What Has This World Reached?

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Youmna Eladma, 19 years old.

She started wearing Hijab at the end of July of last year. “I loved wearing it because putting on hijab was my own personal choice,” 19-year old Youmna Eladma said. She was working at Aldo’s Accessories at the time when her manager gave her notions that she wasn’t accepting of her veil. “I told her that I was going to start wearing it before-hand and she said, ‘are you going to be wearing it everyday?’ So I said, ‘yes’,  so she answered nonchalantly, “Oh okay.'” But the first day Youmna went to work with her hair concealed under her light pink hijab, her manager took her to the side and told her that she should either “take it off” or she will no longer permit her to work because “it offends the customers.” Shocked and hurt by the spiteful remark, Youmna walked away to continue her job. Ironically, people were acting natural with Youmna and she had especially made much more sales that day. “I got so many compliments on it and the customers were so nice to me,” she said. A few days went by and Youmna started noticing that she stopped receiving hours for work. Emotionally distressed from the treatment she received, Youmna eventually “just quit” because she knew that her manager was really serious about not wanting her to work there anymore.

When the fall semester began, she attended Brooklyn College as a freshman. One day after finishing her last class of the day and walking to her car, she heard shouting from behind her, “go back to your country, what the F*** is that you wearing on your head,” they said. She remembered hearing stories in the media about other hijabies getting harassed and even killed for being recognized as Muslims, but it never occurred to her at any instance that she could be the one to experience any of that.  She couldn’t tell who they were because she was too afraid to look back and, instead, kept walking to reach her car. Paranoid from the racist remarks, she quickened her pace before she was pushed to the ground and stripped of her hijab. She laid on the ground in utter disbelief and shock as they ran off laughing. “I was too afraid to even look back. I don’t even know how these people looked like, I knew I was never going to feel safe again.” The next day at college, Youmna took off her hijab. She was much too paranoid and afraid to deal with ignorant peoples’ slanders. “I felt so weak and I just couldn’t take the pressure. I wished these people would see me for who I am,” she said.

It was not long before Youmna put her hijab back on. “I hated not wearing it. I hated that I allowed these ignorant people win for a moment. And I hated not being able to be me because of other people, so I put my hijab back on to never take it off again,” she said with a smile that brightened her face.

“I’ve learned that there is still a lot of discrimination in the world, especially against Muslims and whether I like it or not, these things will come my way and I have to accept them. I do hope one day that everyone sees that hijab is a form of expression and as long as it doesn’t harm anyone, there is no reason for anyone to judge me just on my appearance,” Youmna said.

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The Myths Contaminating This World

“So, are all ‘your kind’ forced into marriages?” My God, the misinterpretation that people take for Islam–culture and religion are completely different from each other. I’ve been asked this question so many times because people assume that hijabies are forced into marriage, which is completely against the teachings of Islam. Sometimes, people fail to recognize the difference between forced marriage and Islam’s teachings of marriage. Let me put it plainly for those who don’t know… a Muslim woman is allowed to either deny or accept a man’s marriage proposal to her, and vice versa for the man. Yes, that means that a Muslim women is allowed to propose to a man as well. That also means that both the man and the woman are able to CHOOSE the person they plan to spend the rest of their eternity with.

“Did your family force you to wear that (hijab)?”
Islam is not a religion of compulsion, so, no, I was not at all forced to wear hijab; it was my decision as I mentioned in my previous post. While a woman may be encouraged, it is never okay to force her to wear hijab; she should be able to make that decision for the sake of Allah. Besides, forcing someone to do something will only make them hate it more. This story is a perfect example of what I mean.

“Are you guys allowed to talk to guys?” OMG, seriously? if you are wondering…no, we are not to be shielded from the world of men. We can talk to them just like any normal being–that is, with respect, because we expect the same respect back.  So don’t mistake a women’s want for respect for “dude, she’s not allowed to talk to guys.”

“So do you work with your degree? Or are you forced to be a stay-at-home mom?” This question really gets me. I work so hard for my education and plan on following my career, so when people ask questions like that, I feel like firing up–but I don’t. Again, people just mistake culture for Islam. These cultural norms adopted in the Middle East are not related to what Islam advocates. According to Islam, a women is permitted to work if she wants, but she cannot be forced to work to support financially for the house. She has the right to work and not work–it’s entirely up to her.

