Summer in hijabs: Muslims cover up to cool down
A few weeks ago marked the official first day of summer, and while many students will be stripping down and hitting the pool, there are some who will remain covered, only exposing their face and hands.
In the Islam religion, most Muslim women choose to wear a hijab. Derived from the Arabic word meaning "cover," hijabs are normally worn for religious reasons or cultural identity. And although Orlando is currently in its hottest season — reaching 100 degrees for the first time in nearly two decades — Muslims are staying loyal to their religion.
"I don't ever get the feeling of wanting to take off my hijab. I would feel strange to want to do that," said Nafila Shaikh, a junior biology major. "I feel comfortable wearing the hijab, including during the summer."
Shaikh said she enjoys spending time outdoors while wearing a hijab, even though the summer heat may make being outside almost unbearable for others. In the summer, wears a thin head covering or scarf for her head, and avoids wearing thick clothing, such as a wool cardigan.
Iman Squires, a junior biomedical sciences major, also finds it best to wear lighter materials that are suitable for the summer heat.
"Brighter, lighter colors help reflect the sun's heat, and loose-fitting garments can contribute to the modest attire, while also staying cool," she said.
For senior pre-clinical health sciences major Fatema Jaffer, it is sometimes necessary to find a bathroom and just take off her scarf for a second to cool down from the summer heat. But she said the scarf can actually serve as protection from the direct heat of the sun.
"I personally love wearing my hijab and wouldn't change my decision I made because it's contributed to making the person that I am today," she said. "You really just get used to it, and it's certainly not as bad as it seems to be. Sometimes you even get a nice breeze."
Squires likes to take advantage of the heat and go swimming, but when she does, she said she usually wears a shirt and leggings, similar to rash guards that surfers wear, which prevent soaking up excess water. She said it's easier than one would expect to remain appropriately covered while swimming.
"When swimming, our attire does not make it easy for us to blend in — people do give looks sometimes," she said. "However, what is more important is feeling comfortable in your own skin. Then, you don't even notice."
Unlike Squires, Shaikh said she does not prefer to swim in a public area with a hijab. But she still enjoys going to the beach, kayaking and canoeing.
But whether they're in the water or not, all three said wearing a hijab in the sun can leave a distinct tan line.
Jaffer said the most noticeable tan line for her is between her feet and legs because she usually likes to wear gladiators or flip flops.
"There is such a thing as a hijab tan line. It can be one of the most awkward things, usually on the forehead. That is why SPF is so important," Squires said.
Skirts and dresses also make it easier to stay cool in the summer. Squires said dressing modestly doesn't mean you can't look stylish while doing it.
"Naturally, there are days where not wearing a hijab seems like an easier alternative, but that is part of its importance and beauty," she said. "Wearing the hijab takes patience, and finding ways to adjust to different climates is proof of that."
Rachel Stuart is the News Editor for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @RachSage or email her at RachelS@CentralFloridaFuture.com.