“Freedom”

13Nov08

Google Reader has a game it likes to play with me. I will start kicking around a topic, usually in the shower, and just begin thinking, “you know, there’s a blog post there.” Then I will check Reader during my morning breakfast-and-blogreading…and there’s a blog post on that very topic.

Reader did it again to me this morning, with this post from Jamerican Muslimah: The Mental Toll of Being a Muslim in a Post-9/11 World. My take is a little different, of course, being neither black nor Muslim; but it is serendipitously related.

I’ve been trending toward a more tznius/hijab/”modest” mode of dress over the past couple years. The health problems weren’t the original impetus, but they’ve supported it; I can’t go out in the summer sun uncovered anymore without crisping like a French fry, and I’m intolerably cold at temperatures below 75F. It also interested me for personal reasons. Partly, I was seeking the fine line that is looking my actual age (no one takes an attorney seriously when she looks fifteen) without looking frumpy, and partly, I was tired of playing the “most attractive girl in the room” game. Because there are three truths about that game: (1) no one can win it, as beauty is subjective – to someone, you will never be most attractive; (2) even if you win, you can’t put it on your resume; and (3) why the hell did I care if I “won” among acquaintances or strangers, since I’ve already found the person for whom I’ll always be the winner? And, partly, I like fashion, and more coverage means more layers means more fashion.

But I digress.

I was contemplating hijab this morning, particularly the head-covering portion. Apart from thinking headscarves are just plain beautiful, I absolutely see the spiritual value in that constant reminder that one is always in the presence of God. Nothing else has ever served to remind me of the responsibility that entails in quite the same way. Consequently, even though I’m not Muslim (though there is a clarity to the faith I find compelling), I have often thought about covering my head.

What stops me, I must admit, are the very same things that Samah’s post describes so well. I live in a rather conservative and overwhelmingly Christian corner of the United States. People on the street would almost certainly tell me to “go back to your own country” (Kalamazoo?), or worse. Frankly, being a woman (even a modestly-dressed one) on a public sidewalk is hard enough most days without having to take other people’s racist, religious-ist crap too. I am humbled by the strength headscarved Muslimahs and others display in doing it.

But here’s what really bothers me:

THIS is America? The country that has run around like a chicken with its fool head cut off ever since 9/11, squealing about how “the terrorists will take our freedoms”? This is “the land of the free,” where “they hate our freedoms,” yet I, a born and bred American woman, do not feel free to leave my house wearing a piece of fabric on my head, because I know other people will hate my freedom to wear it enough to unload any number of racist slurs in my direction – or worse, may attempt to cause me bodily harm?

Some “land of the free,” neighbors.

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3 Responses to ““Freedom””

  1. 1 Mish

    You’ll get smart ass, dumb comments no matter what, and of course it depends on the environment you live in, but I don’t think it’s as bad as some people think. When I wear hijab in public, nothing too horrible has happened. at least nothing you can’t live with. But I live in a very liberal city.

  2. Very well said. Its important to remember that in most of the US, freedom is only something that applies to white, able-bodied, hetero, cis-gendered, Christian males. Anyone else isn’t really a person in their eyes anyway.

    (here from my blog cause you linked to me, which is awesome and appreciated)

  3. 3 Dani

    Dori: ain’t that the truth. 😛


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