Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Hejab Hijab Harrassment

If we were to wake up some morning and find that

everyone was the same race, creed and color,

we would find some other cause for prejudice by noon.

Today I gave a speech on the harrassment, discrimination and subsequent retailatory firing from my former job. The young Muslim adults needed to hear how, in the Land of the Free, no one gives you Religious Freedom. You have to stand up for yourself and take it.

When I started my office job, I had an American-sounding name and a wardrobe that was modest, but not severly so. I was not pracising Islam.What I say is that I was born Muslim, but I wasn’t born to Muslim parents and I wasn’t raised Muslim. When I talk of my religion now, I say that I reverted (as oppose to converted), as I went back to the way I naturally was meant to be, rather than I changed to something new.

The office loved me, but they changed their attitude as soon as I changed into a hejab. I do feel that this piece of cloth is obligatory. I started to wear it on my two-week trip to Egypt, but I told my new husband that I didn’t think I’d wear it in the U.S. When we were changing planes in Frankfurt, I went into the restroom and took it off. But, when I walked out again, without it on my head, I felt suddenly and violently ill. We almost missed our plane as I had to run in the bathroom again and regain my composure.

One of the young boys asked me today, “Did you feel embarassed wearing hejab?” I answered, “No, I felt embarrassed not wearing it.” I would see Muslim sisters out shopping and at restaurants and I would want to approach them and say, ‘Asalamalaykom!’ I knew, though, that if I did that without wearing hejab, they might not understand that I too was Muslim.

Little by little, I would wear it out and finally I wore it to the office as well.

“Where did you park your camel?

“Are you cold?

You must be cold

since you’re wearing a scarf.”

“Is your shower broken?”

“Does your husband make you wear that?”

“Did you cut off all your hair?!”

There were lots of intrusive questions and remarks that adults in business attire know not to ask of an African-American woman or a Jewish woman, but feel compelled to ask American converts to Islam.

When I complained to the Human Resources Director, I was told that it was, “your fault for drawing attention to yourself." She went on to say that if I changed my hair color I could expect comments for that as well.

She missed the point that I was not capriciously wearing a fashion statement. I was observing my religion.The company, a big fat company which everyone has heard of, fired me shortly after I complained. All of a sudden, I had become a bad employee.

Two years later, a Federal Judge advised the company to settle since they didn’t safeguard my civil rights within the workplace.I received money, but it will never be enough to make me feel good about what happened. Even if I gained a new career path and a deeper faith, I lost a very well paying job and I lost some belief in our country and my fellow citizens.

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