Tag Archives: Muslim

Fear and Loathing in America (and beyond)


By Sara O’Connell, one of our Hijabulous writers. Honest and Eloquent. So glad she is writing again!

Fear and Loathing in America (and beyond)

I have slowly reached the point where I realized I not only should, but must write. I must speak my voice, in response to the intolerance that has plagued humanity. From the most recent Newsweek cover headline that screams “Muslim Rage”; to the tragic murder of Ambassador Stevens in Libya; to the increasingly widespread climate of Islamophobia in the United States, and beyond; to the provincialism that many Muslims so strongly cling to. Yes, I must articulate that which lies restless within me.

I just finished meeting friends, two sisters, for coffee. Following their departure, I sit at my laptop typing furiously. Sabina and Saira, one an accomplished writer, the other an aspiring filmmaker. Both highly opinionated, outspoken Muslim women (the best kind, in my humble opinion), working toward creating a better world, through the use of their respective gifts.

We met at Starbucks, along with Sabina’s charming, and very flirtatious, 7-month-old son, Musa. Sitting outside on a beautiful Fall day in the Bay Area, there was no shortage of topics to discuss amongst ourselves.

Sabina and I talked about the challenges we both face in wanting to remain truthful and honest in our writing, while at the same time, not wanting to hurt those we love by revealing too much. Although Sabina and I are both grown women, raised in America, we have not forgotten that we come from close-knit backgrounds, in which our personal confessions can often lead to judgment and isolation within our respective communities. We agreed that in our experience, there is almost an unspoken rule amongst Muslims that we are not to air our “dirty laundry,” as we are already under intense scrutiny by media, government, and people in general.

Saira shared her newest film project with me, in which she hopes to tackle the very relevant issue of Islamophobia, particularly in light of the global response to the film about Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him).  The three of us mutually opined that it is disturbing to witness a number of Muslims who immediately set out to apologize for terrorism carried out in the name of Islam. Personally, I don’t feel the need to apologize, for I in no way associate with those who hold the blood of innocent life on their hands. To me, they do not carry the right to call themselves Muslims.

I graduated from Portland State in June, majoring in communications. I left the path of least resistance, two scholarships at prominent schools in Northern California, the comfort of a tight-knit circle of family and friends, in pursuit of a greater challenge; I wanted to find out who I really am.

With a degree under my belt, and what feels like double my age in life experience, I still couldn’t honestly answer who I am, because as it turns out, life is full of constant transformations. Since graduating, I have struggled with being able to turn out a decent piece of writing. While I realize that I am my own worst critic, I still can’t help but listen to the doubtful voice in the back of my head. It’s all been said, and by those much more eloquent and intelligent than myself.

I’ve published before, each time receiving myriad responses. My writing mirrors me; it’s either a love/hate reaction, rarely in-between. It’s difficult coming up against that. While I would love to say my skin is thicker and that I’m able to brush off negative reactions to my work, I’m simply not at that point.

I have to be honest. To whoever ends up reading this, but mostly with myself.

This is where the fear comes in. Fear is what has crippled me as a writer. Fear of judgment from those within the Muslim community, fear of not being good enough (for whose standards I still haven’t figured out), fear that I’ll be labeled as “too religious” or “too liberal,” and fear of a thousand other things, which has now morphed into what we know as writer’s block. It turns out that me, the strong one as I’m known in my circles, is nothing more than a big baby, all 6’1 of me.

It’s not just fear– I’m filled with, as Newsweek oh so eloquently labeled it, Muslim Rage. Mostly because I’m tired of being lumped into groups I do not associate with. Labels can be dangerous, even if they are convenient; I for one do not want to be pigeonholed into a specific category. If all you view me through the lens of your own limited scope, you will never get the chance to see the real me. You will not understand who I am as a person. In the end, our humanness is the tie that binds. Until we are able to get past forcing each other into these narrow boxes, and limiting others to the standards that we set for them, true change will never come about.

