It's Just a Scarf?

I have been wanting to write this post for a few weeks but have two reservations.  Firstly I always wonder how many people run for the hills at a post about being a Muslim but actually if you do... then bugger off as you're not wanted here (on my blog) anyway.  Secondly it's a pretty emotive subject for me at the moment and I don't know if I will do it justice.  Oh well, it's now or never.

I have been Muslim since 2006 but only started wearing a headscarf (hijab) in January this year.  Hijab is not just about wearing a piece of material over your head - it's about dressing and behaving modestly too, a scarf is just the icing on the cake.  In a non Muslim country like the UK wearing hijab is something that immediately sets you apart and idenitifes you as being Muslim.  It's been something I've wanted to do for a year or so but there was always something holding me back.  After having Baby A something just kind of clicked into place and it felt right.  I was not prepared however for what an emotional rollercoaster it would be.  I expected to start wearing it, feel all worthy and happy with myself and then just kind of get on with my life.  Whoah, was I wrong!

For about a week I was sort of in my own little bubble and went out to Rusholme in Manchester which is a predominantly Muslim area, known as Curry Mile.  I then went to John Lewis in Cheadle and that's when the reality of things hit.  I was not prepared for the stares.  I was not prepared for the looks of contempt.  At first I thought I was being paranoid but my husband kindly confirmed that yes people were staring at me.  I guess this was to be expected but it felt quite strange especially as one of my reasons for wearing hijab is to be modest and not draw too much attention to myself.  The looks of contempt don't really bother me but they do annoy me, I find it rude.  I try to make an effort not to stare at people, even if they're wearing something absolutely ridiculous but it would appear that other people don't always extend the same courtesy.  I understand that perhaps people are interested to see a white, English girl in a headscarf and that's fine but don't look at me as though I'm something you just scraped off your shoe.  Or even worse, please don't look at me with sympathy.  I have chosen to be Muslim, I have chosen to wear hijab and have not been beaten into submission by my oppressive, fundamentalist (don't get me started on that word) husband.

The thing that I have found the most difficult to deal with is being spoken to as though I'm a little bit slow.  I have really noticed a marked difference in the way that I am spoken to sometimes in shops, cafes or just generally in public.  The initial reaction is the squint of the eye and incline of the head in anticipation of a thick foreign accent.  Then there is usually the look of slight surprise when I talk English. This is then followed either by the look of sympathy, contempt or interest.  I love it when people ask me questions.  I would never be offended by somebody asking me a question unless the question is asked in a mocking or patronising way and when the answer has no interest to them.  I am proud to be Muslim and I am so eager to show people that just because I am Muslim and wear hijab that I still have a fulfilling life, I laugh like everyone else, I have hobbies and interest, I have a personality and an education and pretty much all the same choices and opportunities that non Muslim women have.  Ok, no I don't go out drinking which can perhaps limit socialising somewhat but that is my choice and I am most happy spending time with my family and going out as a little foursome.  Don't get me wrong, I love spending time with my friends too, it's just we tend to go to each others' houses or meet in coffee shops or restaurants instead of the pub.

The vast majority of people I meet and speak to do treat me "normally" in the end and if I can help dispel just one teeny, tiny little myth about Islam or Muslim women then that can only be a good thing.  Even better, if I can help paint a good picture of Muslims and Islam in general by being kind and "normal" then I'm a happy girl!  I have heard some horrendous stories from both real life friends and online friends about being attacked or getting verbal abuse on the street, simply because they are wearing a head scarf.  I think that the media is to blame and Muslims are portrayed as a threat to the "British way of life".  I don't feel like I'm a threat and I hope that anybody who has met me didn't feel that I threatened their way of life.  If I did then you sure as hell should tell me about it!  I'm just a normal girl; a wife, a mum, a daughter, a sister and I wear a scarf on my head. I sometimes think to myself "it's just a scarf" but the reality is it's actually so much more than a scarf for me.  But to you, surely it's just a scarf?  Please don't judge me before speaking to me.  If you speak to me and then think I'm idiot, well that's your perogative but please judge me on my personality and not on some misguided judgement on what Muslim women are like. 


16 comments

  1. Harriet 27 June 2013 at 01:58

    Great post and well done you for writing it. Thanks too to Heather who doesn't live in Lapland any more for pointing it out. A thought and a (stupid) question: I think sometimes people want to ask questions just because they're interested in someone they perceive as different - as you say, a white girl in a hijab is an unusual sight - but are frightened to because they don't want to offend. I'm not excusing all those who do offend obviously but I think it can be tricky - I've been caught out when one of mine asked an innocent question of someone with a disability who clearly didn't want to talk about it and was very aggressive. That's not, of course to say that it isn't absolutely your choice to wear whatever you like but I wonder if sometimes the states that offend are actually because the starer is trying hard not too offend! Silly question next - how does the hijab actually work? I've always wondered and never dared ask (for fear of offending) and my one close Muslim friend (like you a convert) doesn't wear one. In your picture you've got a black bit and the then blue scarf itself. Presumably they're separate? And how do you get it all to stay put? It always looks so elegant yet secure and I've no idea how! Ps hope I haven't offended...

