Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 31st 2016 Contents | COMMUNITY |
By Roslyn Carrington
In collaboration with Naballah Chi
IN RECOGNITION OF WORLD HIJAB DAY on February 1st, WOW
Style writer Naballah Chi and I decided to do something different.
WOW has always supported hijabi women; conservative style is
an essential element of T&T's fashion conversation.
But what would it be like, we wondered, for a Christian/secular
woman to don the much-misunderstood garment and step out
into the world? Last week, we decided to find out.
A day or two before my adventure, I asked Facebook: What should
I do on my day in hijab? Where should I go? Who should I speak
to? The responses were telling...and disturbing. Friends egged me
on to instigate confrontation: "Go to the US Embassy --- walk with
a lawyer"; "Go and apply for government housing"; "Visit a Mas
camp"; "Go to a bank"...even..."Go buy a ham."
I was taken aback, and saddened. It seems that the anti-Islamic
sentiments that pervade the foreign media have become such a
prevailing part of the international conversation that we believe
that the same applies down here. Everyone was expecting my day
to be filled with drama and strife. Would it?
But this trip wasn't about seeking confrontation or provoking a re-
action. This experience was for me, to broaden my perspective,
and walk in another woman's shoes. In my twenties, my brash and
angry days, I looked upon hijabi women with disappointment and
resentment. Those were the days in which I marched in the
streets and wrote angry letters. I used to think --- and maybe even
said --- women have fought so hard for so long, and given up so
much, so that you have the freedom to dress as you please...and
yet you cover yourself up. You let the team down!
Now, almost 30 years later, experience and wisdom have taught
me that feminism doesn't mean forcing all women to fit into your
mould and your perspective. It means encouraging and supporting
all women in their endeavours, in their quest to live their lives on
their own terms.
Would I still feel this way after a day in hijab?
Naballah helped me into a gorgeous, flowing black and gold abaya
(dress) and hijab (head scarf), did my makeup (because you know
I can barely do it myself), and we set out for Arima. I went with an
open mind, and very few expectations ... except that maybe I'd be
hot and sticky.
I wasn't. It was quite cool and comfortable, and I felt very chic. I
had a few issues with my handbag getting caught in my scarf, and
it was weird having my ears covered, but honestly, I took to it like a
duck to water. Over the next few hours, we strolled through the
streets, went shoe shopping, had a nice lunch, and paused to inter-
view random people about their thoughts on hijab. We rounded it
out with a visit to the St. Joseph Masjid --- a new and exciting ex-
perience for me.
I learned to be more conscious about my walk, as two women
spoke to me about the way I let my skirts fall open, showing my
legs. It seems that, because I live in jeans and t-shirts, I do not glide
like a lady: I stride about like Kylo Ren.
I learned to be more aware of my assets. I have wash 'n go hair,
and never fuss with it much. My three states of coiffure are either
1) Two plaits, 2) ponytail or bun, or 3) open on my shoulders. I gen-
erally think my hair is the only thing I have going for me. But look-
ing at my photographs, with my hair covered, forces me to focus
on other things. I learned I have pretty eyes.
My faux pas
Ordinary me: "Lotto is 5 million! Woohoo!"
Hijab me: "Don't you dare...."
Ordinary me: "The store playing sweet soca! Take a little chip!"
Hijab me: "Behave yourself...."
Ordinary me: "Barbecue pigtail! Yesss!"
Hijab me: "Nooo...."
Discrimination and marginalisation
As a journalist, it would be cool to come back with hair-raising
tales about the nasty attitudes I faced; all the doors that slammed
shut in my face because I was wearing hijab...but the fact is, it sim-
ply wasn't so. Dirty looks? Negativity? Discrimination? Zip. None.
Sorry to disappoint, but my day in hijab was simply a girlfriends'
day out. We chatted about our lives, our relationships and our
families. We shopped. We had lunch. We went to worship.
And although this is not my life, and I certainly cannot have the in-
sight that women like Naballah would have, I say we're lucky to
live in Trinidad where, despite our failings, and the ugliness of a
few, most of us live in a state of mutual respect, harmony, accept-
ance, peace and love. Let's not let the toxins swirling around in
other countries poison our own. We're Trinis; let us show the rest
of the world what that means.
Happy World Hijab Day
To view Naballah's video of our adventure, go to YouTube and
search for Christian Wears Hijab for A Day | World Hijab Day
|Trinidad & Tobago 2016. See Naballah's blog on
January 31, 2016 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
WOW MAGAZINE| 11
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