Skip to main content

I did a demonstration once in downtown Lexington, Kentucky. I blindfolded myself and sat out a sign saying “I’m Muslim, not a terrorist. Do you trust me? I trust you. Hug me.”  This little girl, only up to my waist, cried into my shirt. I lost it.

Today is the second annual Muslim Women’s Day, started last year by @MuslimGirl founder Amani Al-Khatahtbeh (@amini) with the goal of changing the culture around how we talk about Muslim women.

The best way I know how to do that is to tell some of the story of a beautiful and courageous woman I went to high school with in small town Kentucky, Heather.

When she wears her hijab, she has actually been told, “If I close my eyes you sound just like a non-Muslim woman.” If people want to create safe spaces for us and enhance our general livelihood, Heather says, they can start by realizing that we are just like other women.  The hijab doesn’t make us more or less human or female, and in fact it’s a common misconception that wearing a hijab automatically equates oppression. The hijab is often a personal choice! Non-hijab wearing Muslim women exist, Muslims are not monolithic.

Heather was denied a job as a hostess because she interviewed wearing her hijab.  While talking to her today, she recalled her deep despair and days of tears. “I wanted to stomp and yell I’M A PERSON, with feelings! And a piece of cloth has nothing to do with anything!  When I interviewed at similar jobs without the hijab, I was hired.”

She dreams that people will do the necessary educational work, have conversations, ask respectful questions, and form relationships with Muslim women to begin to change the narrative around over generalizing and misunderstanding Muslim women.  For starters, she says, ISIS is not Islam. Some crazy people happen to be Muslim but I’m tired of being lumped together into one radical ideation of a religion and I’m sick and tired of defending myself.

Heather’s story of hurt, misunderstanding, courage and persistence is not isolated.  Today, and everyday, let’s center and raise the voices of Muslim women as we imagine free expression of Religion, culture, and expression.

Image of Blair Imani for them, by Lia Clay.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.