  2. Ines 27 June 2013 at 04:06

    you just reminded me of my beginnings as a white woman wearing hijab all those years ago...still pretty much the same...it takes all sorts...you stay strong girl xxx

  3. Molly 27 June 2013 at 06:34

    What a lovely post. I've gotten the same thing here in the US, especially if I leave the big city area that I live in, which has a huge Muslim population. The smaller towns around here have probably not really seen Muslim women before so I get the stares, and the contempt. I try never to leave the Twin Cities area though, and rarely have to. Next week I'm driving to an EXTREMELY small town on the US/Canada border for a family reunion though and, frankly, I'm terrified. I'm not only worried about the people in this area, but also my extended family- most of whom I haven't seen since I converted, actually haven't seen since I was a young teen, and who certainly haven't met my very foreign husband. It will be so much worse dealing with the stares of my own family. Ugh. If it weren't for the fact that my grandpa, who is currently getting treatment for lung cancer in another part of the US, is going to be there I would absolutely not go to this reunion. I don't particularly care about this part of my family, I mean they're REALLY extended, the cousins of my mother and their children, my grandfather's cousins, etc. It's giving me stress hives just thinking about it. But, *sigh* go I must, not just to see my beloved grandfather but to also conquer my fears and widen the horizons of my extremely white, extremely homogeneous, mainly republican (God help me) family. Did I mention that I have to tent/camp? Why am I going?? Gaaaaaaaaah.

  4. kylie 27 June 2013 at 08:12

    I'm not a muslim but I met my first at 8, we were a host family to Malaysian students. I always felt really honoured if we went to pick them up and we got to see their beautiful hair. Mum brought us up to honour and respect all religions. One of my dearest friends is a convert and her husband actually got her to stop wearing the hijab for a while as it had become a spectacle. People's attitudes never cease to amaze me. It's a piece of cloth that goes on your head. So what? And I was in Rusholme yesterday :)

  5. ClearlyBex 27 June 2013 at 08:16

    Wonderful post hun, should be very proud of yourself. Can't wait to meet you at Blog On x

  6. sweettoothnim 27 June 2013 at 08:39

    You are amazing. Not many people would be strong enough to do what you have done. If people are ignorant enough to stare. So be it. Give them a greatbig grin. ;-) Living in york we dont really see many women wearing hijab. There are 2 girls in 5yo school who wear them. He has asked why. I am glad that having studied religion, particularly islam at degree level i can tell him why. It does worry me what others might answer! First thing that goes through my head when i see someone wearing hijab is. I bet she has gorgeous hair! ;-) Love this post. Well done.Xxx

  7. Notmyyearoff 27 June 2013 at 08:45

    Ahhh great post!! Im Muslim and don't wear a scarf and can understand it can be daunting putting one on for good. It's a big decision and Its true I don't think many people understand its a very personal one and rarely one where the hubbie pushes his spouse into it. I chuckled when I read about you stabbing yourself in the head. It once took me 45 mins to put one on because I just couldn't get it right :)

  8. Jenny @ TheBrickCastle 27 June 2013 at 09:39

    I don't think it'll ever be 'just a scarf' to a non-Muslim. Prejudice is prevalent and a huge majority of the non-Muslim population have never even spoken to a woman wearing a Hijab. They see the Hijab first and can't get past it. They wonder why she is wearing it? Has she been coerced to? What is she thinking? What does she look like? I doubt many people would even realise you are white! People don't see the woman behind the clothes, they don't take a moment to consider that you pee and eat and love and watch TV and anything that any other woman does. They see you as different and an enigma at best, and at worst they'll be some blind racist who believes everything they read if it has four exclamation marks at the end.... But then even I'd look at you and maybe stare a second too long wondering what your whole face looks like :D

  9. ExpressionConfession 28 June 2013 at 10:41

    Well done for writing this post - I really enjoyed it and the subsequent comments. Why do we as humans feel the need to single out those who 'seem' different?! Prejudice and even bullying behaviour are odd flaws in our psyche. Personally, I respect not only all faiths, but the many ways in which people choose to live their lives, and I hope I'm successful enough in teaching my children the same. xx

  10. foz 28 June 2013 at 12:49

    Great post and thanks for sharing it. Im Muslim, but have yet to wear the headscarf...its a constant battle within myself and everytime I think I am ready something happens.. but i know it is not really about being ready...i MUST wear it to please Allah (swt) and InshAllah soon

  11. Caroline 28 June 2013 at 04:01

    I'm glad you are doing what makes you feel comfortable, hopefully you will inspire others to do the same. My non Muslim nearly 2 year old is obsessed with tying things around her head and when we encounter a lady wearing a hijab she gets super excited becauseshe thinks it's pretty. I'm looking forward to discussing it in detail with her when she's older

  12. Jess Helicopter 10 July 2013 at 10:17

    Hey, I was really moved reading this. It breaks my heart. I feel so sad and ashamed that people look at you like this. In this day and age and in this country. It's disgusting. I would be really interested to wear one to see if the people who i see on a day to day basis (ie in shops and at the doctors etc) would look at me differently. Sadly, i've no doubt some of them would. I'm sorry you've even had to write this. But a great read too. And I found you thru the linky tool thing so i have just added it to my site in the hope that some of my readers see your post too. Xx

  13. AtoZ Mummy 10 July 2013 at 10:30

    @Jess Thank you for your comment :)) I've just looked your blog up and followed you on Bloglovin. I'm so sorry that I haven't replied properly to any comments on this post. I've had issues using my phone to reply to comments and I'm so lazy I don't get on the laptop a lot. I have been overwhelmed by your comments and lovely messages!!!! Faith in human nature has been restored :))

  14. 21 September 2013 at 11:09

    Mashaallah xxx I am a revert and really really hope you wear hijab one day In Shaa Allah :(

  15. clare @ Emmys Mummy 26 October 2013 at 09:23

    What a great post and definitely not something I've ever thought of before if I'm honest. I guess we live in a world where people will always stare whether it be at a head scarf, the skirts which barely cover anything or at the boys displaying more pants than jeans over their bottoms. Thank you for sharing

  16. LRrqi882 10 March 2014 at 07:25

    77b2 Ray Ban Clubmaster Sunglasses
    0a1 8e4 3t3
    pH2014baby1eByEast i926h

Leave a reply

TOP