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Friday, April 20, 2007

Foreigner



When I wore the headscarf in high school, someone asked me sincerely and without insult, "Do you wear that to keep bad spirits from getting into your head?" Um...no. Where the heck did that come from?

...I may have said this before, but I wanted to discuss what I meant by feeling "too foreign" in regards to the scarf. I think to most Americans, many Muslims included, the headscarf is a totally FOREIGN concept. It's totally irrelavant to their daily and lifelong concerns and priorities; it serves no significant purpose to anyone, to society; and is associated with negative stereotypes. And it's associated with a CULTURAL identity of people from other countries, foreigners. So it's a foreign concept reserved for foreigners. And when I put on that scarf, that's what makes me cringe.

And even if we could explain to America the reasons for wearing it, it still seems strange. Reasons like, "God commands it," "to preserve my dignity," "to protect myself from sexual harrassment," stand out as way over the top to them, and I think...even to me.

I have to break it down like this. I am a Muslim. I believe in Islam. I am a Shia Muslim. And I NEED TO TRUST in Islamic scholars to interpret the specifics of the laws of prayer, diet, relationships, and DRESS CODE. The majority scholarly interpretation of the Holy Quran and hadith (sayings of the Prophet (pbuh and his family) agree that only the face and hands of Muslims women should be shown. It's that need to trust their interpretations that keeps tripping me up. Part of me doubts that they are absolutely right. But do I listen to my doubts? Or do I trust their interpretations and trust the hadiths and follow their answers? Isn't that blind faith? Or maybe it's just faith. Gotta have faith. And it's better to be safe than sorry, right? So it's gotta end up being about my Islamic Identity. But what about those other Muslims that say Islamic identity is evolving and adapting and changing? Who do I trust here? Oh, my head. Scarf.

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