How hard is it to be veiled and living in a foreign country?

Lately, it’s no picnic to walk around with your head wrapped up in a religious symbol. If before it used to be about the veiled striving to prove they are no fashion-aliens, lately it’s been more of a we-are-not-terrorists case. But really, with the ISIS threats scaring the planet off, who can blame non-Muslims for being suspicious?

No one can understand the real struggle a veiled woman in a foreign country goes through unless they go through it themselves. It takes self-acceptance to believe that your beauty isn’t in the curls of your hair, but it takes faith to defend your religious beliefs in world war three. The question is how far can a suspicious person go? From verbal assaults to physical violence, there’s a long road of possibilities. Since the sexism percentage varies by the mile, it mainly depends on which part of the world you choose to survive in.

On some level, it really depends on your willingness to fight back. If the ones actually responsible bomb and run, and you are left to face the storm, you’ve got to have some techniques, woman!

  • Smile back when they give you “the look”

When they stare, check you out with disgust or whisper about you to their friend, you smile and look them in the eye. Declaring peace either makes them linger with guilt, or pisses them off. For someone who just got ‘the look’, both possibilities certainly work for you.

  • Keep a distance of ten feet

If they are enraged enough to insult you, you might want to keep a safe distance of at least ten feet between you and them, because you can’t tell just how far they might go. Or you can do it my way, and sprint!

  • Don’t initiate an approach

You don’t want to approach a stranger on the street, because you are likely to freak the hell out of them. If you have to ask about a way to a street, you might as well be picky with who you stop, because there is a huge possibility this person will walk away before or after insulting you. Your phone GPS on the other hand would never do that to you.

  • Come back

Hunting for jobs can be quite difficult, especially for front desk jobs. Bosses are usually looking for something with no religious cues, but you have to show persistence, manners, and qualifications. One way to get a job, is to come back.

  • Explain yourself

Sometimes it’s more funny than scary. It’s quite common for foreigners to call your veil an ‘accessory’, or to not understand what it’s for. But you can always un-become an alien for them by just explaining the simple concept of Hijab.

Foreigners tend to generalize what they don’t understand, Muslims are Muslims to them, without much sub-categorizing underneath. And while a fair share of them is genuinely nice, a lot of them are also scared. But so are you.

It’s okay to shiver every time a drunk person passes by, and it’s okay to always be alert, to fear every face, and to not fit in at first. It just takes time to realize that, when the world blames you for its own crisis, quitting your beliefs to live up to it isn’t really going to make you a better person. When the grounds beneath you shake, you’ve got to ask yourself, how far are you willing to stand tall? And the answer will tell you exactly how hard it is to be veiled while living in a foreign country.


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