Orange Hijab: It’s okay to ask questions

I had a conversation with a lady through the mirror today.

Now you think I’m crazy, don’t you? Or that I’m having Snow White dreams. Maybe a little bit of both? Kidding.

At my internship today, I was in the bathroom fixing my hijab when a lady emerged from one of the stalls and began washing her hands at the sink beside me. Our eyes met in the mirror as I took off the pins that keeps the cloth wrapped around my head. My reflection smiled at her and her reflection smiled back. I figured she worked for another company on the same floor.

Continuing to use the mirror to look at me, she said, “Beautiful scarf. The colors are very spring.”

I thanked her and said that the bright patterened orange scarf was multi-seasonal. It worked well for fall too. She laughed, hesitated, and before she said a word, I already knew: “May I ask you a personal question?”

In case you haven’t figured it out, she asked about the reason I cover my hair. But I’m not going to get into that because that’s not the point here. What struck me was how thankful she was after my explanation. Seriously. She said “thank you” at least three times. She said she’d always wondered but was afraid to ask, in case she offended anyone.

I told her there was no reason to be scared. Just ask. How else can we share information and get to know about other people if not through polite, direct questions? But then I realized, not everyone has the same attitude as me. I’ve heard some girls complaining how annoying it is that they’re always asked the same question or other Islam-related questions, like they’re supposed to be some “know-all tell-all” regarding the religion.

No, hijabis aren’t walking Islamic encyclopedias, but the fact of the matter is, people will notice you if you’re just a little different. If you’re wearing a funky hat, you’ll stick out. If you’ve got cloth around your head with not a strand of hair showing in a crowd of uncovered heads, people will notice, even if only for a split-second. Fact of life. Moving on.

That being said, if someone asks you something nicely, respond in a similar fashion. If it’s a question that you don’t know the answer to, just say “Sorry I don’t know.” No shame in that.

Kinda like when a stranger asks you for directions. You either know how to get to the bookstore or you don’t. (In my case, I always know how to get to the bookstore. The hardware store, not so much.) Or it’s like asking someone where they got those cute shoes or nice jacket. There’s no need to treat the hijab question any different because the goal in asking and answering is all the same: Exchanging knowledge through conversation.


8 responses to “Orange Hijab: It’s okay to ask questions

    • It’s fun too! That’s how some great friendships start — through honest conversation and general get-to-know-you questions.

  1. I agree with Sal. It’s a good reminder for everyone to be approachable. Especially when you stand out for some difference whether it’s a difference you chose (i.e. your crazy hat) or something you didn’t (your skin color, religion, etc.).

    Although sometimes the questioner also has to remember one person won’t have the question for everything you ask, and the manner that you ask it is almost as important as the question itself. 🙂

    • Totally agree with what you said. If the questioner doesn’t ask nicely, why would the other person want to even answer? Sometimes I get a little nervous too when approaching strangers if I have to ask them directions or I’m curious about their accent. But usually if I’m friendly and genuinely express my interest, they’re nice back!

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