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The Young Brown Girl In The Headscarf

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Monday, August 21st, 2017
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Muslim women with headscarfs  (Photo by Muller-Stauffenberg/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
Muslim women with headscarfs (Photo by Muller-Stauffenberg/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

I’m the young brown girl, in the headscarf, who’s hanging onto a cup of coffee for dear life, over a newspaper, sitting next to you on the train.

No, I’m not quiet. No, I’m not submissive. No, I’m not oppressed. And, NO, this winged eyeliner is not to impress any silly boy.

Shall I tell you what else I’m not? I am not any of your stereotypes.

In fact, I’m a bit too outspoken for many people’s liking. I’m a bit too loud for a Muslim girl. I’m a hell of a lot sassy for anyone that gets on my nerves too.

I’m not your archetypal brown Muslim woman, and I’m not your ideal brown Muslim woman either, whatever that’s supposed to be.

I am me.

Let me repeat that again for the people at the back. I am me.

I am not an assortment of labels, or boxes, or tags. The stereotypes that you attach to me, consciously or subconsciously, the person you assume me to be simply upon seeing me, is more reflective of who you are, than who I am.

I’m the young, brown girl in the headscarf, and I am sick of constantly being undermined for having an opinion.

My age, my sex and my religion are constantly cited as evidence against me, they’re waved like flags in the air to undermine whatever it is that I have to say.

Express my political opinions to an adult outside of the education system. ‘Oh, beti, you’re too young, you don’t know history, you don’t understand.’ My age. Get into a heated argument. ‘You don’t need to get so emotional, you don’t need to be so aggressive and speak so loudly.’ My sex. Speak against female oppression. ‘You do realise that Islam has a record of sexual inequality.’ My religion.

Sometimes it feels as though, with everything that I have to say, there is a corresponding box that society has placed me in which undermines the credibility or the weight of what it is that I am actually saying. People don’t hear me, they wait for me to finish making noise so they can tell me that I am a living contradiction. They’re so consumed by tags that they don’t recognise the importance of my message, because they’re caught up in the fact that someone with my combination of labels has expressed an opinion. My words don’t match my stereotypes, and people have the audacity to feel uncomfortable about that.

I’ve come to realise that people only respect your argument when it is a reflection of their own beliefs, or respecting it is the politically correct thing to do.

I’m the young, brown girl in the headscarf, and I wish we could just strip away all the labels that are imposed upon us, or even that we impose upon ourselves.

I’d love to be recognised by somebody from a completely opposing background, race, age, sex, religion, as simply another human being. Free from the stereotypes and the labels of society which dictate that my behaviour should be a certain way, or that my opinions are under a certain influence – anything that will remove the legitimacy of what I’m saying, before I have even said it.

I’m the young brown girl, in the headscarf, and I’m not an assortment of boxes or labels or tags. You can’t define me or control me. You can’t keep using the structures imposed upon me by society against me, against the weight of my words. I am human as you are human. Recognise that. Respect it.

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