Apparently, the type of cloth you place or wrap around your head defines how you will be treated.
I'm a Christian and I cover my hair with a variety of things-- it doesn't really matter what it is, so long as it's covered. I always marvel at the difference in how I'm treated based on *which* head covering I pick.
In Chicago, if I wore something that looked more hijab-esque, I was often the last person people would sit next to on the train or bus and people seemed to have trouble making eye contact with me. Except hijabis or other Muslims-- hijabis smiled and salammed, like you said, and Muslim men often asked me where I was from, quickly followed by whether I was married.
If I wore something that looked more like an Amish kapp, perfect strangers would sit down next to me and tell me all about their life and their relationship with God.
When I covered with something that looked like it could be a fashion statement or for warmth (a cute knit hat, say), it was in between. People weren't especially forward with me and they didn't avoid me.
I think part of it is that overtly religious attire does mark us as different, it does make us set apart, and people respond to that difference. It is important to understand if you want to be different and what that's worth to you, I think. On the other hand, the fact that people respond to me differently in a kapp than in a hijab means that there's also some Islamophobia in there too. And that's worth combating-- I think we can do this though by talking about it like here and also hijabi women may need to make the first move more in friendship, because people may be uncertain about how "different" hijabis want to be.
It was fun feeling like everyone around me believed I belonged in their culture by default, and not as part of the begrudgingly adopted diversity piece of the pie.
I never questioned that I was being given less respect and love, or that I was not as accepted. I always thought that the type of treatment I was exposed to was just how the world was. I didn't know people could be nicer.
Thank you winter. Thank you subzero temperatures.
I pray one day, and soon, that people will be familiar enough with all other cultures and beliefs that they are not afraid or have reservations, and that the thing that stands out to them is not the wrap around my head, but the smile on my face.
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