Some of my more intimate acquaintances may know this about me: that I didn't always think hijab was mandatory or obligatory for women. (If you find this to be especially shocking, please take a deep breath before reading on...)
In fact, my first introductions to Islam involved arguing against the necessity of hijab. (Another deep breath please.)
Even when I finally decided to start wearing hijab, I was not fully convinced that as a Muslimah, I needed to. (Calm down... it's ok.)
I started to wear it by challenging myself, to prove covering was not too difficult for me, and to conquer any fear which might have up until then prevented me. Aware that I needed to wear it to pray, I accepted it (begrudgingly) but as a full-time habit, I disagreed. Yet I wore it anyway, to prove I could, to decide whether I should, and to proudly declare that yes, I am Muslim, and I'm not afraid to say so.
The secret was that I liked wearing it, once I started. I felt uniquely feminine, and dignified. I identified with it, and began to appreciate it. And finally I did accept it as an obligation (long after I started wearing it), succumbing to the vastly overwhelming opinion of scholars that it is, in fact, obedience to Allah.
Before my change of attitude, taking off the hijab to visit my family, or to work out at the gym, did not bother me so much - a minor inconvenience, only slightly uncomfortable. Yet afterwards, it became a more serious issue, one that has been aggravating my familial relationships for the last year. In front of my immediate family I don't mind to take it off but with my sisters' husbands around, I feel loathe to uncover--which they take as an offense. (How the male mind might reach that conclusion, I am left to wonder.)
Yet as I become increasingly convinced of the necessity and propriety of covering my body (I prefer to say covering my body rather than covering "my hair" or "my head") I refuse to waver on this principle. I assert that I am covering out of obedience to God, and that not only should I be permitted to wear hijab but that I in fact must wear it and nobody can reasonably nor sensibly object.
To say that I must make a decision whether to cover and sever familial ties, or to join my family by uncovering as per their wishes, truly calls into question the obedience of Allah, of the Creator, over that of the creation. Wearing hijab does not symbolize that I am Muslim. Covering is not symbolic of my faith. It is an act of faith, and notice the distinction.
Today, I wear it not to say that I am a Muslim, I simply wear it because I am Muslim and Allah has commanded me to. The observation that "some Muslim women don't wear it and they want to fit in" has no impact on the instruction for women to cover, no more than a drunkard on the prohibition of alcohol. "Some Muslims" don't pray either, but alhamdulillah I am not one of them. I choose to practice Islam, and I love to practice Islam, and Allah has made it easy for me.