What Not to Ask a Hijabi

Edited by: Veronika Potylitsina

 

Warning: Rant session ahead.

If you’re a student at the University of Toronto you know how incredibly diverse our student body is. Every walk of life, race, religion and interest exists as you walk through campus. Some of that diversity is identifiable through Turbans, Kippas and Hijabs, to name a few out of the many symbols that people wear to express who they are. 

And it’s great to be a part of a diverse community, one that makes you feel comfortable and safe… well, for the most part. I’m a Hijab-wearing second-year student and in the course of my Hijab wearing days, I have had my fair share of awkward conversations with people who ask, to put it bluntly, really stupid questions. 

 

*ahem* So here are my tips on what not to say to a Hijabi, proudly brought to you by my Bitmoji:

 

"Do you shower with that on?" 

Do you shower with your hat on? No. Do you shower with your beanie on? No. So why would you assume that my Hijab is stuck to my head, to the extent that I will have to shower with it on? The logic in this question is unfathomable. Not only would it be unhygienic for me to wear a Hijab all day long, only to then shower with it and carry on wearing it, but it would also be impractical. So unless you want a Hijabi to roll her eyes and walk away, do not ask her if she showers with her Hijab on.

"It looks like a towel on your head."

Thank you? That's exactly what I want to hear, that I look like I have a towel on my head. Please, make me feel more self-conscious. The piece of fabric on my head is not a towel. It is a Hijab. It is a religious symbol. It is not a towel. I have not sprinted out of the shower with my hair wrapped in a bandeau. I have in fact spent ages trying to get my hijab style perfected, so please don't crush my spirits and tell me it looks like a towel. 

"Do you sleep in it?"

I have been asked this question so many times, I've lost count. No, Hijabis and Sikhs and Jews and Nuns are not required to sleep in their respective religious headpieces. As you would take off a hat before you go to bed, we do the same. These items are not glued to our heads for us never to take off. We go about our everyday lives just as you would only you cant see our hair. That's as different as we get. 

"Do you have hair?"

No, I’m bald. The entire community of Hijabis is bald! (Exaggeration aside, yes I have hair and no you can’t see it.) Just because I cover my gorgeous locks does not mean they don’t exist. I understand that sometimes people ask these questions because they want to learn more, and are curious about the reasoning behind the Hijab. But there are less offensive ways of finding out, ways that don’t include asking me if I have hair.  

"So do you have blonde hair?"

Would it be so scandalous if I did? And why on earth are you asking me about the colour of my hair? This is another common question I get asked. Once I establish the fact that yes, I do have hair, people want details. I’ve found that they like to poke fun at the idea of a non-white woman with blonde or ginger hair because it’s considered rare, or out there, or whatever it is that drives people to ask me if I have blonde hair. (Side-note: Not a blonde.)

"Do you hide stuff under there?"

Do you hide stuff under any of your head accessories? If you do, A) That must be really uncomfortable and B) Please buy yourself a bag. No, Hijabis do not hide stuff under their Hijab. We have way too much thick, luscious hair shoved under there with no room for anything else. Sorry. 

"So do you wear it all the time, like all the time?" 

The question itself is not offensive. Its the way people ask and respond to it that frustrates me sometimes. It usually involves extreme levels of shock with the person asking on repeat "like all the time?!" They simply can’t seem to comprehend the fact that I cover my hair when I leave the house. Every single time. I am an advocate for curiosity and seeking knowledge. There is no harm in educating ourselves on what we don't know, but we have to remember to not have shock horror expressions on our faces when we get unexpected answers.  

Now that my ranting is over I thought I might try to impart a few tips for people to keep in mind when asking about the Hijab, or any other religious headgear.

  • Approach with an open mind. People may look and dress differently but you probably have a lot more in common than you realise, so be open to that possibility and remember, narrow-mindedness gets you nowhere in this day and age.
  • If you tend to be the jokester of your social circle, try not to make inappropriate jokes about anyone who expresses themselves in a way different to you. 
  • Be respectful when asking questions and don't be afraid to tell someone you're curious. I always find it heartwarming when people approach me and say that they want to understand why I wear the Hijab. Their honesty puts me at ease and I feel 100% more comfortable talking about the Hijab. 

 

Note: The article above is to be taken with a pinch of salt. Exaggeration is always effective in making a point stick. The Bitmoji Hijabi harbours no ill feelings towards anyone.