New me, same Hijab
In 1963, Alex Haley’s agent connected him with a publisher who had read his interview with Malcolm X, and wanted Haley to write an entire autobiography on the firebrand minister. As Haley would later recount in his now-famous epilogue, their first month of work was hard going; with Malcolm spending several hours in dialogue about his reverence for The Honorable Elijah Muhammad.
After Malcolm’s rift with the Nation of Islam, despite wanting to change it, he and Haley agreed to leave the original chapters of the autobiography as originally related.
How this affects me
Though I am no Malcolm, my life has gone through considerable change in the two years since the original posting of Hijab. I have gone from married to divorcing, from Christian to agnostic. In these posts you see the reflections of a religious but sincere woman.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X should be required reading for every single person in America in my opinion. As a young girl, it shaped my ideas about race, identity, class and politics for years to come. In our current political situation, it is vital that we preserve our right to speak out, to buck the status quo, and to hold ideas that are less than popular. Our very democracy may depend on it.
In acknowledgment, honor and imitation of that great work, I have chosen to present this reboot of “Hijab” with no modification of the original text, and to present it just as it was.
In this series of posts I’ll be talking about the experience of wearing hijab, a head covering used to protect a woman from unwanted attention and to emphasize the inner beauty of women. I will be wearing this covering for a month and writing about my experiences here. There are several pieces to this story.
I didn’t set out to conduct a social experiment.
I just had a migraine.
History is full of happenstance like this, people going about their normal lives when the opportunity to take a stand presents itself. Take Rosa Parks for instance: The NAACP wanted Rosa to refuse to get up from her seat and told her to think about when a good day would be ( That’s right, it wasn’t spontaneous. I don’t need a month, every day is black history day at my house).
How do you pick a day to do something life changing? Do you wait for an anniversary or a child’s birthday? Do you wait for the numbers to line up that link to some spiritual significance? For Rosa, she was just tired. That particular day she was tired of standing for the hatred and bigotry. So she kept her seat.
For me, though I in no way can compare to a civil rights champion, I decided to do something different. And it started with a migraine. I had my shades on to block the light, and my scarf tied like a hijab to keep my neck warm, the cold air sometimes makes the pain worse. As I went through my day I noticed the people seemed to be reacting to me and couldn’t determine why. Then I realized: it’s the scarf. They think I’m Muslim.
It isn’t too popular to be a follower of Islam right now. People tend to associate Islam with terror and they hold so many untrue thoughts:
They blow up buildings.
They blow up themselves.
They hate America and what we stand for.
They oppress their women. Make them be subservient.
Fear leads people to do stupid things. A beautiful pair of newlyweds and their sister were killed last week because of fear and ignorance. I’m a minority too, so I get how it feels to be misjudged and watch your people die for the lies. I’m angry that these good people suffered because of their religion and misconceptions regarding who is and is not terrorizing the general public.
Needless to say, my next thought when I realized why people were staring was for my safety: is some nut job going to shoot me? I rode past a beat up Ford F-150 with some young white men and confederate flag decals and I almost ripped a dreadlock out trying to yank that scarf off my head. In that moment, I realized I was standing up when I should have been sitting down. “These women have no option to remove their head covering,” I thought.
In that moment I knew I wanted to share this experience and know what it feels like to be a powerful, vivacious, sexy woman, who just happens to believe in modesty. I wanted to know how it feels for my sisters to walk around and deal with the ignorance one attracts while daring to be different. Come along with me for this journey into modesty and mystery.
Until next time,