Monday, January 08, 2007

Muslim Headscarf ("Hijab") and Awakening Presence

This is a recent diary entry I made on Street Prophets;

My husband and I are both converts to Islam. We lived abroad in Doha, Qatar for 2 years, and recently returned to the USA. After wearing the hijab (muslim headscarf, and modest clothing) for over 2 years (2004-2006) while living in Qatar, I decided to not wear it in America. I wore it on-again-off-again since my shahada (when I formally accepted Islam) in 2000, but I stopped wearing it publicly after September 11th ’01, because of the increase in hatred towards muslims, but more importantly because I had realized at the time that one of my Ego’s favorite things is to stand out in the crowd, to be different, to rock the boat etc. I decided that it was best for me to try and fit in to the dominant culture, which I did in America by not wearing a headscarf, and I did in Qatar by wearing the headscarf (and in both places by wearing clothing over my body that is modest).

We moved back to the states last July, and we are living in proximal vicinity to my parents for the first time since I left home for college in 1992. I was raised here in Ohio, the bible belt, in the United Methodist Church. My mother is a devout Presbyterian these days, an elder to the church and heavily involved.

I realized in 2003 that another part of me desperately wants to please my mother; I have a deep-seated, subconscious fear of rejection that at times can drive me to act totally unlike the person I really am. I have been known to do things like what my husband refers to as “the teacher dress incident”, the time I wore what I truly believe to be a ridiculously juvenile dress, which was covered with nursery-school ABC’s in applique, as an adult woman, just because it would make my mother “happy”.

Nowadays, I know that my mother definitely loathes the idea of me wearing anything that would make me look like a scary muslim (“foreigner”), and I am sure that my subconscious is terrified that her reaction will be the ultimate and final severance of our relationship.

Well, recently I tried an experiment; I wore hijab out in public, in West Chester,Ohio, for the first time since returning to the USA. My parents had left the day before for their winter lodging in Florida(6 months), so I figured it was safe to “come out of my shell”. I went to congregational Friday prayer at the mosque, then took my kids to Chick-Fil-A to eat and let them run around in the play area. I was pretty freaked out/cautious about how people would respond to me (after all Cincinnati is an extremely racist area! I know because of first-hand experience with family members). I was worried that something hateful would happen towards me (or especially towards my kids) wearing the hijab, but it also made me notice a few things.

The main thing I noticed that I did not expect is that I was really hyper-vigilant about my behavior, much more so than I am in “plainclothes” so to speak. It’s like I felt like the reputation of the entire muslim community worldwide was resting on my shoulders wearing hijab in America! …As if I made one mistake, and it would reflect negatively on the whole community…. So I was careful not to scream at my children (yes hate to admit that I do this, but I am a screamer..); didn’t let myself use any cuss words ( I also cuss badly at times); I was sure to be smiling and friendly to everyone around me, even though I was feeling fearful more than anything; and I stopped myself from angrily honking and flipping off another driver who was driving dangerously in front of me on the way home!

I guess to sum it up, as terribly afraid I am to wear the hijab in America, I have to say that wearing it makes me over 100% more “present”. I am awakened in a way that nothing else can elicit; I become deeply aware of every action I am making while I wear the hijab, whether I like it or not!


dragonfly183 said...

Thats a really interesting observation. But i'm kinmdof confused. Do you think of that as a good thing or a bad thing.

I scream at my kids too. i don't enjoy doing it, but i swear sometimes they don't actually start listening until i raise my voice.

Rockin' Hejabi said...

It's a good thing dragonfly.

I think wearing the hijab is a good thing, but certainly not an essential thing to be a spriritually centered person.

After all, the Quran states there shall be no compulsion in religion....and it says to COVER YOUR BOSOMS (with your headcovering).... ie the point being not to flail your breasts at just anyone, that modesty is essential when in the public's eye!

Yes, I have to be better about the screaming etc. Inshallah more zhikr (meditation) can cure even the worst screaming fits!

Beach Bum said...

A few decades ago I remember some in my family talking trash about Catholics and how the pope could end up running the country. They were some form of Bapist at the time. Now my uncle's best friend is a big honcho at his local parish.
As time goes on and people realize Muslims just want to raise their kids in peace like everyone else my best guess is that everyone should get use to it.
Ignorance is the greatest enemy of Humanity but we seem to have a love of wallowing in it.
As for screaming at the kids, yes I do it as well and dragonfly is right in that they don't listen until voices are raised or butts get popped at times.

Rockin' Hejabi said...

Well, I've realized that screaming at them is more of a way to vent my frustration with them and/or the situation...I definitley can be better about how I redirect them, and am finding other ways to vent my frustrations...Daily meditation, possibly the hijab, and definitley the new aerobics and weight lifting routine at the Y I've started are all helping tremendously!

That Deborah Girl said...

Actually, I think it's good for the locals to see you doing normal mom things like yelling at your kids or eating a sandwich.

Having perfect behavior only reinforces the weird notion that you are a drone without a choice, not a strong woman who has chosen her way of life.

No matter what you do, white people will always look at you funny, that's just their way.

Rockin' Hejabi said...

LOL I'm White! ...but yes, I know what you mean!