 

Spring Hijab

Aren’t you REALLY HOT in that? If you mean that in a physical attractive
way, then YEAH. No, I’m shivering in this blazing weather. I mean really,
come on’. I don’t understand why people have to make such obvious remarks.
Don’t we all get hot when it’s humid? Seriously though, if you’re wondering…I’m
not melting under my hijab. I usually wear lighter clothing and sheer hijabs
when its hot out, so it’s not that bad. Do you ever notice how people wear hats,
or how construction workers and gardeners cover their head from the sun?
See, they do that as protection from the sun. It’s not as hot as it looks, I promise.

I paired together a white maxi dress with a denim vest for an effortlessly chic
look. You can wear a light long sleeve shirt under the dress for coverage and
wrap the 
peachy hijab however you like.

Spring Hijab

Spring Hijab by moamen featuring a bib necklace

Zalando dress
$77 – zalando.co.uk

Bardot denim waistcoat
$82 – bardot.com.au

Floral shoes
modcloth.com

Reiss
reiss.com

Michael kor
$255 – johnlewis.com

Sheer shawl
etsy.com

Feeling Like an Outcast

It’s not easy to be distinguished from the crowd… to be pointed out from the countless heads that roam the streets everyday and be labeled.You’d think I’ve become accustomed to the stares I get when I go in the subway or walk in the streets. But I’m not. I know that it’s human nature to stare at anything or  anyone that looks “out of the ordinary” or, rather, at someone who doesn’t follow the “dress code” or norms of their society. But here’s the thing. And I wish there were some other way I can explain this, but these are my own thoughts and not everyone has the same mentality. I feel like that the only reason why I feel “labeled” is because the way the media portrays Muslims. It’s the constant fear of being slandered by others because they think you belong to some crazy radical fundamentalist group who hates the rest of the world but their own kind. Every time some attack happens, and the “terrorist” hasn’t been identified, I immediately know that the social media is pointing fingers at “these damn Muslims”–there we are again, getting stereotyped and categorized. And, I can’t help but wonder if I’ll get stopped and searched by officers because it’s obvious from my hijab that I belong to a religious group. I know that America is infamous for its racial and religious profiling, but it’s sad to know that even though Muslim-Americans condemn any kind of terrorist attacks in the name of Islam and try to help the government fight against terrorism, we are still indiscriminately bashed and suspiciously stared at for “looking Muslim.” I hate that feeling of alienation and I wish more people would understand that racial profiling someone isn’t the answer–rather, it’s the behavioral cues and criminal evidence that should lead to the profiling.

Muslim Men React to Hijab

I’m really such a curious person. I always wonder about so much and often gaze into my thoughts asking myself all sorts of questions…like “what do Muslim men think of hijabies?”

What do they think as Muslims when they see a woman representing the same religion?

I don’t really like to distinguish Muslims who are “more religious” and the “not so practicing” Muslims because in the context of Islam, all those who believe in God are Muslim. But lets face it, some Muslims have higher Iman than others, and I got a mix of reaction from the Muslim men I spoke to.

Many of them had similar replies to the first question: ” It makes me happy to see a Muslim women with hijab because it is a sign of bravery in the American society.”

” I respect them a lot because they bypass the culture and social norm and prioritize their beliefs and that takes a lot of courage.”

“It makes me feel good to know there are more practicing Muslims representing our Islam.”

I was kind of surprised to hear these replies because I never thought that men would really understand how it feels to be a hijabi– to be pointed out from the crowd and judged based on appearance (I’m not talking about beauty here, I’m referring to the judgment of appearance in the sense of being categorized)–because for the Muslim men, there isn’t that obvious sign or garment that distinguishes them as Muslims. Having a beard no longer really identifies the men as Muslims because breads are trending now. I mean, there’s a whole website dedicated to beards–it’s not really like hijab (or so I personally think). So, yes, I was glad to know that they understood and were cheering us on.

I got curious again. I wondered how they thought of hijabies in the sense of being a female? Is she approachable?

