Sunday, July 31, 2011

Reactions to my Hijab

Rasha and me.  Rasha was the assistant who helped us with
EVERYTHING while we were in Amman.  She is wonderful.
During my last day in Amman, I asked Rasha to go with Dilene and me to McDonald's and to the tunnel that led to the university.  There were shops in the tunnel and I wanted to buy some souvenirs.  One of the shops was full of scarfs that women use to cover their heads (commonly referred to as hijabs).  There were probably 50 scarfs--in bright, beautiful patterns.  Rasha asked me if I'd like for her to put one on me.  Honestly, I was honored that she wanted to do it.  I told her sure and asked her to pick out the one that she liked the best. Since I had admired her collection of hijabs over the last week, I trusted her taste.

Once Rasha had chosen the scarf, she put it on me while Dilene filmed and Rasha spoke to the camera.  I asked Rasha if me wearing a hijab would offend anybody.  She said of course not.  And sure enough, the locals just smiled and watched.  Rasha had the scarf on in no time.  I put my sunglasses on and was ready to go.  She asked me if I was wanted to keep it on.  I said of course.  I wanted to feel what it was like to walk down the street.  I had walked down the street many times during the last week as an uncovered woman; I wanted to cover and see if I felt any difference.  Rasha beamed and looked at my uncovered elbows and lower arms.  After all, women wear the head covering to promote modesty.  My naked elbows weren't too modest. I took the other scarf that I had around my neck and used it to cover my arms.

Rasha took a photo of me walking down the street from the tunnel back to the CIEE office.  That is the photo that ran in my university's newspaper last week.  I have been told that at least one person feels that she needs to pray for me because she believes I am Muslim or maybe she thinks I'm too friendly with Muslims.  I'm not really sure.

I'm not going to spend time on whether or not I'm Muslim.  I think that a stranger making that assumption about me is about as ignorant as the spam emails accusing President Obama of being Muslim.  I do want to spend some time on why wearing a head covering doesn't make anybody anything.  It's a head covering.  It's like wearing a hat or a 'do-rag.  For me, it was an opportunity to embrace the culture and take a walk down the street.

And while I'm on the topic, I'm afraid many American's ideas of what is Muslim is way off.  Christians, do you want people to think of David Koresh as a mainstream Christian?   Osama bin Laden and his posse were NOT mainstream Muslims.  They were extremists, just like Koresh was an extremist.  Rasha is a mainstream Muslim, and she is a wonderful, loving, fun person.  I would like to think she (and her beautiful hijab collection) would be welcome in Tahlequah.

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