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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Walk The Line


Me and three friends (2 of them hijabi, one not) went to see a movie. These two other girls, dressed in short skirts and tanks asked us if we were from Pakistan. When they asked us, they seemed excited and interested in us. I got this thought: Maybe those girls look up to hijabis, want to wear a scarf, but feel too weak,too trapped in the pressure to fit in...and wish they were in a position to wear it.. maybe seeing three of us together, laughing, having fun, looking cool--maybe they start thinking they could do it too. (Or maybe they were thinking why are these hijabis at a movie theater watching THAT movie--see they're no better than us!)

I hadn't thought of this before. Instead of non-hijabi Muslims seeing us hijabis and thinking, "they're too religious," maybe they see us and have a sincere longing to be able to be true to the practice of hijab. Usually the non-hijabis I know now respect hijabis but sort of say "it's just not for me, " I'm not that religious," "it's not important/needed." But it made me feel a little proud at the thought that some non-hijabi Muslim lady might see me and wish she could BE LIKE ME--instead of the other way around.

BTW, my two friends who wear hijab live out of state and were in town visiting. If I could hang out with them more often--this scarf thing would be easier I think.


I saw a hijabi working at the library. It made me feel a bit more comfortable around the other workers at the library because I thought--well they must be familiar with her--so I don't seem too odd to them. I looked over at the hijabi, but she didn't see me, so I kept walking. Later, she asked if I needed help with my books, I said, "Yes, my card..." Then she helped me and I said thank you. I didn't say as-salam-alaykum and she didn't either. My hubby said, "Did you say salam? Why not? Go do it now?" Hmm. For a split second I thought--well maybe she's not Muslim! LOL. Oh well, next time. It's not that easy to say salam to strangers. Is it? If I wasn't wearing the headscarf, I would feel less of an expectation to say it. But if one scarf-head sees another--salam is expected! (AND btw, we saw some more hijabis at the store and at the bookstore too on different days).


The other day I was thinking that this blog should be called: Scarf Ace: Wearing a Muslim Headscarf in American even though I Really Don't Want To.

I was thinking how it was my husband who had convinced me to wear it, how he kept bringing it up until I ran out of reasons not to wear it. I remember telling him how hard it was going to be and how he said that once I started it then it would get easier on me or something like that. Hmm. He wasn't very correct about that, or was he? So what was the deal I wondered?

But then I thought about it and felt that I DO want to wear it, but I want the same ability to skip it some days when I do not feel up to it the same way I skip a fast during Ramadan when I'm too worn out or skip or delay a prayer when I'm too tired. I know some might say that makes me a "part-time" Muslim because that's not how the rules of Islam work, but it's just the way it is for me. But if I had that flexibility with the scarf, I don't think I would resent it as much.

And also as is with saying prayers, I've heard it said that if one's heart is not in it, or if one rushes it then it's like one is not really doing it. So is that same with the scarf? If my heart is not in it or I'm doing it half-way, then what's the point of doing it at all?

Mainly I feel vulnerable wearing it when I go out alone and I resist wearing it when it is very hot outside. So the other day, while driving to the store alone on a very hot day, I gave myself permission to not wear it once I got to the store. But by the time I got the store, I had thought about the scarf as something similar to fasting and prayer...something that's hard but something I will do as a Muslim because I believe Islam's rules to be better than worse. So I wore it into the store, pinned tightly and all. And I was fine. Alhamdulillah.

I was thinking that, yes, in the Quran and in Hadith it says that women should dress modestly, but how do I really really know that means I have to wear a headscarf in this day and age to be a Muslim? Then I compared it to saying my prayers. Yes the Quran tells you to pray 5 times a day, but it doesn't tell you exactly all the moves and verses to say, so why do I do it a certain way? Why don't I just make it up the way I want to? Because the rules are rules for a reason. Their foundation is the truth and we do it to stay as close to the truth as possible. So that helped me relate that idea to the scarf and I think letting my mind free from the commitment of having to wear it even when I didn't want to, let it clear up and I could see that on that occasion.


