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Collinsville, Alabama – Purposely Veiling For the First Time

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Today is World Hijab Day. This is how the BBC describes the purpose of Non-Muslim ladies veiling for today.

World Hijab Day is designed to counteract these controversies. It encourages non-Muslim women (or even Muslim women who do not ordinarily wear one) to don the hijab and experience what it’s like to do so, as part of a bid to foster better understanding.

Sadly enough, after my experience in Collinsville, Alabama I think World Hijab Day needs to be a more wide spread thing. The photo below seems to sum up the attitudes of those I encountered in northern Alabama.

Collinsville

The morning after the awkward encounter with the ladies in the elevator I made the conscience decision to veil or don my make-shift hijab every single time we stopped along the interstate. I dressed quite normally for me, khakis, white knit top and a simple cardigan plus the scarf. I live in khakis and comfortable shirts.

First up was the dining room of the hotel, a four star suites hotel that offers a hot breakfast. I came down wearing the hijab, got breakfast and ate in a room filled with other guests. I got a few odd stares, including the type I am starting to find is the most common reaction, a stare followed by an expression change from no expression to a fear/loathing look topped off by the quick whipping of the starer’s head away from me. Then that person will not make any eye contact or look at you again no matter how you place yourself in their line of vision.

We got on the road and didn’t stop again until we hit Collinsville, Alabama. Collinsville is just north on I-59 corridor through Alabama. I’ve stopped at this particular Jack’s Hamburgers before and had a normal unremarkable treatment. Not this time!

While my husband was filling the car with gas I entered the restroom. When I pushed open the rest room door there was a long line of ladies. I’d first heard chatter between ladies but once I was in line it fell silent and I was the recipient of the same stare/glare/ignore I’d received in the hotel dining room.

As I left the rest room the men’s room door flew open and knocked into me, nearly knocking me down. A silver haired man came out, looked at me scrambling to keep from falling from the floor and said, “Good, I didn’t hurt nothing” and walked off! No apology, no concern, nothing but being told I did not matter!… I was shocked beyond belief by the man’s words and actions after knocking me down with the door accidentally.

Incidentally the hallway near the restrooms were crammed with people. No one helped me up, no one asked me if I was alright.

I shrugged it off and went to the front counter to buy a cup of coffee. The large young lady manning the counter took one look at me and suddenly started filling the napkins and straw dispensers, bringing out orders to several people sitting in the dining area, handing out extras, anything she could do to avoid waiting on me I believe. Finally, after about five minutes she realized I was going no where and she waited on me finally, muttering out monosyllabic questions, taking my money in exchange for coffee. She didn’t say thank you, have a nice day or kiss my ass but the look in her eyes was frightening, more like something you’d imagine seeing over a pistol in your opponent in a duel, not in a service worker at a public place.

Such a shame as I’ve stayed in that area many times, taking hotel rooms all along the Gadsden – Fort Payne, Alabama area when I drive down to South Louisiana to see family. I’ve never seen this type of overate racism before in this area.

This almost violent reaction shook me to my core. I had expected that women wearing Muslim head coverings might be treated differently but I hadn’t anticipated quite the depth of resentment I experienced at that one stop!

The rest of the day I got very few reactions as we stopped in Rising Fawn, Georgia, Knoxville, Tennessee and in rural southern Virginia. The occasional stare was the most that came my way unless you count the man that cut in front of my place in the cashiers line at the gas station in Rising Fawn. That seemed more crass rude yuppie than any disrespect to someone in differing garb. Nothing more happened that made me feel such a sense of being so unsafe physically like what occurred in Collinsville, Alabama.

As I’m writing this I’m listening to the Beatles Magical Mystery Tour. “All You Need is Love”?  Love is great but I am starting to realize it’s useless without understanding, open minds and tolerance.

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2 thoughts on “Collinsville, Alabama – Purposely Veiling For the First Time

  1. In America’s defense, I do believe the South/Bible Belt is much more given to that kind of intolerance than other areas. Wearing the niqab in New England, there are certainly stares from every single person that passes, but mostly just curious ones, the angry looks/nasty comments come from the older generation or middle-aged lower-class types.

    And while I’ve had my share of unnerving encounters, I’ve had a much larger number of people going out of their way to be helpful and respectful and kind, opening doors for me, apologizing for nothing, customer service and customers making small talk about the weather and my well-being and how I like it here, random people asking about the veil and what it’s like to wear it – all of which may be normal down South where there’s more of a hot-cultured hospitality and you greet and chat with strangers, but up North, that’s just plain out of the ordinary.

    Again, I’m speaking out of limited experience, I haven’t been down South yet in the niqab, but I’ve visited there many times, as my mom was born and raised in Virginia, her mom was born and raised in Kentucky, and we still have family in Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Texas, etc.

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