This is a letter we received from one of our readers. The young woman is at a loss and feels a little help from outside, someone else's opinion might be helpful. If you feel like having a say after reading the letter, feel free to do so, just remember: no offensive messages.
"It has taken me a long time to write this. It is very personal, difficult, sensitive, and extremely controversial.
"Sitting here, typing this -- I am still not sure whether I can, in fact, put it all into words that in some little way express how I feel and why.
"But enough with the preamble – let's just get into the heart of the matter: I am a muslim and I want to take off my hijab. There. I've said it.
"I remember the day I wore it. I was thirteen. My best friend and I've been talking about wearing hijab for a while because everyone's been doing it. It was the coolest new thing. We decided we would, soon. It was in Ramadan, after Iftar I went to her place so we could go to our aunt's wedding. She dressed up. Put on a hijab. I decided to do it then and there. I borrowed a hijab from her Mom, and we both wore it and went to the wedding hand in hand. Extremely proud of ourselves.
"I had been already considering the thought for a few days, and so, I felt excited about wearing it being not fully aware of the consequences. And since two of my close friends wore the scarf, I felt very encouraged to take that step.
"I came back home that day and announced my decision to wear the scarf. My dad sat was sat there looking unhappy about it. He believed that I was still young to wear it, and that I wasn't ready yet. My sister warned me against it. My Mom told me to wait until I finish high school. My neighbour told me I was out of my mind. But I had to. I just had to. Everyone's doing it. I was thirteen, I didn't want to be the outcast. So I cried. I sulked. Eventually, I always get what I want because I'm the youngest.
"But hijab back then seemed so easy, it was concerned with wearing fashionable clothes and matching them with a pretty headscarf. People used to call me stylish and pretty. I saw it as a major way of getting compliments.
"Did I do it because it is mandatory in Islam? No.
"Did I do it for Allah? No.
"Did I do it because I understood what its purpose was or why people wear it? No.
"I did it because I was a thirteen-year-old girl who wanted to do something different with her life, who had just watched her best friend get celebrated for putting on a piece of cloth on her hair, and wanted to get some of that attention. I wanted the gifts, and the congratulations, and the celebrations and the love and compliments and flattery from people – and boy, did I get plenty! I received so much encouragement and positive feedback, I felt for sure, I had done the right thing.
"I lived my life like any normal teenager would. I had my highs and lows, my ups and downs. I cannot say that the hijab was ever a hindrance to my life, but then again, looking back, I'm not sure that was necessarily a good thing.
"This something that I have been thinking about for years.
"My hijab helped me during middle school and high school. It was like a shield, an invisible suit that I always had on when I went out, the suit that kept away the evil eye. It enabled me to keep that all-important low profile.
"And, after 2 years of satisfaction, the "taking-off-my-hijab" syndrome started. I no longer felt like myself, my personality vanished when I put it on. I felt gray and unattractive. Boring. I felt like I was loosing my sense of individuality, I had no identity.
"I can no longer be myself, I don't feel like being the quirky, funny, happy person that I am when I'm home. There is nothing which could set me apart from the next girl. I am no longer unique, no longer me.
"I hate waking up in the morning, I hate going places, I hate even looking at people or having people look at me. I walk with my head down and my self confidence is at rock bottom. At heart, I am a modest person. I wear respectful shirts which rise higher than my collarbone and I wear clothes that pass my bum – I honestly have no intention to do anything haram.
"I'm a hardworking student dedicated to my school work and becoming a med student. I'm writing this in tears because of how hard I have prayed. Asking for help - a sign. Something.
"It took me time to realise that a majority of muslims are hypocritical. I remember those scenes in the mall, those women who wear headscarf with the last few buttons undone revealing a little cleavage. It was a very awkward way to wear hijab – covering your body but showing double the seduction a normal non-hijab clothing would do.
"The truth I realised now is that I wasn't doubting God, I was questioning the reality of so many muslims nowadays. I feel like I need to take off hijab and get rid of the feeling of being "caged" and start my path of re-discovering the true face of my religion without any feelings of suffocation.
"I know God wouldn't be pleased with taking off my hijab, but he would understand and eventually forgive. He knows what I've been through and why I am doing this. At this point, I am fed up with this endless struggle. I've been suffering from the same topic for ages now, and almost everyday, thoughts of taking off my hijab are haunting me.
"I am holding a lot of anger and confusion towards this foggy relationship I have with God.
"Islam is patient and merciful, I know I could take my time to re-explore this path of spirituality and peace with God, but all I need is a breather room away from the restrictions and rules SOCIETY has created.
"Yes, taking off my hijab is not really right, but it will give me a chance to rediscover the beautiful meaning of Islam without any frustrations. It will give me the freedom to differentiate between what God Almighty has told us to follow and what people are currently doing.
"I hope one day I will become really close to God, and represent the correct image of a true muslim."