OK, so...big news. I finally got it. Up until now, I've been missing the concept of wearing the headscarf "to please God." I think since I grew up around Muslim women who do NOT wear a scarf, I thought it was really not "that important in Islam." And plus, since I'm naturally shy and modest anyway--I thought I knew what modesty really was and it did NOT have to include a headscarf. So. My hubby and I were having another conversation about it and he said something like this:

"Every culture draws its own line on what is modest. In America, a woman can basically dress any way she wants except for walking around without a top. But in Islam, God drew the line at only face and hands. If a culture of people decide what is modest, then the line goes lower and lower. 150 years ago, women could not dress the way they do now. You could not see a 10 foot woman in only a bra and pantie (referring to the Victoria Secret window display at the local mall) but now people walk by it and not even blink. It's like with alcohol. This culture decides that it's okay to drink--as long as you don't drive..."

So the idea that "God drew the line," finally clicked for me and made sense. Even though I have thought that the scarf is overkill when it comes to modesty, it's the same concept that we Muslims do not drink AT ALL. Social drinkers would say that is overkill because one drink doesn't hurt. One or two. They know their own limitations. But in Islam--it's no alcohol--ever. That never seemed unreasonable or illogical to me. Same thing with everything else in Islam. It's clear cut. So I can finally see that it's the same way with hijab. I mean, I knew that before--but it just hadn't clicked somehow yet.

I wonder if it will make it any easier for me to wear it...Hmm. Let's see. I know for sure that it helps me deal with my husband's concern if my neck or hairline is showing. To him that is making the line slip a bit further down. And he's really sure about the line. I get it.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

It's a Zoo Out There!

Me and my husband took our kids to the zoo for the first time. I hadn't been to the zoo in over a decade. So, I wore black socks, black flat shoes, dark gray cargo pants, a pink short sleeve t-shirt with white arm sleeve covers, and a long gray and black striped scarf with dull silver sequins on it. I put the scarf on my head and then wrapped on end of it around my neck and over my shoulder. I was all covered.

And it was HOT. Seriously--you can feel the sweat pool on your skin--humid HOT, everyone else is wearing shorts and tank-tops---HOT. But we wanted the kids to see the zoo and this was our last chance before Summer got even hotter.

So as we get into the zoo, I notice a group of hijabis. It was several mothers with their young kids in strollers and younger teen girls. The mothers were wearing the scarf pinned under the chin with long abaya jackets. A few of the teen girls were wearing a headscarf, jeans, and short-sleeve shirts--arms exposed. Anyway, I was happy to see so many hijabis and thought--the zoo is the place for hijabis to be, huh? It's hijabi-polooza! I looked over, smiling at them.

Then, my husband said to me: "YOURS is falling off," and I knew he was referring to my scarf so I thought it had come off of my head, "OH!" I said. But then I touched the top of my head and only about 2 inches of my hair on the top of my head were showing. "It's not falling off! It's only a little showing," I said to him as I fixed it to cover the hair.

Then a bit later, I was standing on the side, him in front of me, and I took the long part off of my shoulder to adjust it again, probably exposing a bit of my neck. My husband sort of gave me this look, and I snapped, "Why are you being so uptight about my hijab? I wore it like this on purpose so I could get some air sometimes." He said something like, "I know, okay, it's..."

So from then on I started feeling like I was not as "hijabified," as those abaya-headscarved-pinned hijabis. I thought maybe my husband wished I was more like them. I know he is the type that does something all the way, perfectly--but I'M the one wearing the headscarf--what's it to him if I don't wear it a certain way? Hmm. Does he think I don't know that my way is less perfect, less strict, less...? He must know that. I know that, but I still want to wear it the way I want to. Hmm.

Then later we saw another group of abaya-scarf hijabis and then later several headscarf-short-sleeve hijabis (I don't know if it was the same group as before).

And I also noticed A LOT of people giving me long glances. "Why are so many people staring at me? I don't look that weird," I said to my husband. It was mostly younger kids staring, and a few adults. Hmm. Maybe there's something about the zoo that makes people stare. Maybe all that staring at animals makes them stare at people too. Maybe they thought I was a celebrity under my sleek scarf and sunglasses (not...LOL).

Anyway, the whole time, as I was dying from the heat, I was feeling resentful that I had to be so covered up. I wished I could feel a breeze on my neck...the arm sleeve covers were annoying me too. I envied all the people who could dress for the weather. Sometimes I wondered if they were REALLY all that much cooler than me, I mean, they appeared to be hot too--maybe being covered up from head to toe in the open heat doesn't make one hotter--maybe a scarf keeps you cooler? Hmm. No, I doubt it, I finally decided.

