The scenario I’m about to describe has happened to me more times than I can count, in more cities than I can remember, mostly in Western cities here in the U.S. and Europe.
I walk into a store. There’s a woman shopping in the store that I can clearly identify as Muslim. In some scenarios she’s standing behind the cash register tallying up totals and returning change to customers. She’s wearing a headscarf. It’s tightly fastened under her face where her head meets her neck. Arms covered to the wrists. Ankles modestly hidden behind loose fitting pants or a long, flowy dress. She’s Muslim. I know it. Everyone around her knows it. I stare at her briefly and think to myself, “She can’t tell if I’m staring at her because I think she is a spectacle or because I recognize something we share.”
I realize this must make her uncomfortable, so I look away. I want to say something, something that indicates I’m not staring because I’m not familiar with how she chooses to cover herself. Something that indicates that my mother dresses like her. That I grew up in an Arab state touching the Persian Gulf where the majority dresses like her. That I also face East and recite Quran when I pray.
“Should I greet her with A’salamu alaikum?” I ask myself. Then I look at what I picked out to wear on this day. A pair of distressed denim short shorts, a button-down Oxford shirt, and sandals. My hair is a big, curly entity on top of my head; still air-drying after my morning shower. Then I remember my two nose rings, one hugging my right nostril, the other snugly hanging around my septum. The rings have become a part of my face. I don’t notice them until I have to blow my nose or until I meet someone not accustomed to face piercings.
I decide not to say anything to her. I pretend that we have nothing in common and that I don’t understand her native tongue or the language in which she prays. The reason I don’t connect with her is that I’m not prepared for a possibly judgmental glance up and down my body. I don’t want to read her mind as she hesitantly responds, “Wa’alaikum a’salam.” Click link below for full article.
posted by f.sheikh