Because these kids are roughly 11- 12 years old, I answered as simple and as truthful as I could which I think is just what they needed.

Just a few days ago, a new kid arrived and she asked me the same question. Instead of just saying I have a different religion, I said I have a different belief. Because I was not attending to any other kid at that moment, I figured its better that I have a two way discussion with the kid so she understands better. 

Me:- You know how different people have different names and look different from one another. They also come from different places, countries. Can you tell me what else is different between all of us?
Girl:- Different eye colour, different hair colour.
Me:- that’s very good. What about different language
Girl:- yeah! and different way of dressing too
Me:- that’s right! And a different religion, that’s what I have, A different religion.

I find this an effective way to approach younger kids provided that you have the time to have the conversation. Some people would say you should tell them why you are covered so they understand why your religion wants you to cover. As for me i would elaborate on that if they raise the question, which usualy comes from older kids.

Some other answers I came across from other people were :-
“I tell them that I want to look as nice as Mary, the mother of Jesus”.  
“this is what I believe and it helps me to stay modest"

Add some other responses you may think would help.


Anonymous said...


Sister, you also can said that it is obligation for every Muslims women to cover their head.

Anonymous said...

sorry, I mean SAY. Grammar error. (=

Farwina Faroque said...

“do you wear it when you take a shower” hehe..that's funny..

wow, u're very good at words..i think u gave them the simplest and most precise answer ever!

i remember a muslim-american friend of mine share with me that whenever her daughter's friends ask her about her hijab, she'd say 'because my god asked me to'..

but i think that'll lead to more question..i think u've gave them the best answer..

congrats, maya!

Maya said...

thanks guys for sharing. those are some ideas i might use : )

Ardi Herman Mohd Mardzi said...

"because i'm a muslim, plus i looked prettier with this headscarf"..


eleena hamdan said...

it looks like a very simple question but actually it is not. and you did a good job answer it.

Stephanie said...

My daughter asked me this last night, after having a few Muslim friends over. The question was even more complex for me to answer as my husband is Muslim, I am not and we are raising out girls Muslim. My husband's sister does not wear a hijab, nor do many members of his family (his mother does though). So telling the girls, that it is the religion was inadequate to me as of course people who don't wear one are also still Muslim. Plus if my girls are Muslim, then if I explain it purely on religion, then why don't they wear one?
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Maya said...

HI Stephanie...

Yea,some people who do not wear a hijab are still muslim. To me i Basically believe that a muslim should wear one, and to some others they would interpret the verse differently and say you dont have to wear one.

If you believe in one thing you will be able to explain it the best you could. what is important for children is for them to be brought up with a good understanding of all religion... be good citizens, do good to your friends, your neighbours, your parents and especially your mother.

let them read for themselves when they are older and decide on it. thats my personal thoughts.

Huda Sadoon said...

I've been asked by many people throughout my life but recently I think I really screwed up my answer. Trying to instead of just say that it's apart of my religion, I was explaining the concept of modesty and protecting myself from the eyes of society to a group of 8 year olds! And I think I just completely confused them and gave a really bad impression of my reasons. I didn't want to get into having self respect and covering up to protect ourselves from the 'eyes of men' because well that just didn't seem appropriate so I kind of just stammered. :P Definitely regret it and it drives me crazy to think about how I dealt with it that one time. I'm certainly going to try and go back to clear the air with these little kids. InshaAllah from now on I won't try to get fancy and instead keep it simple!

Anonymous said...

I have two kids who are growing up in the Netherlands. We are living in a part of Amsterdam where there are a significant amount of Muslims. I am not religious. My daughter asked me why so many women wear a scarf on their heads. I told her what it is called but I really could not give a good answer. I tried saying that men feel that women need to be covered up, but then I remembered that she is 5, and I could not continue my answer. This answer above, that "I want to look as modest as Mary" is not enough for my inquisitive daughter. Please help me and her understand what makes so many women need to hide their hair, and why it is the men, like Sheikh above, who say that "it is every woman's obligation to cover their head."

Nathalia D.G. said...

At anonymous. I was born and raised in Holland. I live in Lebanon for almost 9 years now and I am a converted Muslim.

Als je uitleg wilt hebben over iets kan ik het je in het Nederlands uitleggen. Misschien gemakkelijker dan het vanuit het engels te vertalen naar het Nederlands.

Laat het me weten��
Ik help je graag.