I had always considered Canadians very well informed about other cultures: until I, a Canadian, went overseas.
On my return I had a suitcase of souvenirs. I dressed up my friends in hijab and niqab and burqa and abaya and Omani hats and robes complete with curved khanjars and we posed for pictures and none of it touched me... I had heard the Azan and it was in the back of my head as the most beautiful sound I had ever heard...but it was in the back of my head as another language... words I could not understand.
The hijab was a cashmere pashmina that made me sweaty that I wore only to show off my pretty caftans when I was in Oman, and to visit the grand mosque there, until a friend here told me that someone had called him "a sand nigger". I didn't know how to wear a scarf but I immediately wrapped that bulky pashmina around my head until it choked me and I wore it to work the next day. A cab driver, who worked with Muslims, said "salaam alaykom". My manager told me to take it off.
It was "a safety hazard"--- it could "get caught on something". I looked around me. One girl wore a bandana on her head, another guy a baseball cap. One guy called my arab friend "a terrorist" when we discussed the subject. I would put the hijab back on whenever the manager wasn't there. I would put it on when I left work. I would take it off when I walked home. One day, my manager, R, he caught me wearing it again. He knew that an Arab student I knew from school wanted to win me over (as this particlar Arab was quite good looking and it was all the silly girls at my work could talk about) so in front of everyone he said: "You know a muslim man can beat his wife and can have sex with her whenever he wants to." I nodded but was too shamed to explain to him everything that I did know. R was Jewish and a soldier in Israel a long time ago, so I understood his prejudice (and everyone- one of my best friends in the world who taught me the most about prejudice was a Jewish girl I'd die for---so don't post any Jew dissing comments here). He talked to me later, but I still put in my notice. I didn't want to work for a place that would not allow a hijab but would allow a baseball cap or bandana. I couldn't.
Hijab has taught me alot about Islam. It is one of the reasons I read the Qu'ran with a heart for understanding. It has taught me that race doesn't matter, physical form is not the most important thing (I know alot of girls who lose weight when they start to wear proper hijab because they are no longer stressing about an ideal body image and they look more to their families than their peers for emotional support so develop more vivid goals for themselves, and pursue the creative facets of themselves that more adolescent girls are losing every day, sadly). Wearing it means I can no longer go out clubbing with girlfriends---as thin a peice of fabric as it has been, it has been strainer through which I have sifted my personal relationships: I have learnt those who have loved me for me, and those who only loved me because of what I could do for them. Friends that missed the drinking party me may have abandoned me for the next buzz, the next high, the next handsome stranger, but I have gained the knowledge of friends who get high on my presence, on my ideas, on my private non-alcholic crazy Africano township jive wannabe belly dancer Canadian dancing. I also get a gift not many white girls with white skin get: I get to know who is really prejudiced and who is not, something that can take years of knowing someone in our politcally correct environment, I can know in minutes.
There are good times. There are bad: There is the man on Halloween who saw me in my abaya and asked me to sing O Canada, and when I did, commented "Good, it's just a costume"-or the women seeing me pushing a baby stroller who whisper very loudly "She's too young be married off to make babies" when there is a teen mother with no head scarf sitting next to me, with no wedding ring who they do not want to do anything to help obviously fifteen -the woman who challeged me "to live my life" when she sees me wearing a niqab and reading Hirsi Ali's "Infidel" in Chapters... There are also the amazing: the homeless man across from my house who defended me when a man was harassing me about my abaya with the words "Leave her alone-she's a middle-eastern Audrey Hepburn!" (so sweet, and when does being compared to Audrey Hepburn NOT make you feel good???)- the women that tell me my hijab looks beautiful- the little girl who wants her picture taken with me at my work because she thinks I'm a princess in my abaya and shayla- the fact that construction workers who normally whistle at women walking by fall silent at the sight of my niqab and I hear them say "she is still beautiful... A real lady." When I walk to Juma (I usually don't wear niqab but if I wanna wear sparkly earring to Juma I wear a niqab over them so that all the Muslim boys outside will be as silent as those construction workers)- the people who honestly want to know why I became I muslim (they are worth it all)... My personal favorites are though, of course, those moments that make me laugh: the man that asked me straight-faced if I was a ninja (hiiii-yahhh!-when I was in karate they called me the ballerina so you can see why this far-fetched country boy made me laugh), and this sweet little old lady client of mine. She came up to the counter, and gently patted my sleeve. It was hot out so I was wearing my lightest hijab, a white cotton pashmina, and she patted my arm so that I would lean close to hear what she had to say. "Dear," she said to me. "You really should be at home. You shouldn't be working." I was confused. "I feel fine," I told her. "I want to work." I said this, because some people have this prejudice that muslim women aren't allowed to work, and their husbands force them to stay at home. LOL. That was not her point though. Honestly concerned about health as most seniors are she said: "You shouldn't be working with a head injury." LOL. Isn't that the sweetest, funniest thing?
Share your funny hijab moments here, please.