Saturday, May 21, 2011

Flying Hijab(less)

I travel a lot. I used to always travel from the Detroit Metropolitan Airport when I lived in the Midwest. Occasionally I would have to do an extra pat-down, but once I didn't even beep, and was told to sit down so I would be extra searched. So I told the security guy, why though? I didn't beep. And he let me go! That's how it's supposed to be. Racial profiling sucks. Traveling out of South Carolina is even worse because there are only a handful of Muslims and/or Arabs here. Every time I travel from here I get to be extra searched, pat down, and do that PETN search (where they have you run your own hand on your scarf, then hold your hand out to the officer, and they take the sample from your hand and screen it).
One time traveling out from here I had to be searched for a total of 25 minutes- I barely made it to my flight. Pissed me off.

I didn't even sound when I went through security (I wear minimal jewelery when traveling, take off my watch, etc). But they told me I had to step aside for extra searching for wearing 'bulky clothing.' (O_o) So I had them do a pat down and the PETN search. The lady came back and said they would have to do extra search and I had to take my scarf off (gave me the option to take it off in public or in a tiny room). I kept telling them I was going to be late to my flight and I don't understand why I had to be extra searched. The lady came up wit ha theory that it might be because I had just washed my hair and put conditioner on it (O_o). After taking off my scarf and all that fun stuff, she apologized for any inconvenience and I ran to make my flight. Thankfully I did.

But think about it. You didn't sound. You were just like all the other people who went through the security and didn't sound. But you, since you are wearing "bulky" (what the hell does that mean anyway? I thought you were supposed to travel wearing loose fitting clothing to be comfortable?) you had to be searched for an extra 25 minutes, be escorted to a private room while all the people behind you in line are freaking out and praying that they don't end up on my flight.

So a couple weeks after I put a beret over my hijab and tried to hide my hijab as much as possible and wrapped the hijab ends as a scarf on my neck. I felt like a normal person! No odd stares, security was a breeze, no extra screening, and people didn't have that "please don't have her sit next to me" look on their face when I set foot on the plane. I felt like a real life American (not to mention my facial featured really helped-fare skin, light eyes, so I looked 100% Caucasian). I felt like I finally fit in. At the boarding gate there was a Muslim hijabie (which is very odd, since I had never seen a Hijabie at that airport before while traveling). I said salamu alaikum and she seemed surprised. At that moment I felt ashamed that I was covering my hijab because the other lady was the one who was being started at but she looked confident nevertheless. I still wanted to complete my experiment though and I took off the beret on the second flight to San Francisco where I was sitting next to another hijabi on the flight and told her all about my experiment.

After that experiment, I realized that fitting by being someone else did not necessarily make you happy. I have always heard the phrases "be your self, you don't have to fit in, be original, etc." I finally understood those words. I realized that wearing the hijab was being myself, and covering it up with a cute little beret was disguising who I really was. It was fun and relieving though to feel like I was really part of the American culture, although I have always considered myself an Arab-American, that one time I felt that others accepted me because ... I simply blended in.

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