American teenagers generally look forward to their high school proms, if, for any reason, to spend a night in a fancy dress for once. But mostly, because many see it as your standard teenage rite of passage. And while some are not interested in going to the prom, there are some who have been dreaming about it since they heard it was going to happen — but had a feeling they couldn’t go or wouldn’t go for a variety of reasons. In the case of Tharima Ahmed of Hamtramck High School in Michigan, her Muslim religious beliefs forbade her from dancing with or dating boys; her everyday life — without dancing — requires her and other Muslim girls to wear a headscarf in the presence of males. So, your regular prom was not a possibility for her. Then she had a brilliant idea: throw a girls-only prom where she and others could (literally) let her hair down, or just attend a prom without a date. A girls-only prom with the theme “Once Upon a Dream.”
Ahmed, a Bangladeshi-American in one of the most culturally diverse areas of the United States, has been, like other teenage girls, exposed to American teen pop culture and partakes in it as much as she is able to as a Muslim. She is one of many girls in Hamtramck whose family comes from places other than Hamtramck, and they also wanted to be able to attend a prom without worrying about going against their religious beliefs. When she first had the idea, Ahmed conducted an informal survey among her peers and found out that a majority of girls — 65 percent — wouldn’t be able to attend a traditional co-ed prom because of their religious beliefs.
But when other non-Muslim girls started expressing interest in Ahmed’s idea, that’s when it really took off. Because, seriously, what a great idea — no pressure to get a date! (Let alone wondering if, once a date has been obtained, there will be sex at the end of the night.) About $2,500 was raised, mostly through bake sales, and the organization officially started. Ahmed also had the support of her school, and invitations were extended to alumni who were unable to attend their own proms.
One hundred girls attended the “Once Upon a Dream” prom, where they saw their hijab-wearing classmates headscarf-free for the first time and joined together for an evening of music, food, and dancing (and a five-minute break for prayer at 8:00 PM). In other words, these girls who had thought they’d be denied the prom experience got their prom, and all the memories to go with it.