بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
Two weeks ago, my cousin and I had been on the search for several decoration pieces at target. Somehwere along our search, we had gotten distracted and were browsing through the clothing section when an old man approached us, and asked if we could answer a question for him. Upon agreeing to answer, he began to tell us about the “masked” lady that he saw, motioning with his hands to cover his face, trying to recreate the image of the niqabi woman he had seen walk by earlier in the store.
“Why do they do it?” he wondered.
We replied as best we could, telling him that it has to do with modesty and religion, and because neither of us were niqabis, we couldn’t give a concrete enough answer, and steered the conversation more about hijab instead. Assuring him that it wasn’t forced, it was a choice, it’s for greater spirituality etc.
The problem though, was that this guy was so set on telling us that “he believes America is for everybody” and when you come here he wants everybody “to be an American citizen,” and dressing like one, and he doesn’t think the niqab is American. He doesn’t get why she wears it, and through out this, he made it a point to mention to us before-hand how open minded he is of a person, and that the reason he is asking is because he is the kind of person who likes to look into the things he doesn’t know to be better informed.
I know that at this point, you are thinking, there’s nothing really wrong with that, he just wants to know.
The problem wasn’t his question, the problem (my problem with this) was his tone and his refusal to absorb anything that we were saying to him, I felt like we were talking to ourselves. The things that we explained to him not just about hijab, but about the Middle East and the craziness going on there seemed to go in one ear and fly out straight the other and he’d continue the conversation, reiterating that people shouldn’t wear Niqabs in America in an implied, but clear way.
His justification for his dislike of this foreign practice, is faulty in so many ways, the most obvious of which being the fact that America isn’t a religion and you could be an American and wear niqab.
What bothered me even more, was that he was talking about niqab in a way to tell us that, you guys are “good” for not wearing it, and in a way, I had this feeling that he would have the same conversation with a non-hijabi Muslim girl, implying to her that she is being good for not wearing that thing on her head.
And before I continue, I do want to be somewhat fair and add that this guy was fairly old, maybe in his 60’s or so, so I get where he is coming from and also at least he was speaking to us in a respectful and friendly manner (disregarding the message behind it). And despite the fact that he didn’t actively listen to what we were saying, at least he wasn’t the type to hate for no reason, and in some way, I guess this was his way of trying to be accepting.
And I guess there’s lots of people out there like that as well, though I wish there weren’t.
It reminds me of a quote my mother once told me:
A smart man is he who knows what he is doing and knows it, a dumb man, he who doesnt know what he is doing and knows it. And a foolish man, is he who doesnt know what he is doing, and thinks he knows.
Has anyone else encountered people like that?
P.S I understand racist isn’t the proper term to use in this case since the issue revolved around religion not race, but it seems like people take that word to mean any kind bias/prejudice, and they understand it more when you say someone is being racist, versus bias or prejudiced.