Gender & Identity, Life

I shouldn’t be celebrated for being “brave” enough to wear hijab in America

In America, Muslims who enjoy BLT sandwiches are less scary than those who pray five times a day.

The atmosphere of the US is stifling religious diversity and forcing us into secularism

It is nothing new to hear about problems with racially targeted hate crimes in the United States, but how do other minorities fit into this problem?

How do Muslim Americans continue to live their lives while also staying safe?

Most Muslim Americans have turned to secularism, which literally means to denote activities, ideas, and other things without a religious or spiritual basis. There’s nothing inherently wrong with being a secular follower of religion if that’s how you choose to express your faith, but when secularism is the only avenue in which one can express their faith that is where we go wrong.

Religious extremism has been assigned a face.

It’s the face of your doctor, your cashier, or your neighbor whose “foreign” features silently alienate themselves from the proper born and bred American citizen looks like. It’s the face of my father, a man named Mohammed Nur who receives a little extra inspection at customs. It’s my face, the face of a child born of immigrant parents who wears her religion incontestably around her head.

[bctt tweet=”The social climate of this country has proven an excellent petri dish.” username=”wearethetempest”]

The political and social climate of this country has proven an excellent petri dish for Islamophobic rhetoric to grow and evolve. These racially charged threats from all around us are causing practicing Muslims to change their ways.

There is now increasing pressure from both sides of the political spectrum to tuck the louder parts of our religion away.

To only acknowledge our religiosity for diversity cookies, or to speak on behalf of a growing population of 1.6 billion, when acts of terror choke impressionable audiences with the fear of the unknown.

Secular Muslims aren’t just more visible than their orthodox counterparts, but they’re also preferred. Western societies can swallow the idea of coexisting with Muslims that drink, don’t fast, and don’t wear hijab because they mistake this brand of secularism with progressiveness. Anything more than that becomes unpalatable, archaic, and far too foreign to welcome with open arms.

[bctt tweet=”Those escaping religious persecution has become a place that punishes religious diversity.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Fellow Muslim brothers and sisters are suffering at the hands of an increasingly bigoted public and this has forced many practicing Muslim Americans to pause and reconsider how they express their faith. Suddenly, praying in public has become a self-inflicted invitation for discriminatory sentiment, something that flashed in my mind when I thought about taking out my prayer mat to worship in the Miami International Airport. The day after the current president’s electoral victory, hijab-wearing women around the country hesitated before donning the badge of our faith and the symbol of our devotion to not only God but to ourselves. Even non-Muslim immigrants and people of color who dared express any semblance of religiosity suffered from Islamophobic discrimination; most clearly seen among observant Sikh American men who wear their turbans in public.

Suddenly, a country founded by those escaping religious persecution became a place that punishes religious diversity and ignores the spectrum of religious observance in order to appease what MLK Jr. referred to as the “white moderate.”

[bctt tweet=”Suddenly, it requires courage to resist being a secular follower of faith.” username=”wearethetempest”]

We are tucking our religion safely away so we won’t be held accountable for the actions of religious extremists overseas who claim to represent a religion of peace while slaughtering men, women, and children.

A Mohammed that goes by Mo won’t be as scrutinized by ignorant co-workers and can at least hope to avoid topics of religion that may derail dangerously if he “blends in.” A Muslim woman who leaves her hijab at home can maybe hope to get home alive by the end of the night.

[bctt tweet=”I shouldn’t be applauded for wearing the hijab in public.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Secular faith exists.

But forcing observant followers of the religion to abandon who they are is something we must work to destroy. I shouldn’t be applauded for being brave enough to wear my hijab in public.

I should just be able to wear it.