Back in early 2015, I was doing a clinical ckerkship at Hospital in Dallas for which I had to take the local train. I was told countless times before leaving my home country (Pakistan) that I take off the Hijab during my stay because of the sheer discrimination that prevails against those who wear it. I still, however, went ahead with it thinking that for Whom I was doing it will protect me, Inshaa’Allah; and He did with His infinite power. The people I met were kind and courteous and not a day went by where I wasn’t met with a jolly hello or a simple act of kindness like offering to press the floor button inside an elevator and likes thereof, Alhamdulillah. But then, one incident occurred in the aforementioned train where I had an encounter with middle aged man. He had been staring at me every now and then and I did feel a little nervous. Just when I was standing to leave, he came over and asked me out of nowhere if I did the Hijab because my “husband” asked me to. Befuddled at his statement as I was single, I replied that I was indeed single and as a matter of fact, none of the people in my household did the Hijab. He seemed to have been taken aback and responded that he never thought it was done out of something other than force. That’s when the real talk started. He learned the real essence of the Hijab and how people who dawn it amostly do so because Islam asks them to. It’s kind of like how Jews eat Kosher out of choice because they want to without being accountable to anyone but God. He understood and then commented how he thought anyone who wore the Hijab would be hiding a bomb under the trencthcoat and I pointed at my labcoat and gave him an ironic yet funny look. We both had a little laugh without either of us getting offended and the argument settled with him understanding how false perceptions from the media and other weak sources can be busted by a simple conversation. He ended up saying “Thank you, God bless you.” And that’s when I realized the power of a simple conversation as long as one is open minded to diverse views. It can really do wonders.
I hope we all can, including myself, can engage in such coffee table chats among ourselves and really promote a deeper understanding of ourselves and others not only as ambassadors to a beautiful religion but also as humans.