Woman takes off headscarf on 9/11/01

A Hoosier Muslim struggles between faith and fear after the 2001 attacks

Indianapolis, Ind.

The 10th anniversary of September 11th was doubly somber for one Indiana woman, who took off her Islamic headscarf after the World Trade Towers came crashing down.

Born and raised as a Methodist in the U.S., Valerie Cox converted to Islam in 1987. She said her family took it hard.

"It came as kind of a shock to them when I converted and they found it very difficult," she said.

But for Cox, being Muslim made perfect sense. So did wearing the headscarf; something many Muslim women choose to do to show modesty.

"I got to the point I realized that that’s where my belief was."

She wore the veil for 15 years. It was with her for the birth of her children, for pool parties, camping trips, and birthdays. It was with her until September 11th, 2001.

Cox said, like every American that day, she was horrified and knew the world would never be the same. And when Muslim extremists were linked to the attacks, she became even more concerned.

"It was very uncertain and very scary," she recalled. "On the one hand you feel attacked, because you’re American. And on the other side you think that you may be perceived of the group that did the attacking."

Cox said she began to wonder if she should take off her headscarf. She found her answer when she got a call from her father that day.

"He said to me point blank, 'Please quit covering'," recalled Cox. "He was absolutely afraid of my safety."

10 years later and without a veil, Cox said no one can tell she is Muslim. While she doesn’t feel less of a Muslim without the headscarf, her anonymity came at a price.

"I'm comfortable being out, but I do feel in making the choice to not cover, I've actually lost part of my identity, which is pretty big."

Her scarves are now put away in a chest in her home and she only take them out when she’s around other Muslims. That alone, she said, shows where we are and where we still have to go as a country.

"Maybe it says that we're fearful," wondered Cox. "We're fearful of what we don't know."

Cox isn't sure if she’ll ever take the headscarf again. For now, she just hopes people will want to know Muslims and discover they are just as American as anyone else.


Jump to a blog