Saturday, September 26, 2015

A Blessing In Disguise

Recently, I attended at dinner with some other Muslim women of various ages. A couple of them were unmarried and we were talking about their experiences in the “matching-making” scene. Generally, Muslims are mentioned to each other through family and friends, and then one or both decide whether to ask for an introduction to the person or their parents.

One of the girls, who happened to wear the scarf, was telling us about a lady that had said her brother was looking for a wife. As they discussed her brother, it came out the guy did not want to marry a girl who wears the scarf. When asked why, the sister replied that the brother felt that people stare at girls with scarfs too much and it would make him uncomfortable.
If he found the scarf unattractive, I would have no problem. We can have our personal attraction preferences. I do not even mind if his belief system does not include the scarf as a requirement – yes, some Muslims have rejected the idea. (Not all Muslim women wear the scarf and not all Muslims agree about everything in Islam – shocker!)

But for a Muslim man to be so cowardly as to want to choose a Muslim girl who does not wear the scarf simply because HE is uncomfortable with people looking . . . well that just shows he is a boy, not a man, without a strong sense of self. 

[Note to boy: The girl, not you, is the focus of the attention, whatever it may be, so I hope you wait to become a man before you take on the role of husband.]

Often when I am out with my friends who do not wear a head-scarf (Muslim or otherwise), they will turn and tell me people are staring at me. My husband sometimes tells me the same thing.  I almost always reply, “Really? I hadn’t noticed.” And I really haven’t.  Mostly I forget that I am wearing the scarf and, therefore, look different.  If I happen to remember, or notice looks, it does not bother me.

Why does it not bother me?  Because really . . .  I do look different.  I would get the same looks if I had a purple mohawk, a large number of tattoos, or multiple piercings. Not that there is anything wrong with those things either, but people are just not used to seeing it.  Anytime we see something we are not used to seeing, myself included, we look. The vast majority are just curious – the few that aren’t should be ignored as ignorant and unhappy people.

To make matters more confusing for people, I do not fit the stereotype of a Muslim woman.

I am fair skinned. I have blue eyes. I wear color. I usually wear pants. I wear much the same clothes as the majority of the population except I have a scarf covering my head. I also walk with confidence and almost always smile.

To further complicate matters, I speak with an accent - just not the one they are expecting! I have a southern drawl that, despite living in Arizona for just under two decades, does not appear to be getting any lighter.

The choice to wear the scarf is mine. No one forced me. But with that choice I am well aware that I look different. And that’s okay with me.

On the plus side, the scarf means I am instantly identified as a Muslim . . . or sometimes a nun (go figure).  For me, that is not a bad thing. I love being Muslim. The best thing about being identified as a Muslim, for me, is that it very often leads to people asking me questions.

I do not mind the questions. I embrace the questions. I am grateful for the questions. Because when people ask questions, it leads to conversations. It leads to connections. It leads to mutual understanding. It even leads to relationships.

But that can only happen if I am open to people and different perspectives as well as confident in my choices and my sense of self. 

And the world definitely needs more of that.