What has been your experience with covering? Valerie Shirley interview.

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What has been your experience with covering? Valerie Shirley interview.


Masjid An-Nur, Islam


When I covered and covered more properly it commanded more respect, especially from the African-American community. Of course people looked at me funny but it was no different from the looks I got just for being black and being somewhere black people weren't supposed to be; so I was used to it.


Shantrice King




Religion Department (Carleton College)










Minneapolis, MN

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I almost covered kind of, right away. I learned about Islam a lot. My ex-husband, my children’s father, we grew up together in Chicago and we married and had kids, and we moved to Minnesota. He embraced Islam about a year before I did, so I learned a lot from the literature that he had. Of course, he didn’t know a whole lot because he was a very new Muslim, he had people that would embrace and teach you. I had women in the community who basically embraced me and taught me a lot. And almost right away, I learned what it meant to cover. And I cried, honestly, the first day when I found out I had to wear a scarf every day. I was like, “are you kidding me?” And I mean, it didn’t deter me from Islam but it took me about six months. I started - I wore a turban, I had started dressing more modestly. Honestly, I feel like before I embraced Islam, God was always moving me towards that point. From the time that I was sixteen years old, I remember wanting to be more spiritual. And I read the Bible, from cover to cover. And I was like, I remember the adults around me saying, “you need Jesus in your life,” and you know, I was a wayward kid, and so whenever I was in trouble they were like, “You need Jesus, that’s what’s wrong with you.” And I was like, “Okay, let me get Jesus in my life, you know?” And so when I read the Bible from cover to cover and I would go to church and what I read and understood would not be the way the pastor was explaining it, and I was trying to be respectful of those who were more knowledgeable than me, so I would ask questions, but they would get upset with me. And now I realize that it was because they didn’t really have the answers. It was not because I was doing anything devilish as they told me - “we’re taught not to question the Bible,” and I was like, “aw, man, really? I just need to understand it.” So I always felt like I was being moved towards a more modest way of dress, a more modest way of living, a more generous way of living. 

And so by the time I actually embraced Islam, from sixteen years old when I was in mini skirts and then by the time I was twenty six years old I was just wearing blazers and slacks and long sleeved things and not showing cleavage. It was easier to transition into it, but at first I was like, “oh my God, I’m going to be discriminated against.” And I remember my husband telling me, “It’s not that big of a deal,” and I remember telling him, “What? As you stand there in your t-shirt and jeans? You tell me it’s not - you put on a scarf...” And I just remember having a fit about it. But then when I actually covered and covered properly, it commanded more respect. People outside of me didn’t shun me as I thought I would be shunned but I actually got a lot more respect, especially from the African American community. Then I turned to love the hijab, which is the full dress, not just the scarf. But at first it was a little bit scary. But I had women around me who embraced it, so it was easier for me to embrace it. [Interviewer: Do you find working as a covering Muslim woman to be difficult in any kind of way?] Not at all. I know many women do, and I know some women encounter things that even leads them to want to take their scarves off and they don’t want to go in public like that, but honestly, hijab has been empowering for me. I actually really love wearing it, it has never been a test for me like it has been for some other women. I mean I see people look at me weird, or ...covering has always been easy for me, of course I get funny looks sometimes or I can tell people are looking at me weird, but it’s no different than the looks I got just for being black and being somewhere where black people weren’t welcome. So I was used to it, so it didn’t make me uncomfortable or want to take my scarf off.




Shantrice King, “What has been your experience with covering? Valerie Shirley interview.,” Religions in Minnesota, accessed December 8, 2023, https://religionsmn.carleton.edu/items/show/2172.