As a Muslimah who is recognisably one – all be-hijabed and abaya-ed up, I often find that people treat me better because I am a Muslimah – holding doors, being careful not to touch me, not swearing around me, avoiding crude talk around me. But sometimes, you do think that it would be nice for people to see beyond the scarf and abayah and brown skin (to be frank) and see the person that is there.
What has brought this whinging on? Usually I don’t care what people think, I can speak for myself and challenge their stereotypes if I feel the need to. But recently, one of my managers, who I get on very well with and a colleague were having a conversation about their interest in literature and particularly sci-fi. No big deal, apart from the fact that they would never have had that conversation with me. This saddened me a little because I love sci-fi, particularly post-apocalyptic novels and I love talking. Even more I love talking about books, for hours.
Usually I rise above it telling myself that it is my choice to dress this way and therefore I have to accept all that comes with it. Usually I just tell myself it is good for people to have low expectations and then for you to deliver above them. Every now and again though, being treated as if I am stupid, or would only know about certain things, gets to me. Things like religion, cooking curries, terrorism and…that’s seems to be about it. Oh yes, and plus the assumption that every ones makes that I live in Green Street. Nothing wrong with Green Street, but why does every person I meet assume I must live there?
Sometimes it’s understandable. So much of our community is not born or raised here, so the cultural markers and milestones in our lives differ. They have interests you would not expect to share. Also so many sisters in my community barely speak English. But still, if I work with you, and produce good work at that, you should expect me to have half a brain. If I was born here and grew up here, my references would be similar to non-Muslim and English people of the same age – maybe not the drinking and clubbing, but certainly the shell-suits and baggy jeans, Philip Schofield and Gordon the Gopher in their cupboard on CBBC after school, Roland Rat, Punky Brewster, He-Man and She-Ra, Thundercats, New Kids on the Block, Just 17 magazine and the feud between Take That and East 17 when I was at school (my Sisters from over the pond are probably thinking WHAT ON EARTH is she talking about by now).
Bit of a whinge, but just a reminder also, that our priority might be our faith, but we still have other things that we are passionate about – books, fashion, culture, travel, business, art, pop culture, sport – you’d be surprised what you find when you are willing to widen your scope to look beyond the fabric that covers us.