I’m flying back from the European #Islamophobia Summit: from #Sarajevo to #Vienna – with a transfer in #Zagreb. In Sarajevo a white non-Muslim colleague tells me during the security check about him having a giant scissor in his hand bag. He wonders that during the security checks he wasn’t even asked. I joke: „This is your white male privilege“ & we laugh. But to be honest, it isn’t funny. If you are Muslim, you are stressed at airports & security checks – this is where white people tell you, that you are a terrorist threat without hesitation.
We land in Zagreb: „Welcome to the European Union.“ It is my first entry of #Croatia. I’m in a hurry to catch my flight to Vienna. Although it’s only a tranfer, there is again a security check in the airport.
And from all the people in the line I – a visible Muslim woman – am chosen to take off my shoes. This is even before I walk through the metal scanner. I had taken off my shoes before, but always after there was a beep or everybody had to do it. This is different. This is degrading. This is saying: „Hey, this lady wears a hijab. Likely, she is a terrorist, let’s check if she is. Let’s do our job properly. Let’s show her how powerful we are.“
So, I ask, why am I the only „chosen one“ to take off my shoes? I cannot remember the last time racism was so blatant, so obvious. They didn’t even try to hide the full load of racism. „This is procedure.“ „What is the reason that I am the only one who had to take off her shoes?“ „This is procedure.“ I’m angry but I’m also in a hurry. If I’m too angry & discuss to much, they can punish me for resistance: They could let me wait, make me miss my flight – they have the power to do so & I’ve experienced those kind of punishments at boarders a lot.
„This is procedure. You have to come with me.“ „Why?!“ „We have to see what is under your scarf.“ „Hair!!!“ I start fearing the worst, she wants to control my scarf. I’m extremely angry – but also in a hurry. I was already controlled in airports: if I beeped, I was called to the cabin & a lady controlled my scarf & body with her hands.
So, I have to go into a cabin. A second lady comes. There was no beep, there was nothing. First time I have a body check without any reason. But this should not be the only first time today.
„You have to take off your scarf.“
„What?! I’ve never ever…“
„This is a procedure“, they say in chorus.
„No“, I say & try to keep my voice down. Keep calm, you dont want to miss your flight, you are alone here, I say to myself. „No, listen. I fly a lot. I’ve never ever taken off my hijab anywhere before – never.“
„This is procedure because we do not have a body scanner in Zagreb Airport and we have to check your scarf.“
„I was never ever asked to take off my scarf in any airport before. This is a racist policy.“
„No, this is not racist.“
You can touch my head with the scarf on.“
„You have to take it down.“
„Is Zagreb the only airport in the world without a body scan?!“
I open it a little & tell them to see.
„You have to take it down.“
Their eyes colonize my body.
I walk out of that cabin as soon as I can. I have to get their stupid gaze off my body. I have tears in my eyes. I’m shaking. I’m angry. I’m angry because I had no time to discuss, because I didn’t ask to see the written procedures, because I didn’t call an higher official, because I didn’t write down their names. My resistance was too weak, not enough. I should go back, but I don’t. I don’t want to see them, hear them, have their eyes on me again.
I am angry that they had power over my body. They could cross my lines, my lines of privacy, my choices. They had access to my body. Nobody is entitled to the bodies of other people. But they could, they had the power to do so.
This is what you can do best, dear West: humiliate & alienate, discriminate & disrespect our bodies – for hundreds of years now. You did this in Egypt, in Algeria, in Tunisia, national elites with colonial minds did this in Turkey & other countries. Your obsession with our bodies, with my head is not new.
You know what: I wear my hijab as a worship to god. It is for me not different than to fast in Ramadan or to pray. But from today on & each time you act racist, I will be reminded that my hijab is not only worship but also RESISTANCE. It is my way of decolonizing my body from your eyes & your colonial power.
You loaded my worship with political meaning & gave me power. For years I told people that my hijab is „not a political symbol“ & it wasn’t. I never wanted my hijab to be political. You made it political, you gave it political power because you don’t want it. Because your perverted obsession with my hijab is not about me, it is about you & your ill mind. So, ok, I accept the political power & relevance you give my hijab.
From now on I decide that my hijab is not only a form of worship, but it is my personal symbol of RESISTANCE against your colonization of and obsession with my body.
So, you want me to get frustrated from discrimination & take it off?! Perfect!!! Your obsession with my body, my hair, my head, my hijab is an additional motivation to proudly wear it. You make me want to wear thousands of hijabs.
Oh Allah, my Lord, I call You. Only You are the Allmighty. In these holy days of our holy month of #Ramadan I was humiliated just because I follow your will, your religion. You see everything, You hear everything, You are my witness. Make me strong against oppression and let me always follow Your will! Let me not get weak or fear the power of unjust people, let me only fear You, the Almighty, the Poweful. Hasbun Allahu wa ni’mal wakeel.