Hijab 'It's only a piece of cloth' - RUMAH QURAN Network

05 September 2007

Hijab 'It's only a piece of cloth'

One of our sister lived in Euroup says:'It's only a piece of cloth'
Can a woman in a hijab still get a taxi? asks Yvonne Ridley
Sunday December 12, 2004 The Observer

Wearing a headscarf is no big deal... unless you happen to be a Muslim, in which case this simple piece of cloth arouses opinions, hostile glances and worse. When I converted to Islam I knew I would have to embrace the Muslim head-dress. As for many converts, it was a huge stumbling block and I found all sorts of excuses not to wear the hijab - basically a symbol of modesty and a very public statement.

When I finally did, the repercussions were enormous. All I did was put on a headscarf, but from that moment I became a second-class citizen. The reaction from some people was unbelievable. I knew I would become a target for abuse from the odd Islamaphobic oik, but I didn't expect so much open hostility from complete strangers.

I can no longer be sure of getting a black cab in London... something I had taken for granted for many years. Let me give you some examples from the past two weeks: Edgware Road in London, an area with a substantial Arab population: three black cabs, orange 'for hire' lights glowing, drive past one after another. It's about 11.30pm and I'm freezing and desperate to get home. A fourth taxi stops to discharge a white passenger. I reach the vehicle and tap the window, beaming from ear-to-ear at my saviour. The driver turns and stares hard, his face contorted into hatred and rage, and drives off.

Last month, pre-hijab, he would have returned the smile; now, in his eyes, I have been transformed into a terrorist. Next day, horrified by the events of the previous evening, I tell my story to a non-Muslim friend who is not sympathetic. 'Well if you go around looking like a Chechen Black Widow what do you expect?' she says. But black is my favourite colour. It's just that my little black dress has become a big black dress.

That afternoon, I change my black hijab in favour of a paler silk turban-look which still covers my head. Very Vivienne Westwood, I think. I get my black cab without hassle, just a mere wave of the arm and I am taken to the West End for lunch with a very close friend who happens to be Jewish.

It was the first time she had seen me in a hijab but she just laughs and makes some nice compliments. In her eyes I am the same person she became friends with five years ago. No change. What a relief. Later that day I meet some Muslim friends who also have not seen me for some time. They are excited to see me wearing a hijab, but tell me I look like a cross between a cancer victim and an Israeli settler. I report the unsavoury incident in the Edgware Road which had reduced me to tears.

'Welcome to the real world. This is what we have to put up with 24/7,' one tells me. There is more laughter at my apparent naivety, but I am puzzled and peeved at their acceptance that this is the way of things in Britain today. A couple of days later I attend Yasser Arafat's memorial at London's Friends' Meeting House and dress appropriately in black with matching hijab showing a small sliver of Palestinian kaffiyeh across the forehead.

I may as well be sporting a Hamas-green 'jihad' tattoo across my temple from the openly hostile glares I receive from some passengers on London's Underground. Feeling uncomfortable and intimidated I get off at Baker Street and go to a taxi bay for the shortish journey down Euston Road. 'It's just across the road, why don't you walk?' barks the cabbie before returning to his newspaper.

There have been other incidents including one taxi driver's, 'Don't leave a bomb in the back seat,' or, 'Where's bin Laden hiding?' There are also amusing moments such as being congratulated in Regent's Park mosque for my excellent grasp of English.

But, in the eyes of many, I no longer am a real person. Waiters talk loudly and slowly if I am on my own, and if I am with a non-hijabi female, she is asked what I would like to eat. So, when I see a woman wearing a hijab, regardless of whether I know her, I smile and say in Arabic, 'As-Salaam-Alaikum,' which means, 'Peace unto you'. I know that the rest of her encounters that day may well be hostile.

Yvonne Ridley's current affairs show The Agenda will launch on the Islam Channel later this month.

========
I was coming back from a long journey, and Allaah decreed that my seat in the airplane should be beside a group of carefree young men whose loud laughter and voices were too much, and the air was filled with clouds of smoke from their cigarettes. By the wisdom of Allaah, the plane was completely full and I could not change my seat.

I tried to escape from the problem by sleeping, but it was impossible… When I got fed up of their noise, I took out my Mus-haf (copy of the Qur’aan), and started to read what I could of the Qur’aan in a soft voice. Soon after that these young men started to quieten down. Some of them started to read newspapers, and some of them fell asleep.

Suddenly one of them said in a loud voice, even though he was sitting right next to me, “Enough! Enough!”

I thought that I had disturbed him because my voice was too loud, so I apologized to him and carried on reading in a whisper that only I could hear. I saw him holding his head in his hands, then fidgeting in his seat, moving a lot. Then he raised his head and said to me angrily, “Please, stop it, I can’t stand it!!”

Then he got up from his seat and went away for a while, then he came back, greeted me with salaams, and apologized. He fell silent, and I did not know what was going on. But after a while he turned to me with his eyes full of tears and said to me in a whisper, "For three years or more I have not put my forehead on the ground, and I have not read even one aayah!

For a whole month I have been on this trip, and there is no evil action that I did not indulge in. Then I saw you reading Qur’aan, and my world turned black and my heart was filled with despair. I felt as if someone was strangling me… I felt every aayah that you read coming down on my body like a whip.

I said to myself, for how long will this negligence go on? Where will this path lead you? What will happen after all this foolish play? Then I went to the washroom, do you know why?

I had the strong urge to weep, and I could not find anywhere else to hide from the people’s sight!” I spoke to him in general terms about tawbah (repentance) and turning back to Allaah, then he fell silent.

When the plane landed, he stopped me, and it seemed that he wanted to keep away from his companions. He asked me, with a serious expression on his face, “Do you think that Allaah will accept my repentance?” I said, “If you are sincere and serious in your repentance, then Allaah will forgive all your sins.”

He said, “But I have done terrible things, very terrible.” I said, “Have you not heard what Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): ‘Say: O ‘Ibaadi (My slaves) who have transgressed against themselves (by committing evil deeds and sins)! Despair not of the Mercy of Allaah, verily, Allaah forgives all sins. Truly, He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful’ [al-Zumar 39:53]?”

I saw him smiling with joy, with his eyes filled with tears, then he bade me farewell and left. Subhaan Allaah al-‘Azeem! No matter how great a man's evil and sin, in his heart there is a seed of goodness. If only we can reach it and make it grow, it will bear fruit, insha'Allaah.

This seed of goodness is always fighting in man's heart, even when it is covered by layers of whims and desires. When Allaah wills good for His slave, He causes the light of guidance to shine in his heart and guides him to the path of those who are guided. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning):

“And whomsoever Allaah wills to guide, He opens his breast to Islam; and whomsoever He wills to send astray, He makes his breast closed and constricted, as if he is climbing up to the sky” [al-An’aam 6:125]

Contributed by: Enas Esmail

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