But it was still fun. I enjoyed the zoo experience. I didn't want to leave even. But my hubby was tired from pushing around our crazy-monster-size double stroller (it was also stroller-palooza at the zoo), and he was hot as well. He was wearing athletic shoes and socks, cargo pants and a long-sleeved cotton dress shirt. He usually covers up his legs and arms when we go out too. He doesn't wear shorts or short-sleeves, even though Islamically he could. He says it's because he wants to support me and how can he expect me to cover up if he doesn't cover up as much as possible too? That's sweet I know. (But he also has a tattoo on his arm from before he converted to Islam which he hides with the long sleeves too because he's embarrassed by it). But at one point he got so hot that he rolled up his sleeves. Lucky him, I thought.

So I was complaining to him and feeling sorry for my covered-up self, yes. Hmm. I know I need to work on ignoring my ego. That voice inside that says: This Sucks For You. Can't You Make It Any Better For YOU. YOU. ME. ME. ME. If only I could focus on something else...

like...I am a Muslim woman and Islam tells me to wear it! I have to. GOD wants me to be covered up from head to toe when I go out. Really! It's important. There's no gray area here. Accept it and move on YOU.


I'll try that next time.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Aliens in America

Aliens in America is a show on CW33 at 7:30/8:30 PM Sundays. Here's the show info from the website,

Justin Tolchuck is a sensitive, lanky 16-year old just trying to make it through the social nightmare of high school in Medora, Wisconsin, with the help of his well-meaning mom Franny, aspiring-entrepreneur dad Gary and his beautiful and popular younger sister Claire. Although he's bright and funny, Justin is also shy, socially awkward and pretty much resigned to the fact that he'll never be one of the cool kids. Franny, however, is the kind of take-charge mom who micro-manages her family, and she's come up with a plan to help Justin: she signs up for the school's international exchange student program. Picturing an athletic, brilliant Nordic teen, Franny is sure this new friendship will bestow instant coolness on her outsider son. However, when the Tolchuck's exchange student arrives, he turns out to be Raja Musharaff, a 16-year-old Muslim from a small village in Pakistan. Raja is thoughtful, responsible and wise beyond his years. To the Tolchucks and everyone else in Medora, he's also just about as foreign as a foreigner can be. While the rest of the family is slightly freaked out by the Muslim in their midst, Gary is comforted by the fact that the host family receives a monthly check to help with expenses. This fits right in with Gary's money-making schemes, and when he sees how hard-working and respectful Raja is, he's totally on board. As for Claire, she's too busy with her friends and her new boyfriend to pay much attention to their houseguest, but Raja is smitten from the moment he first sees her. After the initial shock wears off, Justin is quickly won over by Raja's humor, gestures of friendship and by their common status as outsiders. Despite the cultural chasm between them, Justin and Raja develop an unlikely bond that just might allow them to navigate the minefield that is contemporary high school. It's going to be a very interesting year for Raja, Justin, his family and the entire population of Medora.

So, when I first saw the show, I was annoyed that a Pakistani Muslim character would be named "Raja," because that is usually an Indian Hindu name. And I was annoyed by the first episodes portrayal of Raja as a drooling, deprived boy who had never seen a scantily dressed girl before. But I've seen a couple of shows since, and I think it's a good show in some ways.

We saw one episode in which Raja states that Muslim teenagers do not date or interact with women until marriage or engagement, i.e. they must stay chaste until they are husbands. So then one of the characters said, "No wonder their young men are so angry!" My husband and my brother took great offense at this remark. I said it was just a joke. But they insisted it was wrong to relate the beliefs of Islam (no sex before marriage) with the image of angry Muslims (terrorists). I agree with that, but it did seem like a harmless joke. Still, as we watched, it was great to see that Raja does not compromise his beliefs for anyone, even when he himself is tempted to do so. He is a wise and confident Muslim and often teaches everyone around him the true meaning of things. And for the most part, it is accurate in its portrayal of Islam (although not always perfect--but good enough when considering the lack of decent Muslim characters on TV)! The other characters in the show often discuss sexual "humor," which can be annoying, but if one ignores that, it's a refreshing show with a premise that is unique and needed on TV. There have been a couple of episodes with Muslim women wearing hijab as characters.

