Thursday, 5 March 2015

Why Scarves - by Nazneen Ahmed

by Amita Murray

To the woman who growled at my headscarf on the train.

During our shared journey you repeatedly tried to catch my eye in order to start what, I don’t really know. You glared, you grimaced, you pulled grotesque faces. Would you have leapt across the seats and worn out commuters to punch me if I had risen to your jibes? Would you have ripped off my scarf?

Part of me wanted to look up, defiantly, and ask you what you wanted. A fierce pride boiled in me when I saw that hate in your eyes. But then. Part of me thought of my tiny son waiting at home for me, how if you got off at my station, you could easily find out where we lived. So I kept my eyes down.

I noticed you drawling to your companion and saw you were drunk. Did alcohol dissolve the barriers of politeness that might have kept that hate locked within you, for no one to know? What is it about my scarf that enraged you so much?

Because my scarf denotes my Muslimness. You hate me because I am Muslim. I smiled wryly on the train. Because I have a secret, one that you will never know.

I am Muslim. I wear a headscarf. But the secret I wouldn’t want you to know is that I do not wear my headscarf because I’m Muslim. I wear it because I have alopecia. I have no hair to conceal. I conceal the fact that I have no hair.

My sisters who wear the hijab wear it as a shield, as a crown. My scarf is a shield also, from cruelty, from ignorance. My scarf is a crown to what I have lost, to what I have survived.

But I also have grown to love my scarf because now I am seen as a sister. My scarf marks me out, as it did to you, as a member of the fold and family of Islam I once drifted away from but found again during my darkest times. You hate my scarf, and you hate what it stands for. But I love my scarf, and I love Islam.

So I would never want you to know that I don’t wear my scarf to cover my hair in a “Muslim” way. I am proud of my scarf and I am proud of being Muslim. They give me a strength that no amount of whispering, under-your-breath hatred could ever break. You do not understand it. In the spirit of sisterhood, I pray that one day you might.

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