wow, and I thought it was confusing…but…

I was just reading the latest post up on American Bedu about how on certain compounds within this country the wearing of hejab or Islamically required garments is not allowed as they try to make the compound “as American as possible”…now, I have a hard time actual believing that such compounds exist as even on the huge Aramco compound, for example, Muslim women are free to dress how ever they deem fit and on my compound it just wouldnt fly anyway as half the residents are ex-pat Muslims anyway. But, apparently one American muhajabah had the unfortunate experience of staying on a compound in Riyadh and being told she had to stay inside her apartment unless she removed her hejab and overgarments and walked around “like an American” (whatever that means! I guess they think all Americans wear jeans and a teeshirt, huh!)

anyway, this got me thinking about how unfortunately there is a not of misunderstanding here about the hejab, a LOT of people both expats and locals alike tend to think of it as a Saudi cultural “thing” and that a western Muslimah in hejab is a strange confused creature or is mimicking Saudi culture. I’m 100% serious. They also do not take the hejab of a western Muslim as seriously as their own hejab. It might be offensive to any religious local woman to tell her she must remove her abaya or hejab when they are men around but for an expat and one who is a westerner…its not, as their hejab is “fake” anyway.

Case in point…

Two- months ago when I made the unfortunate mistake of taking a job as a teacher at a English-immersien Preschool/K-grade on a local compound I arrived for my first day in the attire I would normally have worn at any school in the USA…a nice scarf, tunic and jeans as I couldnt fathom actually working without hejab.  Well, this caused quite a huge uproar from the Saudi woman who ran the school out of her house and several of the mothers who when they arrived to pick up their children saw me in Hejab! It didnt matter that the owners teenaged sons were in the house watching TV in a section reserved for them…it didnt matter. I was American and there as a teacher why should I wear the hejab?

That evening I got a phone call from a fellow teacher telling me I needed to remove the scarf as its just not good and that the parents were complaining. Why were they sending their child to an English-language school if the ONLY teacher in the place who was a native-English speaker was dressed just like them!?! I should be in jeans and a teeshirt like a good little westerner. Then the following day I arrived with my scarf in a turban and still tunic and jeans and the owner came up and told me to take it off. I said to her, no, I can not and will not…your sons are here. She said well, just remove it when your in the classroom atleast! As it ended up her sons were just home that week from school and most days were gone, but on the days they were there I had to keep it off in the classroom even though I would rather have just kept it on as it was a hassle throwing it on and off all day! Apparently the owner was not aware that I actually wore hejab-like for real, she thought I just had it on because I was in KSA and was trying to “blend-in”.

uhh…huh…

9 thoughts on “wow, and I thought it was confusing…but…

  1. Yes, I encountered that even just when I was there for hajj, as well as among some muslimah sisters from Gulf countries I knew in college.

  2. I don’t understand how seeing a woman in a hijab would give the wrong impression to the parents and children. I guess they must often see non-Saudis as “fakers” who just want to fit in with the culture. I wish they would understand the difference between religious and cultural hijab.

    • The sick thing is…these were niqab wearing women who were supposidly from” religious/traditional” families…but still…they dont take a non-locals hejab seriously at all!

  3. How weird.Alhamdu’Allah, I never encountered that attitude in the Emirates. I wore shayla and abaya at work. Mainly I got compliments, and fashion suggestions! I wasn’t the only American muslimah, or the only one in hejab. It simply wasn’t an issue. I used to be amused in the mall when a woman in lovely abaya (above my pay grade) and niqab would say something in the store in a New York or Texas accent.

    • I think a part of it is because there r so many expats here who have to wear abaya and many wear a scarf…how do locals differentiate between a real Muslimah or one pretending and dressing like a Saudi. ya know.

  4. a LOT of people both expats and locals alike tend to think of it as a Saudi cultural “thing” and that a western Muslimah in hejab is a strange confused creature or is mimicking Saudi culture.

    I thought of writing about it on my blog… a lot of Russian speaking expats here dislike Russian women in abaya, they are shocked and averted by their sight and think they are copying the local women for some irrational reason (because since when is it (in their understanding) that Arab women have become a fashion standard?). It’s so unnatural for many of them to see a Russian woman in a black abaya… or even in a headscarf… As for Muslim Arabs here – it depends- sincere Muslims are happy to see foreign women in abaya and hijab- they say Mashallah. Others… are sceptical.

    That evening I got a phone call from a fellow teacher telling me I needed to remove the scarf as its just not good and that the parents were complaining.

    That’s quite unbelievable! I guess only those Saudis who don’t believe in their religion could complain about that…

  5. Did you explain to her that hijab is wajib and that you wear it because you are a Muslim? I don’t understand how they could argue about that. Wow.

    • sis, she was a niqabi yet she still didnt take my hejab seriously…unfortunately…thats a pretty typical mindset amongst most locals here…religious or not!

  6. That’s kinda crazy! I was at a nursery in Egypt for a few days (didn’t work out, I was an inexperienced 18 year old never having had contact with a young child before!) and half the employees wore hijab all day. And the overall feeling I got there was that they felt fine about my non hijabi dress, but that they appreciated my modesty (compared to the Western tourists). And the times I wore hijab I got a very positive reaction from everyone. But I guess Egypt is not like Saudi since they know people have no reason not to feel comfortable wearing “regular clothes”. So ones who decide to wear hijab are not necessarily doing it to fit in, but could be doing it for a bunch of other reasons…

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