Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 21st 2014 Contents | CULTURE |
By Bavina Sookdeo
SINCE THE HORROR of September 11th
gripped the world, many Muslim women have
been faced with various challenges because
of their attire. Despite the fact that it is not
so, many persons feel as if every Muslim is a
terrorist, and many of our sisters deal with
this unjust battle silently. Women from
around the globe shared their experience with
WOW on how they are treated because of
their beliefs. Some have highlighted the posi-
tive reactions and others the negative.
One 35-year-old doctor, originally from
Australia and now living in Jordan, related, "I
started wearing the hijab three years after
the September 11th attacks. Initially, I was
nervous to wear it since I worked in a hospital
for psychiatric patients, plus it happened to
be a Christian mission-run hospital. I was so
nervous walking in the first day whilst wear-
ing my new attire that I could hear my heart
racing, but I was pleasantly surprised because
many of the patients were so kind.
Some of the elderly women commented on
how they loved the colour or fabric of my
hijab. Also, my boss called me in to make sure
I knew that the hospital would not tolerate
any harassment against me. She said that if I
experienced any prejudice or felt targeted,
that I should tell her so she could deal with it.
I felt so grateful."
When asked how she feels when travelling to
different countries, the doctor related, "I trav-
elled to Europe and then to the Middle East.
In Europe people treated me fine. This also
was a relief! Though most of the time on the
streets or when shopping in Australia I felt
safe and respected, there were, sadly, one or
two disappointing occasions. One time, a man
drove past and screamed 'Murderer!' at me.
Another time, a man walked into me with his
trolley at the supermarket and then said
'scum'. Apart from these times, I have not
really been mistreated, thank God."
Another woman living in Jordan, this time a
32-year-old Trinidadian-Canadian, has also
gotten mixed responses. She wears the hijab
and the face veil. "One guy on the subway in
Canada told me to 'go back to my country'
she related. 'So I told him 'this is my country'.
He said, 'Well, dress like us then'. Another
non-Muslim girl told me to "never stop cover-
ing, because there was immense strength in
it for one."
At another point, she was taking some femi-
nist courses at the University of Toronto. "At
that time I found a hot pink pin saying 'This is
what a feminist looks like,' and decided to pin
it onto my face veil. Every day I took the pub-
lic transit to school and I noticed everyone
reading it. It stood out! Some people would
frown upon reading it but most would smile.
A girl in my class said, 'I respect you because
you respect yourself'. Another non-Muslim
girl thought she would give the
hijab a try because of my state-
The other incident "was a bit
shocking". "My friend from
Nova Scotia had converted
to Islam and we were walk-
ing together in Toronto. It
was a few months post 9-11.
Cars were honking and people
were shouting at us. I was 21
at the time. The world had
gone paranoid. A man on a bicy-
cle saw us covered. He stopped
and started swearing at us. He
wanted us to take off our hijabs.
We ignored him and he started
chasing us on his bike, saying he
would kill us. We ran to a building
with a security and the people there
A 35-year-old Trinidadian lawyer living
in the US told us of positive feedback
that she received. "I receive greater
respect and admiration because I am a
professional, and I have been wearing
hijab throughout my profession (since
I was 18)," she said. "I have been asked
many interesting questions. I love it, as
it allows me to explain all the various
misconceptions of the hijab, and fur-
thermore, my faith -- Islam. Also, peo-
ple notice from far that I am a
Muslim, and if they don't know what
faith I am, they ask (especially, since I
have been living in the USA). People
are always curious and want to find
method of spreading the faith. People
believe I look elegant and graceful. I
wear my hijab appropriately and proper-
ly, without compromising; yet, at the
same time, I do not look boring or old
As for the negative side of things, the young
woman related, "People believe I belong to a
terrorist faith, and they say hurtful words,
either out loud or behind my back (especially
in the USA). People also think I am crazy to
be "covered up", especially in the long, hot
summer days. People believe and say I am a
"submissive wife/woman" without any rights
or a voice. In addition, as a professional, in
court, back in Trinidad during a trial a judge
refused to address/talk with me. I was work-
ing with Gillian Lucky back then."
The stories of all interviewed were similar.
The women say they continue to
struggle with the comments and
misconceptions of many; howev-
er, they continue to find
strength in the positive
feedback they receive and
in their faith, which they
hold close to their hearts.
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