By Sarah Ghanem
Yes, I’m a Muslim. Yes, I am a hijabi. And yes, I cried my heart out when I got to know about the evil attack of terrorism in Manchester, the largest terrorist attack witnessed in the region since the 2005 London tube bombing. And while I was devastated on learning about the victims of the attack and thinking of their families, I could also not help but feel terrified about the aftermath of this attack. This is because being a Hijabi, I was well aware of the looks of suspicion and hatred, psychological abuse and even possible assaults that my hijabi sisters were likely to once again experience all over the world.
It was just about two months ago that a hijabi’s picture was getting viral on all social media platforms as she was attacked for being unconcerned about the victims while she stood on the Westminster bridge, right after the terror attack. The criticism was so hurtful that it forced the woman to come forward and share her experience. The truth is that she was just an innocent victim of the incident who was as shocked, as shattered and as devastated as anyone else present there and yet she was targeted simply because of her hijab. How hurtful is it that even in this age of modernism, we continue to be unable to look beyond a woman’s attire and draw conclusions solely based on hatred.
This is where the term “passive terrorism” comes in, a term that was originally linked to hijabis by a US military white paper. Simply speaking, passive terrorism is the act of encouraging terrorism by declining to speak against it or being unable to actively resist it.
It is indeed extremely unfortunate that wearing a hijab is considered by anyone as an act of passive terrorism. For those who believe this, it is important to clarify that head coverings are not only specific to Islam but they are common to a number of other religions, including Hinduism and Christianity. So if the headcovering or veil of a catholic nun or an orthodox Jew is not considered as passive terrorism, why does the hijab fall in this category? Isn’t such unjust labeling an act of terrorism, racism or extremism in itself?
So how can Muslims counter such bigotry? By representing what Islam stands for, of course. As a hijabi Muslimah, I can proudly say that all my religion ever taught me was peace, kindness, equality and humanity. And it made me even prouder to see these ideals being represented by the Muslims of Manchester in such tough times. It really made me wonder how all Muslims can be blamed for these atrocities when Muslim drivers were giving free rides after the attack, when Muslim doctors were working 24 hours to help the victims, when local Muslims offered their own homes and food to anyone in need and when Muslims all over the world came together to raise thousands of pounds for the victims.
Such attacks are almost always followed by verbal abuse and even physical assaults on hijabis, which makes this a time to be prepared. I personally know many women who decided to take off their hijabs as a result of these attacks or because of the fear of being a victim to them. This definitely is not the answer. What you need to do is try and reason calmly with the attacker. If this fails then the best course of action is to avoid anger and practice patience since this is what Islam teaches us. Remember that you can never please everyone and that by retaliating you will only stoop to the low level of the attacker, which is most probably what they want. Your silence can be much more powerful than any retaliation, so simply brush aside the hatred and carry on with your life. If the situation gets out of hand then try to get out of it as soon as possible or call authorities for help.
If you’re a non-Muslim then you can help by taking a stand against any hate crime that you witness, as this is not a matter of religion or race but a matter of humanity. If hijabis in a particular community are experiencing such hatred, then non-Muslim women too can wear a headscarf as a proof of their solidarity. After all, isn’t it every woman’s right to dress the way she wants?
There are strict guidelines in both the Quran and the life and sayings of Holy Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) that prohibit the killings of women, children, old people and even fruit bearing trees in times of war. So if Islam is a religion with such rules during war, how can it permit the killing of innocent people in times of peace? All hijabis and Muslims in general too, must remember such messages of Islam during these testing times. I request my hijabi sisters to continue spreading the love and proving their worth and hopefully one day, the world will be evolved enough, to realize that being a hijabi does not make us a passive terrorist.
About the author:
Sarah is a happy Muslimah from the UK who is passionate about modern, yet modest Islamic clothing for women. She is also keen to explore the intricacies of the Western and Islamic culture and she happily shares her thoughts with readers from all over the world.
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