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,
7 thoughts on “Hijab: The Unpopularity of Modesty Part I”
I applaud you for doing this and am very anxious to follow along and see how it unfolds for you.
Alyson, this ought to be pretty interesting. I cannot wait to share everything with you all.
Oh this is great. I loved the post, and look forward to hearing about your experiences. I love hijab, and I’m glad you’re going to give it a whole month to feel the full effect. Because those first some days are going to be just dealing with feeling awkward. Much like the experiences you’ve already mentioned, you’ll feel like a bit of a spectacle either because you think others are against you, or feeling protective of you. You’ll also feel awkward just wearing a scarf all day every day, constantly wanting to adjust it and fiddle with it. Then as you become more comfortable with it, you’ll start to feel more self confident and strong. Good luck!
Angela thank you so much for your kind words! It definitely feels awkward at first, but there is a certain amount of comfort in it too.
Interesting, thanks for sharing. I do wear a hijab. And in previous years in southern Califirniba I feel people really didn’t care about my religious expression. Now days, in the south! But In a highly educated town. I sense a slow change at times… of the fewer smiles in the grocery stores and the occasional frowns! Yes you are right: taking off my hijab is not an option… ???
In that moment when I went to reach to pull the scarf off, I knew I wanted to learn more about what you have experienced.
[…] Ok, so like any life change, getting accustomed to wearing the hijab presents its own scenarios and challenges. Here are some of the thoughts that have been floating through my mind so far. If you’re wondering what’s up with the hijab and why I’m wearing it, go here. […]