Its a very slow day at work so I'm going to blog about something that really bothers me.
As a hijabi, despite some of its setbacks, I find that non-Muslim men will respect me more than "Muslim" men will. I, however, use the label "Muslim" in a mainly loose and generally ethnic fashion.
Non-Muslim men* usually regard me with the same disquieted, nervous, respect that they regard nuns with: as a God-bound woman who will rap their knuckles for misbehaving. There is nothing overtly sexualized or needy in their gaze because, to them, I am relegated to an untouchable realm of femininity. This is exactly the reason for wearing the hijab, and during my closeted Muslim days when I would wear it in Arizona and take if off when I returned to Minnesota I would study the differences in how I was treated and looked at. Needless to say I got lots of free stuff from random males (coffee, sodas, etc) when I was not wearing the hijab, but had more doors held open for me and more quiet gaze lowering when I was.
Free stuff with leering gazes VS disquieted respect. Hmmm, tough choice (not).
But I find that "Muslim" men regard the hijab in total contrary fashion. For them it does not say, "please, respect me," it screams, "I'm Muslim and available for you to look and accost me at your leisure!"
Working here in the hospital we have a valet service that is made up of 75% Somali** men. I hesitate going past the front enterance because of the way I am watched as I walk, and I attempt to enter the meditation room at random times for prayer in order to be there when none of the valets are praying. One brother, who seems to be the quasi-imam, has possibly the best attitude towards me (in that his gaze does not hold some sort of sexuality) but he still thinks it is quite alright to come up to me and engage me in random conversation for no reason at all. I made sure to mention my husband at various points in his interrogation.
Since I took the hijab I cannot count the number of times that I have been approached by "Muslim" men to ask me if I was really Muslim. Uh no, I wear this scarf for the sunscreen effect...
"Oh," says he, "MashAllah sister, mashAllah. So... how did you come into Islam?"
"Blah blah blah shortened synopsis of story blah blah," as I edge away towards my car/door/any exit nearby.
"MashAllah, mashAllah! So sister, are you married?"
When I was not married I would answer that I was engaged and/or any other thing that would mean continuing to pester me would not in any way be productive for him. Some of them got the hint and took their leave, some of them were obtuse and continued to follow me wherever I was attempting to flee to.
Now that I am married I must admit that the big shiny ring on my finger has greatly decreased the number of men who approach me. But it hasn't ended.
The other day I was driving, to the mosque for Arabic class incidentally, when I realized that the taxi in the lane next to me had slowed down to drive by my side. I ventured a look to find the driver waving to me and smiling in a very suggestive "please write your phone number in lipstick on your window so I can call you" fashion. Again 75% of our taxi drivers are African Muslim men**, and in response I shook my head in disgust and flagrantly broke traffic laws by speeding up and leaving him in my dust. Sometimes a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.
Once, a few years ago, I was walking to the grocery store in Tempe, Az, and took a short-cut through the liquor store parking lot. While doing so a car that had been parked there, quite close to the front doors, came roaring around to cut me off. Leaning across the passenger seat to leer up at me through the window was a crusty old Arab praising my jilbab and khimar saying that the girls at home didn't take hijab as seriously as we converts did. He also then offered me a ride to wherever I was going.
Really is it too much to ask that the "Muslim" men out there acknowledge the true purpose of hijab and lower their gaze? True Muslim men wouldn't look a hijabi in the eyes while talking to her let alone watch her walk down the hall or accost her in the streets.
One example of a true Muslim man: I was helping out at a bazaar at a Muslim commmunity picnic when a friend of mine came up to me with her husband to say hello. While I sat and talked with her he stood about 5 feet away watching his feet and patiently waiting until we finished talking (C you know I'm talking about your habib). He never spoke to me, or looked me over, or interrupted our conversation. Some non-Muslim women would consider this disrespect, as if he considered me too low beneath him to greet me. But they misunderstand the true intention of his actions, he in fact respected me so much as to consider himself disrespectful to force his attention on me. In this lays possibly the deepest misunderstanding of Islamic culture and the hierarchy of the sexes within it.
I wear hijab because I don't want men to look at my body or my beauty and desire me. I am, in totality, for my husband and my husband only. Thats why I wear hijab, and it pleases my God.
So, please, pardon me, but you're icky.
*Not all non-Muslim men respect hijab. There are the knuckle-dragging chauvinists who think hijab is a personal affront to their right to oggle women at any moment of any day. They are usually of the species that refer to Middle-Esterners/Muslims as towel-heads. I also once, while sitting at a bus stop innocently waiting for the bus, was approached by an Hindu Indian who, after telling me about his new wife and bragging about his great job, complemented my kohol and asked for my phone number.
**Not all the "Muslim" men who accost me are Somali or of African descent, it was just in these particular cases that they happened to be. There are bad Muslims of every race.
Check out UmmAbdurahman's blog about the same phenomena.