SZA says she was scared to wear hijab after 9/11

Priya Elan
·2 min read
<span>Photograph: Burak Çıngı/Redferns</span>
Photograph: Burak Çıngı/Redferns

The singer SZA has spoken out about the Islamophobia she experienced as a child and how she stopped wearing a hijab covering after September 11 because she was “so scared” of the reaction it would provoke.

The singer, who grew up in a Muslim household in a predominantly white community in New Jersey, was speaking to the Muslim Girl website’s Snapchat series about her experiences.

Related: 'The pressure is to appear normal': the crisis in modest fashion

“I stopped covering after 9/11 because I was so scared,” she said. “This was like elementary school, middle school. I regret so much – like being afraid or caring what people said about me.”

The singer, whose real name is Solána Rowe, said that she started wearing the hijab again in high school but she felt judged by the community for not being devout enough. “They were like, ‘What is this? You don’t live your life properly. You’re not really Muslim. Shut up.’ I always let somebody dictate how I was,” she said.

At the same time Rowe said that non-Muslims projected the idea on to her that she was “oppressed” due to her head covering. “I couldn’t believe Islamophobia randomly deciding I’m oppressed because I’m covering my hair.” She also revealed that her family were victims of crimes due to their faith. “Someone threw a brick at my dad’s mosque,” she told the broadcast.

The singer said that when she first started her career she felt pressure from the record industry to dress less modestly. “In the beginning … I had a lot of people telling me what they thought I should be looking like and what I should be dressing like,” she said. “And for some reason I didn’t give a fuck, like at all.”

The singer hinted that she might take to wearing a hijab in the future. “We played [shows] in Malaysia and Indonesia and it was really comforting to be able to cover up for the show,” she said. “I always go back and forth about [wearing a hijab] like, should I cover?” she said, “because I don’t want to be a part-time coverer.”