Thursday, April 10, 2008

Are You What You Wear?

Two articles appeared today in blogs which seem to ask that question: are you judged on what's on your head? Well, of course you are. Unfortunately, not everyone knows how to judge rightly, because there are so many different reasons why someone wears something on their head. See other entries here and at my webpage for more on that. Here, specifically, are Sikh men and a lovely black Muslima woman.

Ladies first: "Kameelahwrites" at blogspot in response to an earlier article about being black, about being black and Muslim, about being Muslim, and of course, wearing hijab, in "A Comment I never responded to...". The discussion is interesting and touching at the same time, almost as struggle to define herself. Part of the struggle:

This is hard for me because I am not really sure what to call my "own." I am Black-yes, but I am not really sure what that means to me. I did not grow up around my parents family and as such culturally all I know is tofu, Karachi chicken and random visits to the halal meat market where most folks either wore the safety-pin under the neck or the "Benzair Bhutto" look. So, what exactly is my tradition? The woman at my masjid did not always wear hijab and for those who did it was a badu wrap. That was not necessarily "my own" either because I am not from West Africa, nor am I from the Middle East or South Asia. I wish I could say that I opted for a hybrid of all of these articulations but I know I didn't; I strategically chose the "safety pin of death." If I were to borrow from NOI and the way they wore their scarves then I'd end up with a hybrid of sorts but at that point in my life I actively chose to disassociated myself from NOI because I wanted to be seen as a "real" Muslim and not to be confused with the Muslims many "real" Muslims thought were Black bandits stealing and manipulating "real" Islam.

The second blogger is from the Discrimination & National Security Initiative, whose article, "Through film, discussion, let's unlearn prejudice", begins with this illustration:
Three days after the 2001 terrorist attacks, a gas station owner stepped outside his Mesa, Ariz., shop and was shot to death.

The victim was an Indian Sikh. The shooting was in retaliation against Osama bin Laden. But the only thing Balbir Singh Sodhi had in common with bin Laden was that he wore a beard and turban.

They were from different countries and religions and spoke different languages. Sodhi was a law-abiding small-business owner who believed in the promise of America, its entrepreneurial spirit and its freedoms.

The article goes on to review the screening of a new documentary, "A Dream in Doubt," which goes further into this story and others like it. Just because a man wears a head wrap doesn't make him a terrorist. The photo above is from an article called "The Sikh On the Street" at MrSikhNet.
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