What It's Really Like to Be Muslim
The first thing a foreigner says to me is usually along the lines of, "Wow, you are a Muslim!’’ After hearing the same sentence God knows how many times, my uncomfortable smile gives me away. It’s not that I’m not proud of being a Muslim or of wearing a hijab—which is absolutely my choice, not my society’s nor my family's, like most people think. It’s because after saying that all-too-familiar sentence, the person immediately makes judgments.
I believe that good and bad exist everywhere in this world. Terrorism does not belong to any specific country. However, me being a Muslim, majoring in English, and wearing a hijab (or a headscarf, as most people call it) might be disturbing and even scary to some people. They might think that I will shoot them or throw a bomb into their faces.
Not only could this prevent me from pursuing my master’s degree outside of Tunisia, but I can also feel my chances of working abroad decreasing all the time. Needless to say, my professional and educational life has been affected by being Muslim. I’ve been asked several times by police officers, “Why do you want to get a passport?” simply because I wear a scarf on my head.
Eventually, I got my passport. I was planning on traveling to Turkey during the summer of 2016. Sure, I had been inspected by the airport agents—but it was a normal procedure in order to prevent more attacks (since Turkey has seen its fair share in the past few years). But still, I got the feeling that I’m more suspected than others. This feeling isn’t new. I’ve gotten a bit familiar with these looks; I even get them at my university. However, being in the same position in another country is a challenge for me.
Because of this, studying or working abroad is hard, not because I feel uncomfortable or less confident, but because people don’t think the way I do. I’m not saying I’m an angel sent from the sky to change people’s vision about religion and Islam, but I’m a free spirit, and I love life. I have a lot of friends who are not Muslims, and I love them. I believe that I accept everyone, no matter their beliefs. My family taught me from a very young age to be tolerant and to love everyone regardless of their race, color, religion, looks, or beliefs. I wish people would look at me without wondering if I’m a terrorist, just because I’m not wearing shorts or tank tops in the summer like everyone else.
Every woman in this world should be free to be who she wants to be. I’m no exception. So respect my choice to wear my hijab, and I’ll respect you in return.
By Amira Ayouni, 20