“Do you wear it (the hijab) while you shower as well? Can you take a terrorism joke? Does your father beat you up if you don’t wear it? Are you bald? It’s hot, why don’t you remove it? Do you belong to ISIS?”
In case you’re wondering, yes these are questions I’ve been asked. And not years ago, I was asked the last one as recent as March 2020. Shocking, isn’t it? It’s a reality for me.
When people see a Muslim woman wearing her hijab – they have their own set of preconceived notions ranging from the oh-so woke ‘oppressed didi hai ye toh’, ‘meat-eater’, ‘extreme and orthodox’, ‘a problem’, and most laughably, ‘is most probably a terrorist’.
Not usually said in so many words, generally masked by a longer pause at the security line at the airport or by the girl in the restaurant who screams ‘Nudity empowers us’ when I’m sitting a table ahead of her, completely clothed. The question that brings out their undying empathy- “oh so it’s a choice?” or “so what is it that you know about Terrorism?”
Let me give into their empathy, let me answer.
Well Karen of the Indian world, if you must know – it is a choice. One that I make actively, basing my foundations learned from the religion I choose to actively follow, not because my father said so, not because I’m bald, not because I need to cover my ears from the cold, but because I’ve been an active learner and seeker of faith in God and religion since I was 5 years old.
The religion that I’ve been practicing propagates modesty not only for women but also for men. Modesty, not only in how we choose to dress but also in our character. Most importantly, it’s a choice amongst the many other choices I make. It’s not my only choice because when I wear the Hijab, people think I’m a Muslim woman and it ends there. But I’m a person as much as I’m a Muslim and I wish for once, I wouldn’t have to explain that.
And what I know about terrorism? This isn’t just for Karen but it’s for every Indian who sits behind a screen that shows terrorists chanting Allahu-Akbar and believes it blindly – Terrorism has no place in any religion and it sure as hell, has nothing do with mine. And if there are people who chant the name of God while brutally murdering them – they probably don’t know God, to begin with, forget an entire religion.
Most people base their opinions on hearsay, not actual evidence.
What they don’t realize is that hating any religion and wanting to eradicate Muslims (genocide isn’t a good look for humanity, by the way) like we’re some sort of cancer to society isn’t an opinion because islamophobia is NOT an opinion.
The aforementioned people do not realize that what they see on TV about Muslims is an extreme misinterpretation of what’s been sent down in the Holy Scriptures. They need to realize there’s a difference between cultural oppression that’s most often portrayed as “Muslim household” and what an actual household looks like.
Although in 2020, if you choose to remain ignorant and choose to believe all that’s being fed to you without questioning it even once, I feel nothing but remorse for your ignorance. These biases stem from the hatred that is being spewed against a minority to wrap the masses in fear, but if at your age in a world that’s being changed by Millenials, you cannot break the cycle of hatred and continue to give in, you seriously need to step up your game.
So this is for you if you’ve ever labeled innocent people as ‘terrorists’ or women who believe in modesty as ‘oppressed’ – I hope you learn to dig a little bit deeper rather than blindly forming an opinion. I hope that the next time you see a hijabi woman – you choose to sit next to her and talk to her about fast fashion or when you see a bearded man – you ask him about his favorite album. I hope that you realize religion is subjective and it’s never definitive. Religion is one of the many pursuits we make in life.
I hope we move past preconceived notions and after our conversations, we carry with us memories of someone’s favorite song or their views on street food, someone who just happened to be Muslim amongst the many other things that make them human.
I hope we, our generation, break the cycle.
Written by Asma Zain for MTTN
Edited by Mihika Antonia Dean for MTTN
Featured Image by Trevor Lunde
Artwork by The Transnational