This is where I got the mixed reactions. I know hijab is supposed to signify the meaning of modesty and representation of a Muslim, but I guess your actions and style also play a role in the way others perceive you.

Their reactions:

“Is she single?” he said jokingly. “I wonder if she is modest and reserved–if she abides by the Islamic rules.”

“They’re not as easily approached as other women because hijab gives this sense of virtue and, usually, when a man is trying to approach a women, he is doing so because he wants to get to know her for personal reasons…or to ask her on a date. So in a way, I keep my distance as a way of respecting her.”

“I’m more careful of how I look and talk with her. If I’m going to speak with her, it will be with limits. She is wearing hijab for a reason and you’re supposed to respect her,” he said. “It really depends on the person, but for me, when I talk to a hijabi, I have to be more careful–I give her more value,” he said.”It’s like talking to a regular person and then talking to someone with power. I wouldn’t try flirting with a hijabi because she is signaling to you that she wants to be approached with limits.”

He went on to give an example to try to make a deeper connection. “It’s like having the tendency of continuously using foul language -but you have this close friend who is disturbed by profanity and he prefers that you don’t curse in his presence -so you don’t because you care about that person’s feelings and you respect their wishes and you refrain from cursing when they are around.”

Reasons and Reactions

I’ve always wondered what people’s initial reactions are when they see a hijabi. I wonder how it would feel as an outsider looking at a hijabi, especially if I wasn’t sure why she covers the most beautiful and exotic part of her beauty. So, my curiosity got the best of me. I went and asked a few non-Muslims what their reactions are when they see a covered girl. Here’s one girl’s perspective: “I see it as mark because it identifies a girl as a Muslim. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to wear it. There’s so many pressures and stereotypes that can come with wearing it. We’ve become so sensitized to the media’s portrayal of Muslims that we don’t realize that we’re prejudiced against them until you see them in front of you.”

And then I thought about it. The same way I see other people cover for religious purposes, like the Sikhs, is probably the same way people see me. But, maybe because the Muslims are more targeted in the media, it makes all the wonders more evident.

Every girl has her reason to wearing hijab. Not everyone thinks it’s okay to practice your belief; islamaphobics still exist.

But not everyone is judgmental. Not everyone is going to treat you any different for wearing hijab. I was curious to ask a male of what he thought. He said, “I didn’t think anything of your hijab. I wondered why you wore it and I wondered if it was your choice or if it was your family’s. I wondered what you were hiding and why you wore it the way you did. At some point, I thought most religious women who practice their faith more than most wouldn’t speak to a guy.”

I’m not here to speak on behalf of every hijabi, because no two people are alike, and just because we practice the same religion, it doesn’t mean that every one of us are the same. So, for me, I speak to men as I would to anyone, with sincerity and respect, because that’s what I’m hoping to receive from them.  I don’t want to come off as an intimidating person who makes people feel like I can’t be approached because I can. And I hope that I can always communicate this to everyone who I interact with.

Wonders of A Hijabi

So…I was thinking about how strange I might come off to people who are clueless as to why I wear the hijab. I often wonder how other people might look at me when I’m walking the streets of New York or when I’m on my morning subway ride. And then I realized…I’m probably not the only one who feels that way. I’m not the only girl dressed with a scarf wrapped around her hair.  Especially not in a city that is so diverse. But sometimes I wonder if the stares I get are stares of  curiosity or stares of pity. I reckon some people think I was forced, but what they probably don’t understand is that my hijab identifies who I am. It’s really as simple as that. The same way people wear a cross or a  yarmulke to be identified as Christians or Jews is similar in the way I wear hijab– everyone realizes I’m Muslim.
 
Women who wear hijab, however, have different experiences with the stories they share. Some of them have experienced racism and difference in treatment like Ela, while others found no difference after putting on their hijab like Ainee Fatima and myself. I think geography and how modestly a women dresses plays a big role on how she’s seen in the eyes of society. If people are used to seeing other women dress similarly, these glares of wonder will no longer exist. And geographically–well, if you live in New York City, people won’t stare at you like a foreigner, but say in  Montana,  where the Muslim population is very low, people might look strangely you (because they’re not used to seeing a hijabi). 

Aside