Being visibly Muslim

I wrote about the stares and the fear on my personal Facebook. As I waited for the next train home a man walked towards me, giving me a glance that send shivers down my spine. My brother saw it too – my 16 year old baby brother. Without even saying anything he stood in front of me, protecting me from the tracks – just in case. Just in case this was another person filled with so much hate that they could push a women into the oncoming trains, or rip the headscarf off her head, shout vile abuse or spit at her.

He walked by, I was safe – that time. And I wanted to cry. Because I felt so exposed and so paranoid. I wanted to sob because my little brother felt it too. And I wanted to howl because I knew it was so much worse in other places – Paris and outside the multicultural bricks of London – and if I was struggling here, how on earth were my sisters getting on there?

The response I got felt like a punch to my gut. White friends from university – who I hadn’t spoken to in 2 years – telling me I’m the same as Donald Trump and all the facists. How I was spreading hate and I did not deserve to be in this community.

I don’t feel safe. Not in being visibly Muslim, not in expressing my feelings and not in finding solidarity.

This post was written in response to the daily prompt Safety First

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26 thoughts on “Being visibly Muslim

  1. No. Well, I understand your plight of fear and assimilating successfully into the culture without be judged or warranted for aggression.
    But specifically to the Facebook post, the white friends, I believe are in the wrong. You’re not spreading hate. You’re spreading awareness. Even if it’s not in a way they agree with, it’s not the same as what Donald Trump and others are doing. Not in my opinion.
    I don’t why this got me a bit flustered but it did. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I must say I struggle with this.
    I have always been fascinated by different cultures and appearances. I like to look at the colors and fabrics that are not present in my own wardrobe. I like the shape of other people’s eyes, the structure of their hair. The jewelry, the melody of their language and the mannerisms.
    But lately I can not express my admiration the way I used to. Glances are perceived as stares and proximity becomes a threat. I hate that the world is in this current state. How can I express my appreciation for my exotic compatriots without making them feel exposed? And how can I convince them the spotlight I place on them for that short glimmer in time is full of respect and affection? Why must I turn away my eyes and why does this, in turn, make me feel sad? I don’t want to ignore your presence!
    What would you advise?

    Liked by 1 person

    • So when you said “I must say I struggle with this” are you refering to islamophobia? I’m confused because that is what this post is about so when you say you struggle with it I assume that’s what you’re talking about? But that doesn’t seem to match the rest of your post.

      You ask the following questions:

      How can I express my appreciation for my exotic compatriots without making them feel exposed? And how can I convince them the spotlight I place on them for that short glimmer in time is full of respect and affection? Why must I turn away my eyes and why does this, in turn, make me feel sad?

      My blog is a space for me to share my feelings and to be honest – more of a space for me to share my feelings with people of colour. I am happy to engage with people who show solidarity but I don’t have the energy to teach people. Sometimes I do, but that is not my job.

      My advice would be that you use the Internet to research why it is problematic for white people to call people of colour “exotic” and why people are uncomfortable with being stared at (particularly surrounding the histories of eugenics and people of colour being put into zoos because they were seen as exotic and oh so different to the norm/whiteness).

      I personally do not believe your stares are required to acknowledge someone’s presence. Do you stare at people who look like you to acknowledge their presence? Or is that reserved for those who don’t look like you – and therefore are your stares for them or to fulfil your own curiosity?

      Liked by 1 person

      • “I struggle with this” refers to me being aware of the fact that me looking at a muslim lady at a train station might make her feel uncomfortable, but me purposefully NOT looking at her makes me feel like an ass as well because I would be ignoring/avoiding her. I can act as if I didn’t notice and that she completely blends in with the crowd, but that would be a lie too. So there you have it: my internal struggle with how to deal with this.

        And the definition of “exotic” is “originating in or characteristic of a distant foreign country”, so in this case I think it fits quite well.

        I wasn’t asking you to teach me how to behave. I thought you might have experienced what works best for you and would care to share. Didn’t mean to offend O.o

        The only way to fix tensions in society in my opinion is by communicating and getting to know each other. You think of me as ignorant, but there is only one way to fix that. Maybe your blog isn’t the right place for me to learn.

