Covered Up

Please remember while reading the following post: I wrote this as a commentary on Islamic women who feel free to choose how to dress in public, not those who are subjugated into a hidden life. 

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I recently heard an interview of a Muslim woman who was verbally assaulted because of the fabric she wore on her head. Despite the discrimination she faced, she was committed to wearing her head-dress in public.

The woman didn’t say why she felt so strongly about her hijab. Maybe she wears it to honor the verses of the Quran that instruct Islamic women to embrace modesty. Or maybe it’s a way for her to stand up for her faith despite the undercurrent of distrust toward Muslims. My guess is some do it for a less profound reason. They simply don’t want to fuss with their hair, and I can certainly respect that.

I get jealous of a Muslim woman whose son attends my daughter’s preschool class. I show up every Tuesday and Thursday completely disheveled. My hair being the first sign that I can’t get my sh*& together in time to put a brush through my ratted, unwashed mane. She gets to come every day looking dignified and sleek with the same black fabric draped over her head and neck.

Not only is it slimming, but it also covers potential neck wrinkles as she ages.

I know some westerners think that the head scarf is a way to suppress women, but I wouldn’t doubt that a smart female who happens to not be a morning person thought the whole thing up.

Whatever their reason, I am impressed by the women in today’s world who walk proudly in their hijabs. They clearly do not allow the judgments of others determine how they live out their faith life.

I am a Christian, but I wasn’t always. When I first dove into my relationship with Christ, I wore a small cross sometimes. To me, it was like wearing a 25 pound, blinking florescent sign that played “Jesus Loves Me” whenever someone would come close enough. Similar to those annoying toys in stores that sing as soon as you walk by. That subtle yet bold (for an introvert) outward profession of faith hasn’t happened much since the inception of my Christianity. It made me uncomfortable because I knew how the symbol around my neck was perceived.

In college, I based my view of Christians on the extreme people I came in contact with. Those that sat next to me on the plane and insisted, after only 3 minutes and 21 seconds of talking with me, that I should accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. The women on campus that wore long skirts and held signs that read “Education for Women will Send you to Hell”. And the guy who lived in my same dorm, who said he was on the path to becoming a Christian pastor, but smoked weed like a chimney, slept with anything that drunkenly walked by, and used racial slurs frequently.

I thought in blacks and whites a lot back then. I mixed together all of the extreme behaviors and ideas that I witnessed, and created one, homogeneous Christian prototype that I assumed all people of that faith fit.

It still amazes me that I eventually accepted Jesus as my Savior. It wasn’t because of some two minute spiel from a complete stranger (I have heard of cases where this worked…just not for me). My Christian conversion happened after twenty some years of searching for the thing that filled an empty space in me, then grappling with the doubts and questions that came with believing in something I couldn’t prove. I also learned to detach my personal faith from the faith of others, which in turn helped me become a less judgmental person (sorry weed smoking dorm guy…I get it…we’re not meant to be perfect).

The point of this isn’t to describe why or how I became a Christian. It’s to say that now that I am, it’s hard having been on the other side and knowing what some non-Christians think of me. Whenever I reveal to someone that I am a follower of Jesus, I picture their thought process. It’s the same one that played through my mind years ago in my B.C. life. I see them hauling out a large cardboard box with “Christian” written across the top. They hurriedly pick me up and stuff me inside, making sure none of my limbs are hanging out, then tape it tightly shut with camo duct tape.

In their mind I am living a life within these walls. I think the same as other Christians, act the same, and believe all the same things. Oh, and I really only want to hang out with other Christian boxes.

When I list all of the atrocious things that I could be associated with if I was restricted to this box and the stereotypes therein, I am riddled with guilt and embarrassment. It’s why I am often reluctant to say certain trigger words that make my faith obvious, like “blessed” or “I’ll be praying for you.”

I know I shouldn’t care.

If I was standing firm in my faith, I’d tattoo a cross on each of my eyelids and greet strangers with closed eyes and a t-shirt that reads, “I LOVE JESUS”.

He is the MAN.

Lots of Christians adorn themselves in Jesus fashion and bible verse tattoos, and just like those women wearing hijabs, I respect them for their self-assurance. Maybe I’m too worried about what people think of me (actually, I know I am). But I can’t get over the fact that somewhere along the way, Christianity got muddled in this whole mess of humanity. Instead of love, sometimes it’s associated with words like hate, exclusion, and pain. And over our history, things done in the name of the Lord have been malicious and evil. On the same level as recent acts of terrorism by people professing to be Muslim.

Because of these things, I can’t walk outside with “crossed-eyes”, and I honestly wonder how women brave the world in their hijabs. I want to stop the women in fabric and ask, “why?” It doesn’t seem fair that they should feel obligated to wear a clear indicator as to their faith, while men hide behind a clean shave.

If I were them, I’d make a custom fabric for my head-scarf with the words “No, I am NOT a terrorist. Thank you for wondering” in large print.

It’s the same way I wish I could place an asterisk on any “Christian” remark I make or cross I wear. I want to hand people a tri-fold brochure explaining the following: No, I don’t believe that doctors should be murdered for performing certain surgeries. I don’t believe that LGBT people should be restricted from being the person they are and loving the person they love. I don’t believe women should be banned from leading a church. I don’t hate non-whites…Etc. etc. etc. 

Yet as I think of that brochure, I realize I don’t want to be known for all the things I don’t believe in. That’s exactly the attitude that gets people stuck in boxes. It’s pointless to define what or who I do or don’t associate with.

Because to everyone outside of those that I consider close, I am 100% of the time, someone or something I am not.

This is how I think it might feel to be an Islamic woman. In the morning she looks at her hair, deciding whether she should cover it or disguise herself as someone she is not. A non-conformist in a conformist’s costume. She tries one day to go without. Feeling naked and exposed. The wind a constant reminder of how she is diminishing her faith and a tradition passed down.

She senses what it would be to live without her faith. To lose the very thing that feeds her soul and gives purpose to her daily routine. To forget the five tenets that weave a thread between her and other believers. Those that aspire toward peace, self-discipline, and charity.

By the end of the day, the colors of the world are less vibrant. The music isn’t as powerful. Her interactions with family members leave a bitter aftertaste.

By losing her scarf, she loses some of what she stands for. She decides she would rather be in a box.

She braves the world covered up.

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