What must it feel like not to be looked at with disgust or being called a terrorist within your ‘safe’ workplace? Not something I had the privilege of experiencing as I started my second locum shift at a local pharmacy.
I was working a late shift, which comes with its own challenges but not particularly this.
It was a little past 9 PM when a patient, who was clearly intoxicated, had entered the pharmacy. He started to approach the Medicines Counter Assistant and make inappropriate advances towards her. When this was ignored, he advised my colleague to stay clear from me. As ‘my kind’ are the reason why the world is in a bad place. That I’m a terrorist who caused the bombings we see on TV. ‘Have you not read the newspapers?’ He proclaimed.
I stood still and avoided eye contact. Whilst frozen, hundreds of thoughts rushed through my mind as I tried to pull myself together.
Will I get home safe? Should I just quit this job? Should I be wearing the hijab at work?
My colleague was understandably horrified by his continuous barrage of islamophobic abuse, threatening to call the police if he did not remove himself from the premises.
As someone who is visibly a Muslim – by that I mean I have observed hijab for several years – this was the first time I was shaken by what I had experienced. The first time I’d been scared of coming back to work the following day. The first time for a moment I’d considered looking less like a Muslim, by questioning my decision to wear the hijab. I felt conscious of my every move in public.
When it comes to Islamophobia generally, I know I am not alone. In the UK, the group ‘Tell Mama’ found the number of hate crimes against Muslims increased by 593% the week after the Christchurch shooting not long ago.
Whilst that man didn’t hesitate to paint me under the same brush as a terrorist, it’s important to remember not all hold this extreme view. There was a quiet comfort taken when my colleague jumped to my defence.
For many, including myself, the hijab is a source of comfort. I eventually reminded myself on my commitment to the hijab and what it signifies to me and my Lord.
But the question stands… Why does it feel as if no matter how much you overcompensate as a visible Muslim woman, it will never be enough in a bigot’s eyes?
Author: Isma Ahmed