When I was 19, I stood on stage and talked about being propositioned by a university professor. I said he was a dirty old man and repeated some of the choice phrases women hear every day in the streets of Egypt.
When I left the theater later that evening, I overheard two men:
“Isn’t she ashamed of herself for saying such dirty words when she’s veiled?!”
Fast forward five years. I sat on a panel next to the president of Catalonia, speaking to more than 800 people from over 40 countries. And yet later on that day a man raised his hand after my presentation and said:
“You know, we’re doing you a favor.
We’re helping you take that symbol of oppression off your head.”
I’m tired of being the token “omg-look-such-an-articulate-awesome-non-stereotypical hijabi!”
I’m tired of hijab taking up so much space in my life.
I’m tired of speaking about it.
I’m tired of explaining it.
I’m tired of defending it.
I’m tired of being treated differently.
I’m tired of having to prove I’m normal.
I’m tired of being thought stupid and backwards.
I’m tired of the judgments — from both sides.
I’m tired of the opportunities denied.
I’m tired of expectations.
I’m tired of hijab.
It’s been a long, hard slog. I’ve been veiled for 15 years. I spent years writing about it, justifying it, hating it, loving it, ignoring it, defending it.
I did theater. Spoken word. I represented. I wrote angry critiques of the representation of Muslim women in media. I didn’t let other people speak for this Muslim woman. I spoke for myself. I wrote award-winning editorials like this one. Whoot whoot.
(If you’re interested, the project I loved most is crowdfunding here.)
But then I was done.
I was over having to constantly justify my choices.
I was over preaching to the choir.
I was over having to prove something.
I realized being thought of as “amazing” was actually insulting.
Because the assumption was that being veiled meant I was stupid and very non-amazing.
Hijab is so personal.
And yet it’s so public.
I’ve been told I had to take it off if I wanted to anchor a show.
I’ve been told “I wish I could shoot you.”
I’ve been refused entry into several venues.
I’ve been called a “dirty Arab,” an “ignorant Muslim,” a “stupid whore.”
I’ve been asked to sit at the back of a lecture hall.
I was just spat at in Paris last month.
You get the picture.
Being a hijabi is tough. It really is. There are days I wish for nothing more than to take it off. Days when I just want to be like everyone else. I don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb. I don’t want to be different.
It’s just covered hair to you. That is all. No more, no less.
The fascination with it is crazy.
Behind the veil.
Beneath the veil.
Unveiling the Muslim woman.
*ooooooooh insert Aladdin music here.*
Let it be. You don’t have to understand why I wear it.
There’s so much more to write.
But I’m already over this post.