Being the daughter of a father who used to backpack during college days, I grew up admiring the idea of traveling. I would dream about trips to be made and destinations to be conquered even before I actually started to travel. And when I did start to travel, my biggest concern was the hassle of issuing a visa. Visa issuance for the unfortunate lot of unprivileged passport holders is such a hideous process, one that the people with entitled passports know nothing about. Yeah, I’m a little envious I admit.
In recent days, besides that predicament came another more annoying one, the hijabi-attire, how it is being perceived and more importantly what it “suggests”! And with the growing unpopularity of Islam all over the world, that perception keeps on getting narrower.
Honestly, I’m aware of how mindboggling the situation is and how it can lead more people to fear us. But let’s take a minute here to contemplate on that thought. Are we really being condemned for the acts of a stray group of people who pretend to be Muslims?! Isn’t it a little unfair over here to generalize? Given the fact that history is full of all kind of horrifying ventures that were performed under the name of religion or politics. Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not giving anyone a taste of his/her own medicine. I know better than to judge people for the acts of others, I just wish if we could be given the same courtesy.
If my attire intimidates you then allow me to tell you how your disapproving looks and gestures towards me leave me so uncomfortable. I would walk into a restaurant and you wouldn’t have an idea how that oh-my-God-she-is-gonna-blow-us-up-to-pieces gaze hurts me deep inside. Allow me to tell you how I fear for my life knowing that if something happened to me, no one would bother to offer a helping hand because I’m “different”. How when I travel solo and stay in hostels, I will be avoided by most travelers and in some occasions the hostel staff! And if I’m going on a tour, I would be the person to be handled reluctantly. Let me tell you about this one time when I entered a bar to buy some water and got screamed at by the owner’s little kid. Or the other time when I got food poisoned and have fallen sick at an airport before taking off and no one cared to ask that solo-traveler who is a veiled Muslim if she needed any help. I wouldn’t even talk about the “special treatment” we receive at airports specially during security checks.
I’m aching inside at this downpour of words over here. Don’t you think it’s sad? That a group of people gets eliminated because of their “differences”? Be it color, race, faith, or even attire! But why do those “differences” matter anyway? Are we supposed to be exactly the same? Wouldn’t it be just dull? To be all identical? Where is the uniqueness in that? Wouldn’t a little diversity be needed? Appreciated even? So we can teach and be taught? About culture, history, customs, music, and civilization? Won’t that interconnectedness be enriching? To live in an ongoing flow of enlightenment? Because after all, aren’t we all human-beings sharing the same worries and concerns hoping to live our lives the best way we can?
What about all those different religions and beliefs, aren’t they all under the same basic-principles umbrella? To love, be kind to one’s self and to people, to speak the truth and do no harm, to forgive and not judge, and to “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you”? Isn’t that an intuitively Universal Religion? One that we all believe in by default? Then why all the hatred and preconception?
On the other side of the coin here, prejudice doesn’t always prevail. There were times when people got curious about that veiled traveler who went road tripping solo in Iceland, hiked the Quiraing in Skye, attended musicals, who read during train trips and dived wearing a Burkini. I salute those courageous individuals who shock off the hesitancy and approached me for a small talk. A talk that reveals who we really are as veiled-Muslim-females and sheds some light on our personalities. We did voluntarily decide to cover but that cover is a mere statement of our beliefs and not a shroud in which we wrap our morals, ideas, and perceptions regarding who we are or who we aspire to be as individuals.
Yes, I’m a proud veiled and I come with a big appetite to everything beautiful in life from a line in a book to the burbles of a flowing river stream. I didn’t disconnect myself from the world because of my decision to cover. On the contrary, I live my life fully according to what I believe in as a person without any judgments towards others. Who am I to judge anyway? And why would I want to burden myself with such retributions? I willingly decided to live lightly of all hatred and prejudice, to be and let be, to experience all that I can and to make my life worthwhile.
So kindly give us a chance and allow yourselves to get to know us because in meeting a veiled traveler, you get to have an opportunity to seek the truth behind all the stereotyping inflected upon us. Give yourselves a chance to spread tolerance, to see the beauty behind all the divergence. To accept. And in doing so, wouldn’t life be a lot easier? Enjoyable? May we all have the strength to tell apart what is just from what is ill and have the courage to live accordingly.
“We are all different, which is great because we are all unique. Without diversity life would be very boring.”
— Catherine Pulsifer