The education of Maira Salim, An American Muslim in Kansas tries to claim her place in her country

As you read this story, analyze the hijab and the “Muslim identity” as a taboo and its place in the sacred and profane in the US American context. 

What do you think about her story? How is she trying to reconcile her American and Muslim identities when one of them is being defined as “non-American?

It takes two hands, a safety pin and two straight pins to turn a scarf into a hijab. Three pins if the wind is blowing across the Great Plains. Maira Salim stands at her dresser mirror with a pin in her mouth and a bedroom full of scarves. Her long brown hair disappears and then her neck. Maira leans in for inspection, making sure not a wisp of hair is showing.

Different scarves go with different outfits. She likes a black scarf with her red Converse sneakers. Her emerald scarf is nice with the satin dress she wears on holidays, tottering on gold heels as she walks across the asphalt parking lot of her Wichita mosque. The camouflage scarf makes her mother cringe — “You look like a boy!” — but Maira thinks it’s perfect with her mirrored sunglasses.

Above: Maira Salim puts on makeup in her room before hanging out with friends in Wichita in September.

“I never wanted to be the weird religious girl,” she says.

Without a hijab, she would be a college senior who lives in a subdivision with her parents, two younger sisters and grandfather. She’d be the annoyed oldest daughter who has to pick up her little sister from swimming. She’d be the 21-year-old who works at her father’s used-car lot haggling over Dodge Chargers by a chain-link fence. She would be a business major who binge-watches “Quantico” instead of doing her take-home exam.


2 responses to “The education of Maira Salim, An American Muslim in Kansas tries to claim her place in her country

  1. Beautiful and moving article. I could not even begin to imagine the frustrations that arise from people who view people’s religion with the ultimate ignorance and assume the worst of those who follow by placing cruel judgments. Maira is a young face who wants to represent her place in this forgotten melting pot that America is, and educating those around her about who she is and trying to explain that she is not ISIS. She is more than a girl in a hijab that is out to get Americans, she is patient, she follows her faith, has her social life, she is a individual who is confined to a view of a whole vile group that people view her as. Reminds me of Malala, shy in her nature but still strong with her words and actions, however an “Americanized” and has only known America mostly, as a legal citizen.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I really enjoyed this article because, we as the readers are able to see the kind of life Maira leads. She does not feel ashamed about her beliefs or practices. I admire how she stayed true to herself regardless of what people may say even if it may be the majority. I see Maira as strong, because there are a lot of misconceptions about the faith due to global current events, but she stands firm in her beliefs and does not let those occurrences define who she is.

    Liked by 1 person

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