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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I had forgotten what it feels like to be looked down on for my religion...

as-salaam aleikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I said my Shahada almost 1 year after the 9-11 attacks. But for a couple of months at least, no one knew unless I mentioned it to them because I had not yet started wearing hijab.

On day I went to a cafe with a couple friends, one who is a Muslim and who wore hijab at that time. I remember all of the staring she got. and at that point I actually felt a bad at the fact that even though I was a Muslim along with her, I didn't have to face the negativity.

It wasn't that reason alone, but shortly after I slowly started getting into wearing hijab. I took my time..wearing only during certain times, only in certain places, all the way until I was absolutely ready to wear it full-time.

It was in hijab that I experienced all the negative attitudes towards Muslims. I was living in Colorado at the time, and I do have to say for the most part, Coloradans aren't very nasty towards Muslims. Not to say I didn't experience any...because I definitely did... but I know of sisters online who live in very small cities and wearing hijab is very scary for them.

I have travelled a bit since I became Muslim and for the most part things have been just fine. In Japan, I did get looked at a lot but I never felt anything negative towards me. One of the times I was in Japan was August, the hottest/humid time of the year. Most of the looks were as if they wanted to ask "aren't you hot?" LOL

I have lived for a year in Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. That city is a big tourist city and its beaches are full of skimpy clad sun-seekers and surfers. I didn't feel much negativity there. My husband and I spent a few nights in a small town named Noosa in Queensland and I did receive a lot of stares there. Some of it was definitely negative.

I have been to Germany and Austria. I was warned that in Germany I would receive a lot of negativity. We only visited Munich and didn't feel much negativity at all. In fact, many many Khaleeji women there were wearing their abayas and shaylas there. attitudes were pretty much the same in Austria as well, Alhamdulillah. Perhaps it is not in Munich where the negativity Germany has other big cities.

I have been to Kerala, India where there is a large Muslim population but a definite size-able Christian and Hindu population as well. No negativity there either...although I did get a lot of stares from both the men and women--most likely just wondering where I am from.

And of course I have been living in Dubai, UAE for a little over 4 years now. If I get stared at here, its a whole different thing than from non-Muslim countries. Many Muslim men stare at women. UAE is a complete man's world and many families raise their daughters much more strict than they do their sons. So although Muslim, too many people practice culture over Islam so the men are spoiled and get to do whatever they want... and they do stare and stare and stare at women.

Even if you completely keep your eyes to yourself or to the floor, there will be times local men will attempt to come on to you. the simplest advice to avoid attention from guys is to always ignore them. there are enough women who will flirt back with guys and for the most part if you keep your eye contact away from them and ignore them when they talk, they usually will give up. but eye contact, a 2nd, 3rd glance... ohhhh they will be coming up to you.

ohhh I went off topic there... ok, back to my topic. anyhow, since living in UAE, of course it is very comfortable being a Muslim here.

well lastly, my husband and I just vacationed in Italy. We stayed for 11 days. one friend asked me if I was going to wear an abaya and I did consider it because of all the abayas and shaylas I saw in Germany and Austria. But it is cold over there so I opted to wear more Western clothing along with a big long sweater poncho for coverage.

I can tell you that in Italy I felt plenty of negative attention coming my way. It wasn't everyday all day long but it happened quite a lot. The worst of course was New Year's Eve when my husband and I were walking around and people were starting to gather in certain locations. People definitely were looking at me as if they were wondering if I was there to do something horrible. People were starting to get drunk and it was only around 8pm. They were only going to get more drunk as time went on. My husband and I did not stay out all night and went back to our hotel long before the fireworks started.

We visited Rome, Florence, and Venice. Rome is ok but Florence and Venice are beautiful places Mashallah. as for all of the negative staring I got from people, I did see people who would look at me and then make a comment (not to me, but definitely about me)but it was always in Italian so I never understood.

now, Italy is a highly Catholic country. with the Vatican and the Pope living within their country (although the Vatican is still an independent nation). I am sure this is what has to do with the amount of negativity I got.

don't get me wrong, I would go back to Italy again in the future. It wasn't so bad I couldn't enjoy my time. but one thing I definitely noticed was the lack of Muslimahs wearing hijab. if there were Muslims around, you couldn't tell. and so, that would mean most Muslim women there do not cover-- I saw a Muslimah in hijab very very few times. I can only imagine that I would have received even more negativity had I been wearing the abaya with the shaylas.


  1. hmmmm interesting... i was curious about the attention or feedback a muhajaba would get across europe.


  2. Can you believe that even in the Gulf a revert wearing Hijab can come across problems.

    When I closed my two businesses I decided to look for a job. I wore traiditional Khaleeji dress and everytime I applied to a European/Western owned company they more or less said I had to drop the Hijab or I would not get hired. Basically if they were hiring a Brit, they wanted a Brit who looked like a Brit, not a local style one.

    In the end I started another business this time from home as I refused to dress in a skirt showing half my butt just to get a job.
    When I was interviewed in Gulf News they actually mentioned my problem finding a job because of my hijab.
    Here is the article

    They got one bit wrong as I was never married to my local partner.

    Here in UK when I have worn Hijab I never came across any problems thanks god.

  3. salaam aleikum,

    ohhh sister Tahani, I've heard of stories recently where a woman is asked to remove her hijab for work. that is disgusting that this happens over here!

    I read your story and I am so sorry about your sister.

    the link to your site they gave is down... do you still have another site showing your works?

  4. Dude, Italy sucks. When I went through their airport, a couple of people shoved me around and said what would have been grievous insults in Spanish. (I can only assume that with the Romance language connection, there were similarities.)