I now wear my hijab to make my personal witness

I now wear my hijab to make my personal witness

November 30, 2001
Written by Staff Reports


Right after September 11, I noticed how quickly the sight of women wearing Islamic dress, including the hijab, or head scarf, disappeared from our neighborhoods.

The last one I saw was on a woman attending an interfaith prayer service at Portland (Ore.) State University a week after the bombing.

Her name is Farsana and she is from Bangladesh. I talked with her afterwards and asked her how to tie it. Because by then I had decided to begin wearing one myself.

Just to illustrate the vast difference in culture and religion this represents, the men in my life were not enthusiastic about my decision.

Thomas, my husband, said, tactfully, "It doesn't flatter you." He also worried about me becoming a target of bigotry because with Syrian ancestry, I could easily pass as an Arab woman.

My son, less tactful, asks me regularly when I am going to take it off again.

I don't know yet. I had to overcome a lot to put it on in the first place.

I confess it has always annoyed me to see Islamic women covering themselves up in our free country.

On top of that, I don't like scarves. They feel confining. They make me feel like my mother who used to wear them when I was a child.

And they sure aren't flattering on me, that's true.

But Farsana almost cried with gratitude when I told her I was going to do it. That means a lot.

I wanted to take some action in response to the bombings, to make some personal witness to my faith in Christ's prayer, "that they all may be one."

And, I am not alone. Besides all who have been praying so faithfully, six of us (so far) from Christ the Healer UCC have volunteered to be available as escorts to women of the local Bilal mosque who now are afraid to go out shopping.

I find I can wear my hijab whenever I go out ? fearlessly, if a bit self-consciously.

On a hospital visit, I think people just figure I'm a cancer patient. At Costco, at the grocery store or at the gas station, I get lots of looks and double takes, but so far, no unkindness.

The only place I didn't wear my hijab, ironically out of the same sensitivity that caused me to put one on in the first place, was to a Yom Kippur service.

At church, of course, I can count on people responding to me, not my scarf. Isn't that what the body of Christ is all about?

The Rev. Gabrielle Chavez is co-convenor with her husband, Thomas, of Christ the Healer UCC in Portland, Ore.

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