I was walking towards them, I looked in their direction, attempted to make eye contact to nod and say hello as I often do when passing people. They avoided my eyes, and eventually sent in my direction what I perceived to be a scowling look. This all happened within seconds by the way. I frowned and I asked myself, does the Muslim woman hate me?
You may be wondering why I assumed they were Muslim. Well, they were both dressed in full Muslim attire, covered from head to toe, including their faces. The only part of them that was visible was the small slit by their eyes so that they can still see where they were going.
I felt offended, and I thought to myself that these women hate me because I’m an American. They are in this country, but they hate my guts. She just scowled at me, (her eyes told me so) simply for looking in her direction to say hello. I bet that she’s one of those people who was celebrating during 9/11!
I made these assumptions based on little to no actual information. Then I began to wonder, why is it my instinct to think that she hates me, simply because she scowled at me? Is it because she’s Muslim? Her outfit, why did it make me slightly uncomfortable and fearful? Did she pick this up from me?
As all these questions went through my mind, I realized that the media has done a hell of a number on us everyday Americans. We have been so conditioned by television and the echo chamber to fear Muslims, that it is almost an involuntary reaction. I stand up for my Muslim brothers and sisters all of the time, I have been called stupid, naive, and asked if I’d risk eating the one poisoned skittles candy analogy. Yet, even with all that, when I saw these two women scowl, an internal reaction happened, a reaction that was further reinforced by the thoughts in my head after the scowl.
As a person who is always looking for ways to grow and learn, I brought this topic up to a Muslim friend of mine, and we engaged in some intellectual discourse over what happened, and what I perceived.
My friend asked me if I knew why Muslim women wear a Hijab, and I said I believe I did. It’s about modesty, and covering yourself up, more or less. He stated, more or less, and then continued, being aware of that fact, how do you think it would make her feel to have a man staring at her, trying to catch her attention when she’s clearly not looking for it?
Wow, when you put it that way, that makes a whole damn lot of sense. Of course it does, Angel. She’s covering herself because she doesn’t want attention. I understand that your intentions may have good, simply wanting to greet her and say hello, but you must understand that in our culture, women don’t simply talk to random men in the street. Especially a woman who is clearly very religious and true to her faith.
Did she scowl at you? Maybe she did, but your instinctive reaction to why she did it may have been off. I mean, maybe she thought you look like a jerk or something, but it is more likely that she felt you were being disrespectful.
His viewpoint made a lot of sense, and really clarified the possibilities of what happened. It also showed me how much influence, even as an ally of the Muslim community, the media, film, and television have had on me via the propaganda machine.
Growing Up Bronx
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