Don’t Let Anyone Tell You Who You Are

Things have been fairly quiet on the feminist front lately—at least on my feminist front. I haven’t written a post for Femagination for a week.  But that’s partly because there hasn’t been much to inspire me. And frankly I’ve been more focused on my journey as a new Muslim. (If you’re curious about that, check out I, Muslimah.)

The Burqa Controversy

That doesn’t mean that my being a Muslim has nothing to do with feminism. On the contrary. As a Muslim woman, I’ve been very aware of the controversy about the recent ban in France on the burqa. I don’t wear the burqa and can’t imagine ever wearing one, but I’m solidly on the side of a woman’s right to wear one. I think those who claim that it is a sign of oppression (and that includes some feminists) need to talk to the women who wear them, especially in the West. If they’re so worried about Muslim women’s welfare, shouldn’t they be asking the women what they need and want?

People who are concerned about terrorism are somehow reassured that they will be safer if Muslim women’s faces are clearly visible. What does showing one’s face prove? And what are they going to ban next? If they start banning the abaya (a long over-dress) or the jilbab (a long overcoat), shouldn’t they also ban all long coats, dresses and skirts? But of course they won’t do that, because it’s only Muslim clothing that is threatening. Is it just me, or does anyone else see that as profiling?

Racial Profiling

That’s what is surely going to happen in Arizona when its new immigration laws take effect. Hispanics will be targeted as “suspicious” and more likely to be illegal. No matter that they may have lived in Arizona longer than most of the white population. It will be interesting to see the statistics after these laws have been in place for awhile. Anyone who is “foreign-looking” (meaning not white) is either a terrorist or an alien (hence the name “alien”?).

I’m sick of the white people in this country acting as if they’re the only ones who belong here. That’s just ludicrous. With the exception of Native Americans, we’re all immigrants, or the descendants of immigrants. That’s hardly a new observation, but some people can’t seem to get it through their thick skulls. You’re an American if a) you were born here, or b) you live here. (Technically you’re not an “official” American unless you have American citizenship, but I’d argue that you can live here long enough without becoming a citizen that you start identifying as American.)

I’m in a somewhat unique position of not looking like a “typical” Muslim. I’m fair and have blonde hair and blue eyes (plus I don’t have an accent). Even when I’m wearing a hijab (head scarf), I’ve had people, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, ask if I’m a Muslim. They’re profiling, too. But the Muslims who find out that I’m one of them are delighted, while non-Muslims are mostly just surprised. I suppose one reason why I wear the hijab is that it is harder for me to be recognized as a Muslim without it.

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