“I know the internet is a place of minimal privacy, I get it. I get when I posted ‘ask me anything’ on social media recently, I would be up for…anything. But soon I received a response from someone saying, ‘You speak good English…for a Muslim.’ It’s something I’ve been told many, many times. And it made me realize something.
This narrative about being Muslim…and also being good at something…is getting boring.
So, on behalf of the 1.8 billion Muslims around the world, please tell us something else. I hold so many more titles than being a Hijabi…and having to type this sentence alone is painful!
The hijab questions are also plentiful. It’s like asking someone wearing a hat, ‘So, how does a hat affect your ability to go for a walk?’ Surely, in 2020, we can reach the point of having a conversation not based on what I look like or how I choose to dress.
To put it plainly, my hijab doesn’t stop me from anything. I play sports, have gone diving, can dance, run, jump, rock climb, and do anything I want. You only need to look deeper and find brilliant examples of people around the world not held back by hijabs to know your deep-seeded curiosity about how I choose to dress is actually drenched in casual racism.
Actually, it’s called a microaggression. Brief statements or behaviors that, intentionally or not, communicate a negative message about a non-dominant group.
There is a fine line, I get it. Curiosity is an insatiable human attribute and it can catch us at the best of times. Sometimes we mean well, but here’s the rule of thumb: if it sounds invasive or racist, it is.
I grew up with a typical Arab name, yet not-so-typical Arab appearance. This caused extra havoc in others’ minds, because I didn’t fit the mold to cop the full-on harshness of racist attacks. Nonetheless, growing up, there were always microaggressions.
‘Your dad’s strict, right?’ ‘He’s going to force you to wear the hijab one day?’ ‘I thought Arabs are dark. How come you have blue eyes?’ ‘Oh! You had children at a young age. That’s typical!’ Ten points for being Judgey McJudgey, guys.
Humanity isn’t based on a checklist. I don’t have a criteria to fulfill what will make me fit a label, and I can’t be the basis of ‘breaking stereotypes.’ Actually, and a lot of my Muslim friends will agree, we are tired of breaking stereotypes. Of always needing to break stereotypes. In the words of Taylor Swift: ‘It’s exhausting.’
I wear many titles, and the most visible one is Muslim. But the not-so-visible are just as interesting. They just require more in-depth questioning (if you like), and then ta-da! We will find ourselves in a stimulating conversation not be centered around what you (or I!) look like.
Don’t get me wrong, Islam is an integral part of my life. It is potentially the greatest source of joy for me, and the love I have for my God is openly on display—I wear a hijab. But here’s the thing about religion: it’s a personal affair. It’s a private relationship which can’t, and shouldn’t, be judged based on what you see. It’s deeper than this.
To get back to my initial thought process—sometimes it’s hard to think of what the Something Else questions to a Muslim woman can be. So here I present you with:
Something Else to Ask a Muslim Woman:
- What’s your greatest achievement?
- Cats or dogs?
- Would you rather travel to the future or go back into the past?
- Pineapple on pizza?
- What do you think about the role of social media in terms of news consumption?
- Do you think Generation Z is the dumbest generation thus far?
- What’s your favorite city you have visited?
- Who was the first person to break your heart?
- If you had the power, what would be one new law you’d introduce in Australia?
- Is love the greatest power of all time?
And because these questions are riveting, I shall answer!
- (Other than making and birthing four babies) I was co-founder of building the first Islamic Museum in Australia. A museum showcasing the beauty of Islam through arts, architecture, and culture.
- Cats. Always cats.
- THE PAST. (Serial regret.)
- Yes, x100.
- It’s definitely handy, but common sense needs to prevail—check the source, dig deeper, ask more questions.
- Heck no. My son can set up our entire home electronics, and my daughter knows more about everything than I ever did.
- Tough one. Jerusalem probably.
- JTT. (If you know, you know)
- Where to start. Increase teacher salaries. Ban jailing minors, and instead use the money to create a rehabilitation system providing work, mental health help, and support to struggling youth. Ban detention centers. Welcome migrants. No one flees their home land willingly. This question is deep.
- Yes. Love is the answer, and so is empathy and vulnerability. These three ingredients make a heart soft, and when your heart softens, you spread good vibes and more love.
And on that note, here’s to good vibes, vulnerability, kindness, and more love.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Maysaa Fahour. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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