In my Junior year of university, many of my friends, including few of my closest friends, began to wear hijab. I respected their strength and courage and supported their choice to express their religion and identities through hijab. They found acceptance, understanding and support in our friends circle. Our friendships were strong, it didn’t matter who wore hijab and who didn’t.

Two years later, many of them had gotten married to their chosen partners. My best friend and I were now the only single girls in the group. We slowly began to feel the distance growing between us and the other girls. The calls became less frequent, invitations to their homes lessened, and we soon felt out of place in the friends circle which had now become a Muslim couples group. We were just in different phases of life, or so I thought. It had never crossed my mind that not wearing Hijab could affect our friendships, but it became more than a coincidence as more single and married hijabis and their husbands were recruited into the group. We began to feel uncomfortable, judged, and marginalized. Eventually, the calls stopped and years went by without seeing each other.

My friends had chosen to surround themselves with people who acted, thought and looked like them. They found new friendships with those that had similar lifestyles and practised religion the way they did. I understood that, I didn’t understand why that meant we had to be removed from that equation. It hurt. Those girls were my sisters. We had laughed together, planned our classes together, binged on junk food together, crushed on guys together and shared our dreams and fears. Today they have children I have never met.

I still remember their friendships fondly and will always think of them with warmness but I never fully understood why our bonds faded. Perhaps it was their own struggles, perhaps they saw in me a part of themselves they could not come to terms with, perhaps I had changed. I only wish I had been given the same understanding and acceptance they received many years ago.