The Muslim Women of Maryland invited my group, Sisterhood of Unity and Love (SOUL), along with the female student body of University of Maryland to wear a hijab or headscarf for a day. Their focus was to relieve the misconstrued beliefs that people may have about being of Islamic faith, and fully understanding the choice that Muslim women make to wear the hijab. Remember that “choice” is the key word here.
I was looking through my email the night before and saw that this event was offered. Of course, as I always do, I took the opportunity to try something new. I looked at Youtube videos, to see how this thing would fit and stay on top of my head, then I grabbed my favorite scarf, cut up some leggings and a handful of pins. I can’t imagine going through that every morning. I would have to say that that was my first appreciation that I noted. I posted a photo and wanted to see what kind of reactions I would get. Knowing that everyone knew who I was online, from friends to family, I got a more positive response than I had anticipated. Some stated how beautiful I looked and were proud of what I was doing. Others took the liberty to crack some stereotypical jokes, which I took no offense to and charged it to them being comfortable with me to say those things. Common sense would tell me, that they would never say those things to a real Muslim, right?
However, it is a common misconception to think everyone has common sense. So the jokes made me think about how many Muslims go through degradation and ridicule in America. Especially post 9/11. I believe what struck me the most was my cousin. I love my cousin, he knows that, but what he said first stung a little then confused me. He stated “ Go learn that lesson then take it off ASAP. And make sure they ain’t teaching you how to wrap explosives in that head wrap.” If this was anybody else, I would have been on their ass like shit on a stick! So I just asked if it was a joke and assured him that everything being done was in good merit. He replied that is was a joke but he had a friend that was blown up by a Muslim woman that had a bomb under her garments, but was open to getting educated.
I didn’t know how to feel, say or think. How could you convince someone that terrible act was not because of Islam? Or tell that to the child that lost their father on 9/11? I know he knows it wasn’t, but for anyone else, how could I convince them, especially when I don’t practice this religion? As my cousin stated, “there is good and bad in every religion.”
It was time to step foot out the door and my first stop was my boyfriend’s job. He had forgotten his cell phone at home, so I decided to bring it to him so I could keep tabs on him like any great and wonderful girlfriend would do. As soon as I went to the security desk, the guard treated me as normal and led me to the right direction where I met the secretary. She was a sweet old lady and called me ma’am and again treated me with respect. Then when I said who the phone was for, she paused and said, “Ok.” Now a disclaimer: I am merely just stating the actions and reactions that I received, no speculation and I am not reading into it any further than what I saw “just the facts ma’am” kind of thing. Now I will say this, the look on her face was priceless and I wanted to laugh really hard. I can only imagine the thoughts running through her head. If it was me, I would have been like, what does this Muslim chick have to do with a Spanish dude? How does that work? For those of you who don’t know, my boyfriend has a very Hispanic name, like and I-can-plant-your-garden-and-have-5-jobs kind of name. So seeing her reaction was funny to me.
I then left to go shopping and everything proceeded as normal. I went to Target and walked around. I am used to dressing a certain way that gives me attention, whether my face or hair is done, I usually get the attention of men looking at me or hollering for my attention. The only attention I received that day was, surprisingly, from the women. One asked with a friendly stare if I needed help, and another struck up a small conversation here and there. They were very courteous and respectful.
I then went to Shop Rite, looking for a few things and tried to avoid the pork productsl. Just the thought of someone looking at me picking up a pack of bacon made me feel on edge for a bit. One incident, and again I am not going to read into it too much, happened as I was waiting, with another person, to cross the street to get to my car. A car had stopped for us to cross. The person to my side had a 5 ft lead but as I was walking the driver skided their tires pass me. You can draw your own opinions from that.