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All women should wear one from time to time

I enjoyed reporter Claudia Rowe’s piece “Non-Muslim teen wears hijab, walks a mile in friends’ shoes” [Local News, Jan. 18] about the non-muslim high-school student who attempted to wear the hijab as an act of solidarity with her peers.

I understand well the phenomena she experienced. I am a researcher and university lecturer who conducted a study on the impact of the hijab in interpersonal interaction. For two years I wore the hijab throughout the Middle East during the Arab Spring as well as in Europe, Central Asia, the Pacific Northwest and Hawaii.

I was surprised to encounter intense discrimination in my interaction with non-Muslims: strangers, colleagues, peers and even my own family. Even those who knew I was conducting a study treated me differently and at times even with hostility. Discrimination was always a constant in my interaction with other members of my cultural group of mainstream Americans.

Carrying out the study for two full years was anguishing. Now I am writing of my experiences in a memoir called “Two Years Behind the Veil.” I am a Seattleite with very deep roots living in the home my family built in Seattle more than a century ago after coming to the region in the 1850s. But within moments of donning the hijab, I became an outsider, a foreigner and downright unwelcomed.

In my view, the only way for the discrimination to diminish is for non-Muslim women like this brave high-school student to incorporate the hijab into their fashion from time to time as an act of solidarity and as a means to desensitize the cultural fear of it.

Hazel Denhart, Seattle

Courage to not fit in

It was nothing like teenager Zion Lourdes Perez expected when she decided to wear the head scarf worn every day by her friends of Muslim faith. [“Non-Muslim teen wears hijab, walks a mile in friends’ shoes,” Local News, Jan. 18].

Instead of acceptance, she sensed hostility, ostracism, alienation, and so she tore off the hijab. None of us wants to be met with or surrounded by hatred. Most of us, like Perez, want to blend in.

Too many of us though are afraid to stand up and stand out when courage, not blending in, is called for. The fact that the day after Zion tore off the hijab she put it on again demonstrates that she, along with her friends, bear witness to courage.

Thanks to these four for reminding us again that the world is too small for anything but love. May we not become weary or exhausted by the constant cries in our time to fear.

William Bailey, Seattle