Editor's note: Staff writer Mona Shadia has gotten used to fielding questions about Islam and Middle Eastern culture in our newsroom. Whether it's fasting during Ramadan, Eid, hijabs in the workplace, the Irvine 11 or the Arab Spring, Mona has educated her co-workers (and bosses) about her faith and experiences. Those conversations led us to realize how little some Americans understand about Islam and the Middle Easterners who live among us in this era of Islamophobia in America. My hope is Mona can pass along her perspective and insights to our readers. This is the first of her new weekly column, Unveiled: A Muslim Girl in O.C.
I grew up in Cairo, raised by my mom and her six brothers.
Uncle Gamal, whom I call "Uncle Beautiful" because his name means beauty in Arabic, had the greatest influence on me. On one of Cairo's warm and sunny days, when I was maybe 6 or 7, my uncle gave me a blue hijab to cover my hair and upper body every time I went outside.