My Hijab Is Not A Costume
The hijab has long been an ominous item for people who are unfamiliar with its meaning and representation. It is a symbol of religious pride and empowerment for many Muslim women. Yet, the hijab is often misconstrued.
Alex was a strange one right from the start. She was the manager on duty that first day I went in to work at a popular apparel retail store in Erin Mills Town Center. On that first day she told me she didn’t like muslims because of a bad experience with an ex-boyfriend. It was Halloween soon after and several associates were going to dress up in costume on that day. I had an early morning shift. The back door was opened by Alex who exclaimed “Oh, you’re not dressed-up!” to which I replied, “I didn’t have a costume available”.
You didn’t need to do too much,” she said as she looked pointedly at my hijab, “you just needed a vest with some wires poking out of it”
I was stunned. It took me a long time to process her comment. To this day, I tell myself she might have been kidding, and other times I try to let the incident go as it was born of ignorance.
As it happens with some people, I think of all the things I could have said in that moment. The truth is, if it were to happen again, I would still be flabbergasted. What I do know now though is that if I am in a similar situation again, I can call them out on it. I was new to the country then but now I know there are laws I can lean upon. Most of all though, I have people to reach out to and friends who support me unconditionally.
*Alex is not this person's real name*
Nabstar is a Pakistani immigrant and Canadian citizen. She's a working mom of three and an eternal student. Before Ally Needed, Nabstar had never spoken about the incident mentioned in this story. "We tend to sweep these stories under the carpet. It's time to air them so others may take heart," she says.