“You have to write,” Sabina told me. “You’re a good writer. I’m not just telling you, I see it as your duty.” I agreed with her, albeit sheepishly, staring at the faux brick wall. As difficult a pill it is to swallow, she is right, it is my duty and I have not done enough.

In the past week, I’ve been disheartened by the ignorance and distrust which runs rampant in the West, as well as the Muslim world. But I’ve also seen great acts of courage and love. A group of Libyans holding signs, apologizing for the outrageous acts committed by a small group of their fellow countrymen. I grew up around Libyans, those are the Libyans I know. Warm, courageous people, who are generous to the point of almost embarrassing the recipient of their hospitality. Individual Americans who sent messages of hope and support to Muslims globally. I am American. It is in this country that I, and so many others, were able to foster and create a unique Islam, outside the limitations of that which is culturally-imposed.

Maybe the woman on the street was forced to wear hijab by a man, maybe she wasn’t. Maybe the person on the train who you perceive as staring you down is prejudiced, maybe they’re curious. Maybe the man on the street wearing a turban is Muslim, maybe he isn’t. Have a conversation. “The fool wonders, the wise man asks,” wise words once spoken by Benjamin Disraeli. It is only through asking questions and challenging our own deeply ingrained assumptions, that we will be able to liberate ourselves and others.

Ambassador Stevens was a martyr. Living a life of servitude and ultimately dying in defense of the freedom for a people he loved—he was more of a Muslim than the cowards who murdered him in cold blood. His death, and the deaths of countless others, is only in vain if it is a cause of division, rather than unification. I promise to lift the veil of fear from my eyes, and to speak truth in every form, regardless of personal ramifications, as I hope others will continue to do.




“Hijabulous: Seeing the Veil Through the Eyes of American Muslim Women”

Announcing a call for personal stories by American Muslim women and their relationships with the Hijab; these stories will be published in a book in the form of an anthology. This book is an opportunity for Muslim women to give their own narratives regarding Hijab and their relationship to it. For too long others have been speaking for the Muslim women and how they feel or ought to feel, whether they should or should not cover, how liberating or oppressive the hijab is. Share your personal story and let others know first hand how a Muslim woman feels about her own hijab.

Who are you? What brought you to wearing it? What is your process of considering to wear it or no longer wear it? What brought you to taking it off? Why do you choose to wear it with that particular style? What influences (personal, social, political, cultural, pop-culture, and religious) have shaped your understanding of hijab and how it has manifested in your life? How do other’s thoughts and stereotypes affect your relationship? We want you to describe, in detail, creatively your relationship with hijab.

This book will allow women to dispel stereotypes seen in media with our own humorous, dramatic, and engaging voices. Through our pieces, women are able to disable people from painting Muslim women in a monolithic brush. We hope to show the humanness and the complexities and nuanced experiences of the woman who has a relationship with the Hijab.

We are requesting that only American Muslim women who wear Hijab, have previously worn Hijab, or are contemplating wearing it submit for this call. We also request that the writing, although non-fiction, be written in a story format, written creatively and not so much an academic or historical essay.

SUBMISSION RULES: Work submitted must be non-fiction and autobiographical. Author must self-identify as an American Muslim Woman.

WORD COUNT: Word count for submissions must be between 1500 – 4000 words, double-spaced.

DETAILS: Please send your commitment to submit in the body of your email to hijabulous2012@gmail.com by June 1, 2012. Please remember to include:
· Name (full name)
· Age
· Location
· Contact information (e-mail address/phone number)
· Background (ethnic/racial and what Islamic sect you identify with)
· Please indicate whether you are a Hijabi, non-Hijabi, contemplating wearing a Hijab, convertible hijabi
Whether Muslim by birth or conversion

DEADLINE: Final story draft due by July 31, 2012. Please attach as a Word document.

CONTACT: For more information please contact Sabeen Shaiq or Sabina Khan-Ibarra at hijabulous2012@gmail.com.

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