It was November 21, a manic Monday and another panic mom-day: buy the kids’ school stuff, pay the bills, and finally return the books (borrowed by hubby) to the library.
I dressed up and decided to cover my hair using a small, square headscarf (bandana) to look modest and simple; and hung a long veil on my shoulder to wrap around my neck incase I will enter into an air-conditioned room.
But I was definitely wrong as I rushed to the bank to pay the bills! Despite the simplicity of my head cover, I still looked a bit dangerous and intimidating Muslima with a suspicious “explosive” (but invisible) thing in my body!
Now I entered the bank and grabbed a bank form when suddenly the security guard approached me.
“Ma’am pakitanggal lang po ng nasa sa ulo nyo.” (Ma’am, please remove the thing in your head). He instructed me.
My brows furrowed with confusion. What on earth is in my head that I should take out?
Maybe he meant my head cover. It was funny that I even cross-examined myself. Am I guilty of something? Did I put a bomb under my veil?
I almost raised my voice and roared with anger. But thanks to the Patient One, I never did!
“Why?” I asked him curiously as I maintained a normal tone of voice.
“Ma’am may CCTV po kasi.” (Ma’am we have a CCTV). He replied back.
I was puzzled, tongue-tied.
My goodness, I have been getting in and out of this bank for almost twenty years now but never did I experience myself in such situation. And here comes a “security guard” who was supposed to “protect” me, seemed to put me in “danger”!
Thoughts run around my head as I struggled to regain my composure. I began to ponder. What is going on here? Oh, I got it, Islamophobia!
“You asked the Manager and the staff, they know me.” I said to the guard.
He nodded his head and fumbled for words but speechless. He was ashamed of the way he had treated me. Fixing my gaze at him, I realized something: He was a new security guard. I have never seen him before.
“I’m sorry ma’am.” He said and went back to his post.
“It’s okay.” I replied back. I continued scribbling on the bank form and made my way to the counter.
Later, I grabbed the chance to talk to the Manager to inquire about the requirements of opening a group account. While scribbling, I inserted my issue into our conversation.
“Ma’am, I think you have a new security guard.” I blurted out and told her what happened.
“But ma’am, how about in the same situation with mine, what if a nun with a head cover walked into your office, would you dare to tell her: “Sister, would you take off your hair cover because we have a CCTV camera, we need to see what’s inside your head cover”? My sentiment echoed through her ears.
There was silence.
I am sure no one will dare to tell that to a nun. But this is not to belittle the nuns. In fact I have many nun friends.
“Right. Okay, do not worry I will talk to the guard.” The kind Manager replied.
Though I was not really offended (only shocked!), I felt a sigh of relief as I blurted things out.
I don’t understand. Until now there are still puzzled people around despite the condemnation of crime acts by some Muslims. To some people, seeing a Muslim is like seeing an eruptive volcano that would explode anytime. Yet a Muslim lady and a nun wear head covers; the priest just like a Muslim man also wears a long white dress and a head cap. How sad it is that the unfair treatment still exists!
“But Ma’am, please do not get angry at him, just brief him. He was ignorant.” I found myself begging in front of the Manager.
“Okay. I won’t.” She gave me an assurance.
“Thank you Ma’am,” I thanked her and wended my way out.
I think Islamophobia today manifested itself under the name Paranoia. Creating suspicion or hatred towards the “non-flammable” Muslims appears so unfair and disrespectful. Because not all Muslims are unrighteous and not all unrighteous are Muslims. Why does every “bang!” or “boom!” is always attributed to Muslims? Perhaps our society today, who were once wise men of yesterday, are being threatened by the “explosive” growth of Muslims around the world.
Someday, for the sake of peace, I will wear a dress that bear a resemblance to that of a nun’s and tell the whole world: “I am Sister Joy, a Love Advocate of Unity Congregation and I embraced the Islamic tradition.” How about that?
It was a nice mom-day, albeit, I almost lost my fragile grip on reality. The “Guard” was undoubtedly right. Had I remained “Veiled”, this day wouldn’t turn out into a gracious one for me. –JoyWadi