        Good luck with your writings,

        Liked by 2 people

      • I still don’t understand why letting her blend in with the crowd would be abnormal? Because surely that’s how everyone wants to be treated – just like everyone else is treated? I don’t think her hijab is worn as a fashion statement – to be noticed and to stand out.

        Again, I have problems with you calling her exotic and you’ve summed up very well why. I was born in this country – I am not from a distant foreign country. Women who wear hijab occupy many areas of the world – and have been living here for many many generations. Many other faiths wear a headscarf too. By seeing it as exotic is othering – like they don’t belong here. And we do belong here. Calling someone exotic may be said with the best of intentions and seen as a compliment but I assure you, no women of colour appreciates it. They may take it with a smile but it’s the same as asking someone “where are you REALLY from?”

        I don’t know if you did Google it. These are the first 3 articles that pop up when I googled:

        http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/13/never-call-a-beautiful-woman-exotic_n_5675547.html

        https://atriptothemorg.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/post-the-sixty-ninth/

        http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/04/racism-sexism-mixed-race-women/

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      • I wrote a blog in response to our interaction here. Not sure if I should ping back to you. I would like to, but thought you might want to read it first. If you’re OK with it, let me know and I’ll add a link!

        Liked by 1 person

    • Maybe just stay in constant reminder that you are not an enemy of whom you examine. Besides, I stare at people all the time but on the low. People don’t like being watched (which is understandable) but you can still secretly satisfy your curiousity. Of course, by actively engaing in the community that these people you are fascinated by come from, you can quickly reduce these feelings of “inappropriateness.”
      Beingwoke makes a point that self-educating would also help your case.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. It is so frustrating when you speak of your fear and then people equate that to the hate speech that drives that fear in the first place! Telling people one is scared is NOT AT ALL the same as vilifying entire groups and inciting hate crimes.

    Honestly, ffs, I feel like the entire privileged world has utterly lost any capacity for critical thinking or even just independent thought. The same people get all in a lather if you try to lump them into a group (“notallmen” and “alllivesmatter” come to mind) but they see no discordance at all in doing the same to people they have “Othered.”

    So sorry and so mad that you have to endure this day after day after day. For the waste of your time and your energy that could be more usefully spent.

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  4. No matter who we are – gender, color, religion, beliefs, etc., there will be some that disagree. You have to be you and move past it. As my mother use to say “rise up above it”. Easier said than done, yes of course it is. But we have to put forth our best effort to live life to its fullest. Be aware and be strong.

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      • I think the issue I was writing about is more than just what people say. I meet hundreds of strangers on my daily commute to and from work. One bad person does not mean the world is horrible. What I’m talking about here is the ability to talk about it without being accused of being horrible and just vent. Releasing horrible things is a method of moving on also and surviving.
        Also – the fact I was trying to explain is to many people it’s more than words. People should not get attacked in the street and be expected to move on in a positive direction without justice.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I liked this post. The way I saw it was personal fear of safety because you are visibly identifiable as Muslim. I felt that fear. How would I feel if I was scared walking down the street and worried someone was going to attack me for just being me, but not for anything I had done.
    Complex problem largely because others are afraid also, they feel attacked and their families and future threatened. You can’t blame people for wanting to feel safe.
    Maybe you can suggest how can we all achieve our need for feeling safe.

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    • My solutions involve looking towards the media and the role they play in creating this feeling of fear.
      For example the majority of attacks across Europe/uk are not done by those they would have us believe. I think the language and images used is what misinforms people and therefore creates divisions and scapegoating between communities.
      This is also upheld by policies and laws that do the same – making people suspicious that someone might be thinking of a thought that perhaps one day may lead them to do something else that harms others. I mean there’s more empirical evidence for violent video games causing actual violent action than there are for the signs the government suggests (eg getting a new set of friends, wanting to be adventurous).
      What solutions would you suggest?

      Like

    • Also – I don’t blame people for wanting to feel safe. But it’s very hypocritical of people to blame a whole group of people for being criminals and then to take it upon themselves to attack said group of people. Because then you will become the terrorist

      Liked by 1 person

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