A photo of Maha Khawaja

Maha Khawaja

Dubai, United Arab Emirates


When we moved to Dubai from Saudi Arabia, my mom forced me to take off my hijab and abaya for three days. My mom said, ‘Now you know what it’s like. You make your own choice now.’

Daniel’s Reflection

I met Maha Khawaja at her office in Dubai where she is a copywriter for an international advertising agency. I love how her faith bridges the gap between the devout Muslim countries of her youth (Pakistan and Saudi Arabia) and the more westernized Arab country of her adulthood (United Arab Emirates). Maha’s own faith journey has been defined by her mother who exposed her to all of society and then pushed her to start making her own personal choices. I’ve always been moved by Maha’s specific story of how her mother made her take off her hijab and abaya for three days when they first got to Dubai so that Maha would decide on her own whether to keep wearing them or not. Meeting Maha also reminded me to not assume from a Western standard that women are oppressed by wearing the hijab and abaya but that these can be deeply meaningful to Muslim women, especially when given the choice.

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