Have you seen it? What'd you think? If you visit the show's website (above), you can download full episodes on the computer. (They should pay for me this advertising, huh?!) One thing about it that all the sudden it will have a crude sexual image or joke--so have your hand on that remote and don't watch it in front of Mom or Dad ;-)


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Complain Pain

The other day at Wal-Mart, I saw a hijabi woman. She was wearing a dark abaya and scarf.
"There's a hijabi!" I remarked to my husband. "I'll have to mark this sighting in my blog." I said.
"What? I see hijabi's all the time," he said.
"All the time?" I asked cynically.
He said, "Well, it's not like it's so rare to see one." (He saw a hijabi working at Lowe's the other day--which is cool, I think, since Lowe's is a hardware type of store and seems like an unlikely place for a Muslim woman to work--so I was pleasantly surprised to hear that, and it opened up my mind to the possibilities of living in a place where Muslim headscarves were seen in every store---for a minute).

Then I told him that I want to see hijabis everywhere I go, all the time. So often that I wouldn't have to point one out every time I see one. I told him that I don't mind BEING different, I just don't like LOOKING so odd.
He said, "Well you're making it easier for the next hijabi to wear hers out."
I said, "But that's not my goal, really. I know for some hijabi girls that's important to them, to champion a cause, but I just want to..."
"Well, but, it's just a fact," he said. I wasn't so sure about that. I mean, 15 years ago I wore a headscarf in high school--did that make it easier for anybody else back then? If that was 15 years ago--then why haven't they multiplied in number?!

OK. So I'm going to stop here for a moment to discuss something. As I've said before, I started this blog as a way to vent my feelings, make sense of my conflicting thoughts and emotions, and to share my honesty with others. But now that I know that I have some regular readers, I am more self-conscious about what I say and the effect it is having on my readers. And I'm more sensitive to the message it is sending out into the world.

I realize that most of the posts are me basically complaining about how hard it is to wear a headscarf. I'm starting to wonder if my posting of these feelings and thoughts are doing a disservice, as one of the comments posted, "making a mockery out of something so beautiful." I sure as heck do not want to be doing that.

When I think about it, I realize that when I'm sharing my negative thoughts, my intended audience is mainly to those Non-Muslims who see a hijabi as someone with blind faith and/or as an unexplainable mystery. I think I'm trying (in addition to venting) to show people that we all struggle and we all need some empathy! And we're all the same somehow. Hmm.

When I was in high school wearing hijab, enduring terrible and constant harassment from my class-mates every day, I wrote articles and poems for the school magazine and even gave a speech or two at Islamic centers on the beauty and truth of hijab. But then, after I decided to take off the scarf because I couldn't handle the harassment anymore, I looked back on those articles and speeches and I still believe that? I guess I don't. I guess I've changed my mind. It was an embarrassing feeling--to sort of advocate doing something so strongly--and then decide to do the opposite. I don't want to do that again--which is probably why I stick to feeling and complaining about the difficult stuff.

I still do not see the light...but I want to keep looking. I hope this blog helps me do that.

Why Look at Pretty Pictures?

I thought I'd briefly explain why I sometimes post pictures of hijabis on this blog. Here's the message I'm trying to send to those who read my blog when they see these pictures:

To Non-Muslims: See how the hijab can be worn in so many ways. Isn't diversity beautiful? Let these pictures inspire you to open your mind to other ways of life. And also notice that you might relate to some of these women!

To Muslims: See how the hijab can be worn in so many ways. Isn't diversity beautiful? Let it inspire you to open your mind to other ways of life. And also notice that you might relate to some of these women!

To myself: See how the hijab can be worn in so many ways. Isn't diversity beautiful? Let it inspire you to open your mind to other ways of life. And also notice that you might relate to some of these women!

That's basically it.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Look at All the Pretty Pictures

I don't think I'll be organizing and analyzing the "Scarf Survey" answers anytime soon. I tried to and got overwhelmed with all the information. In the meantime, I'll add some pretty hijabi pictures here. {OH, and can you believe I still have not seen another hijabi out in public (other than my one hijabi friend who went to a Mormon wedding wedding)since my "Hijabi Watch" post?} Most of these pics were taken from the FACEBOOK group, Hijabi Fashionistas, on which they were added by the group's various members who took pics of themselves or found the pics on the internet. In any case, if you feel that you deserve the copyright or credit for any of these pics, please let me know. You'll notice a couple of pics of Jennifer Lopez, not a Muslim hijabi, but she is wearing some stylish hijabi clothes! There are also a few pics of "Hijabi Fashionistas" group members: Xsara Helmi (pics 9 and 10) and Maryam Jameelah (pics 1 and 2). And the 3rd, 4th, and 5th pics are of me, yours truly, Scarf Ace. Peace out. Oh, and if you want to see some other pretty hijab-related pictures, here are some other blogs: