Hijabi Expectations

No cursing:

I don’t curse in conversation or around other people although when someone cuts me off on the beltway… anyway Ramadan is coming.

When I didn’t wear hijab no one ever apologized for cursing in front of me but now it’s quite common that a person will refrain, catch themselves just as they are about to swear, or apologize for doing so in my presence.

I asked one of my co-workers who had just stubbed her toe in the copier room why she held back from cursing and said sugar instead and she replied that it was because I was in the room.

Ok, but why did you think you shouldn’t say it in front of me. And she asked me if I ever swore in public and I said no, never. And she said, I know and that’s something everyone knows about you just by seeing you.

No expressing critical opinions:

This one seems to get me into the most trouble because I am always opening my mouth to express critical opinions. I think I’m expected to be quiet and submissive so when I actually say something which doesn’t fit into that preconceived mold people (usually my supervisors or professors) are shocked and upset and I usually get referred for some verbal counseling.

And if you online it’s worse because you then you’ll be called immature or lacking in sufficient tolerance, understanding, and manners.

No getting angry:

People already think something is wrong with you and if you get angry they will just think that you (and all other Muslims) are crazy.

No having fun:

People are always staring usually frowning when I and some other hijabis go out to enjoy ourselves at restaurants, the beach, museums, on the metro, the park, the Imax, tennis court, basketball court, etc. I don’t know if they feel threatened or are just prone to frowning and making snide remarks.

No use of proper English or slang:

We are not supposed to speak perfect English even though we were born here or even if we came from “over there”. And we certainly aren’t supposed to be down with the local culture.

No being comfortable in your clothing:

Are you hot? You’re making me hot just seeing you.

No, actually I’m alright.

Are you cold? Why are you wearing that thing on your head?

No, I’m a Muslim. Is your face always that red?

Where are you from?

New York. No really where are you from. Um, well my parents are from Nigeria.

Not to be tech saavy:

I do some computer consulting and it seems like every time I go into a tech store I get the “she must be as dumb as clay” salesperson. I don’t like to waste time in computer stores so I go in having done my research beforehand and only want you to tell me where an item it or to take it out of the locked glass case.

No I didn’t convert because of a man:

Can’t say I knew any Muslim men before I converted.

Well someone must have influenced you right?

Um, well I didn’t have any Muslim friends before I converted. The only Muslims I “knew “were the ones I saw on tv.

You mean the terrorists?

Um, no actually I meant the ones in Michael Wolfe’s Hajj documentary.

Are you a terrorist?

No, are you?

Of course not. How dare you. I’m surprised at you. Is that what Islam teaches?

I have to go now.

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Author: Ify Okoye

Muslim woman, RN, & rebel with a cause.

4 thoughts on “Hijabi Expectations”

  1. People really expect you to be quiet and submissive? What a waste… you sound bright and non-submissive (is that even a word). Sterotypes, I guess.

    Anyway, I enjoyed what you wrote.

  2. When I begin speaking, faces change as the image or stereotype they had formed gives way to the reality of the figure standing before them.

    I think part of it has to do with my upstate New York accent and that they were not expecting me to be so assertive.

  3. Wow…that was quite an accountl. Sadly, it’s an issue many hijabi sisters have to face because of all the preconcieved stereotypes. Keep on surprising them…

  4. asalaamu alaikum muslim apple,

    i have run into the same hijabi issues that you have. i like it when people are surprised at my goofy personality. i have had so many people tell me i am the nicest muslim they have ever met and i typically respond have you ever tried talking to any other muslims to which they look dumbfounded.

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