Living in the west has allowed me to accomplish personal goals I would never have accomplished living in Yemen.
This is not said begrudgingly and my allegiance to the USA has never wavered even at the height of Islamophobia post-911.
My gratitude to the country that took me and my family in has actually intensified in the past few years as a result of witnessing first-hand how a fair judiciary and compassionate public helped curb and ultimately destroy the Muslim travel ban.
All this, however, comes with a price…we’re not in Aden anymore. Being tolerant has to go beyond withholding your tongue and repressing your disgust at alien cultural norms, but accepting that people are different.
Living in college dorms allowed me to reflect on how I am perceived and how others perceive me:
Me: This immoral American girl dresses that way so guys can hit on her.
Them: This poor oppressed Muslim girl is forced to wear head gear.
Nothing could have been further from the truth. Through dialog with my room mate, and it took nothing more than 10 minutes and listening to each other, we dispelled these misconceptions.
No, she wasn’t immoral. She dresses in short skirts because…well, she looks good in them and it makes her feel better about herself; it has nothing whatsoever to do with boys.
And I wasn’t repressed. I choose to wear this Hijab because of my religious beliefs, which I choose to adhere to. This is what most non-Muslims need to understand.
I chose to wear the hijab. Most of us do – including feminists. Not wearing a hijab in an Arab country does, admittedly, draw frowns from the locals, but so does wearing the niqab (full head and body covering) in New York.
What I don’t need is sympathetic looks from commuters and a friendly face asking me if ‘I’m safe’. I don’t need liberation. Accept and protect my right to wear what I choose if you want to liberate me.