Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Ms. America

Running out the door late for class as usual, I jumped into the elevator and just barely made it in as it was closing (I try and make my 007 appearances as much as possible). Catching my breath as the elevator door closed, my neighbour who was standing next to me struck up a conversation about the Ms. America pageant that had just finished. Even though I've lived in California my entire life, being the person I am, I was clueless to most of the popular things going on in America, aside from watching LOST online, I don't have much of a connection and my friends frequently joke with me about this. My neighbour, a larger woman in her late fifties, asked me if I had seen the Ms. America pageant last night. I smiled as usual and shook my head saying that I hadn't and that I've never actually seen one. She exclaimed, " Ohhh a Muslim girl won!". Shocked, my mouth hung open in a half gasp half laugh, I set my two ton bag on the hand-rail in disbelief. Here I had this delusional image of a beautiful hijabi girl clothed in a long flowing white gown, graciously accepting some kind of award. Her family would be in the front row cheering her on, and little children would come bringing her roses while a dozen doves are released in her honour. There wouldn't be a dry eye in the house. Obviously I have no idea how these things worked. No sooner was I beaming when my neighbour added, "yeah she wore a bikini!" It was one of those daydream moments where you're listening to beautiful music and then you hear the record scratch and fall off the track. "Oh.." I said, awakening abruptly. "Yeah..." she said giving me an off look. "That's not very traditional...is it?" she asked me sincerely. I looked at her and smiled "Oh, no, not really...at all...". She nodded and said, "well, I like the way you dress!" as she left the elevator and the doors closed behind her. Surprised at her genuine liking of my loose long clothes and my hijab covering my hair, I felt the respect that I rarely feel with other Americans, and many times other Muslims who don't wear hijab. I felt really good about myself. Of course people will disagree with my choice to wear it, but I wear it for Allah. It doesn't phase me from wanting to wear it. But it is a wonderful feeling, and almost a relief when someone not only accepts your right to wear, respects your right to wear it, but actually admires you for wearing it. I would be lieing if I said I've received no hostility or harassment from people because of how I dress. I feel out of place in many settings where women walk around in loud clicking high-heals, bikinis, dresses the sizes of t-shirts, or jeans so tight and make-up so thick they may as well be painted on. But I also feel proud in those settings. Proud that I can still feel beautiful without baring it all, or highlighting my face with make-up, and I don't know many western women who would feel comfortable enough to go out of the house in the morning without at least some eyeliner and lipstick. They attract attention superficially, and I attract attention in another way. A personal way. I attract attention with the way I speak and use my mind. I attract attention with my actions. I attract attention with my character. With my hijab I feel there's a light around me protecting me as I walk, and I feel so close to Allah the One Creator. Someone once argued with me that beauty should be shared with everyone and not hidden. I told him it's my choice not to "share" my body, and if he thinks beauty is only on the outside, well that's unfortunate for him! Thank You to all the Muslims and especially the non-Muslims who give us your support, and thank you for having the courage to tell us you admire the way we are. Jazakallah Kheirun.


  1. Well written. Miss USA might have one the beauty pageant but she is loosing her life and ultimate goal.

    She is born to shiite Lebanese parents that practice christian values. I wouldn't categorize her as a Muslim Miss USA.

  2. I love this! I may not be Muslim but I love your strength and confidence. You are so smart and strong and I really do admire your self-respect in a society that is obviously lacking in it. You're beautiful because of who you are <3

  3. Your sincerity is admirable. May Allah reward your efforts and strengthen your faith even more.