Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Like What You See?

Tonight I had a dinner meeting.  One of the few dinner meetings I've ever been to, but a dinner meeting nonetheless.  There were only five of us, the presidents of the local PTAs meetings with the area president.  The restaurant we were going to meet at was closed, so another was chosen.  It is a restaurant that I have frequented many times before.  It underwent a change in management a year or so ago and since then it is not nearly as busy as it used to be.  It was Tuesday night, which is wing night.  It used to be if you didn't have a reservation on a Tuesday night you were in for a lengthy wait.  Now, half the tables were empty.

So you may be wonder - what is the point of this post?  To say I was at a meeting?  Not exactly.  But I had to tell you why I was there to tell you what was going on off to the side that I noticed, but that the others sitting with me would have not, either because it wouldn't occur to them or because they were not in the line of site.

So there I sat, back in the back of a round booth (which of course meant I was stuck in there, but that was okay) and right in my line of sight was this older woman.  I'm guessing roughly about my dad's age.  I won't say how old that is, because if I did and he found out, I'd probably have a bone to pick with me.  That and if last year is any indication, I'd get it wrong.  Every time I looked up, this woman was glaring at me.  Not staring, glaring.  There is a difference between a glare and a stare.  I'm well acquainted with the difference.  Hassaan is regularly glaring at me because I regularly do not give him what he wants.

So there she sat, glaring at me.  I knew why she was glaring at me.  I was told later that maybe she always looks like that.  No, I could still see her face when she looked at her husband, and she looked perfectly pleasant then.  And then she'd turn back to me with this look on her face.

Now, I'm not stupid.  I know why she was looking at me.  And quite honestly, I thought the deep purple underscarf with the light pink scarf went quite well with my lilac shirt/white long sleeve tee underneath.  Maybe she didn't like my colour scheme, but personally I thought I'd done pretty well for not having many underscarves (seriously - if I was rich, the first thing I'd get would be a couple dozen underscarves!)

What I wanted to do - but didn't because I was in one of those "must be a grown up" situations - was stick my tongue out at her.  Kind of "I see you watching me!" kind of way.  But I didn't.  I'd look up every once in awhile, and there she was, still looking over and glaring at me.  And all I could think was "seriously?  Really lady?  It's a scarf."

The irony in this, to me, is that if I'd chosen to walk down the main street nearly nude most people wouldn't have batted an eye.  It is also not lost on me that the majority of people who have issues with women wearing headscarves are not men (like some seem to think) but women.  I will admit that the only outright, to my face, hateful person was a man, but he had bigger issues.

If I were to walk down the street (should I have the perfect body, which I so totally do not) wearing a string bikini that was nothing more than a couple of tiny little triangles no one would give me a second glance.  Except men.  Men would be trying to "discreetly" check me out.  A few would probably get a smack from their wives for looking.  But really, no one would really notice.  Or, like me, would act like they didn't notice but be thinking "put some damn clothes on."

But, and it's a big but, if I were to walk down the street wearing a niqaab, people would look at me, make comments and feel it was their right to express said comments. Sure, go ahead and express said comments, but please, allow me to point out the hypocrisy of your comments.

That hypocrisy leads to my next question - why is it okay to walk down the street in your underwear (or less than underwear) but not okay to wear hijab/abaya?  I will say that in North American/European culture that the niqaab is far outside the norm and does make people very uncomfortable.  But when you're sitting in a restaurant, with four other people (one man, three women), obviously having a meeting of some sort with all our notebooks out (and one very large binder), I'm obviously not about commit some sort of terroristic act.  And as I've said to people before, the only two people on the planet who would name me as a terrorist would be the two little boys I gave birth to.  Why?  Because I make them eat their vegetables and put on pants to go to school.  And in that case, every single mother causes terror in the hearts of children every where when the words "eat your peas" come out of your mouth.

Seriously, though, it's incidents like this, where I can just laugh it off as the twits of the world that make others who are not so strong or stubborn stop wearing hijab.  That can give them that push to remove the scarf from their head and hide their religious identity because it is hard to be a Muslim in today's society.  People forget that there are the vast majority of us that form the "middle" group.  Those that are practicing, that choose to wear the headscarf or beard, that choose to do our prayers, that choose to eat halal, that choose to follow the tenets of our faith, but also do not believe what the extremists do.  That do not believe that it is okay to kill someone for not believing what we believe.  That believe that what happened on September 11 and July 7 and every other time a Muslim has committed a mass homicide is not okay and state that fact (though the media chooses to ignore us).

I am stubborn to a fault.  And this is one of the few areas I do feel that I actually have some strength in self.  I have not ever felt like I should take it off since I put it on.  But I get where some people do feel that way, and do eventually take off the scarf.  It is a choice that each of us as a Muslim woman have to make - to hijab or not to hijab.  But when that decision is based on the behaviour of others, especially others that we do not know, it is an unfortunate and sad decision, but one I can still empathize with and understand.

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