Did you know you can ask a question via my Contact form and I’ll answer it on the blog? If you have questions regarding homeschooling, credit-by-exam, or whatever else, feel free to send me a message and in sha Allah I’ll get the answer for you, or lead you to where I think you can find it.
Just the other day I got a message asking: (edited for grammar)
How do you lead your life in a non-muslim country and how do you manage to work in your hijab?
That’s a pretty broad question, but I’ll try to be relatively concise.
First, how I lead my life in a non-Muslim country? Well, now that I’ve been Muslim for a few years (over 7, to be exact), I don’t feel like my interaction with my fellow community members has changed much. I no longer take part in some mainstream things like drinking, smoking, or those type of things, but my day to day interactions when I run errands isn’t that different. Alhamdulilah, the Twin Cities is pretty diverse, so there’s a significant population of Muslims in the area, and people are used to seeing Muslims, among other religious minorities.
I used to notice people staring, or people simply observing me, but I’ve learned when I stop watching for it, I stop noticing it as much. I still get some people who are obvious, or who are genuinely curious. In my volunteer work for dawah, I was shocked how many people had never heard of Islam ever. Not even the publicized craze of terrorists on TV – nothing!
Knowing there is still so many who know little to nothing about Islam and Muslims make me feel that I need to make a good impression with those around me. I need to be kind, caring, intelligent, responsible, and a good parent. While I greatly dislike when people judge a community based on a few interactions with people from that group, I realize many people feel it is a credible source of information and use it as such. Even if I wanted to smoke, drink, etc. I want to be a good example of what Islam is meant to be for those who do not know much about it. Alhamdulilah, it keeps me in check.
Have I had some bad experiences with people because I wear hijab and am clearly Muslim? Sure, but the good has outweighed the bad. All Muslims in the US know to be mindful in small towns where minority populations are more scarce, but it’s normally curiosity and confusion that cause people to stare. Hate is fewer and further between than we sometimes think.
As for wearing hijab and working, I don’t currently work outside of the home. As a landlord, it’s up to the tenant on whether they want to fill out the application after they meet me or not. I haven’t had my rental property sit empty so far, alhamdulilah, so apparently it isn’t a big issue. When I was working, it was a shock to those who had been working with me for a number of years when I suddenly showed up to work wearing hijab. Some knew that I had converted to Islam nearly a year earlier, but most did not. It’s just not something that really comes up in a Monday morning meeting.
There was a lot of talk about why I started wearing hijab, but that soon disappeared as people got to know me a bit better. I also had to reestablish myself as a supervisor and someone of authority. It seemed that people thought I may have turned into a submissive, stereotypical woman when I started covering. Alhamdulilah, that attitude soon diminished, too. The hardest part was with customers. Being a woman in the IT field is hard enough, trying to prove that you know what you’re talking about and yes, in fact, I can fix you web server, thankyouverymuch. Putting on hijab exacerbated this hurdle a bit, but it wasn’t impossible.
You see, wearing hijab is important to me, and helps me stay on the path I have chosen, in sha Allah. If I don’t let the hijab change my opportunities, then they won’t change. Alhamdulilah, I live in a community that may have questions about Islam, but it doesn’t close doors for me. In fact, I’ve been treated in a more respectful fashion now that I cover versus before I started wearing hijab.
Thank you for sharing this. We’re always interested in hearing how other people approach their lives, even if it’s different than ours.
Shannen Espelien says
Carol, thanks for stopping by and taking interest in our story. I appreciate your kind words!
Jenny Bergren says
I live in the same area. 🙂 I have a friend that wears hijab and I have noticed a difference in how people respond when we are in public together. Although I think she is so used to it that she doesn’t notice. People will avoid eye contact or will stare as if a Muslim and non-Muslim and their children shouldn’t be in public together. But, maybe I would have done the same thing a few years ago.
Shannen Espelien says
Well then, welcome, neighbor. 🙂 My husband noticed other people observing me when we would be out after I had already gotten used to it and didn’t notice. In small towns, it’s much more obvious and harder for me to be naive, but thankfully, nothing negative has ever happened. I think much of it is curiosity and just a lack of information rather than hate. At least that’s what I like to tell myself. 🙂 I’m glad to hear you’ve gotten to know a Muslim, and gained knowledge! In this situation, I truly believe knowledge is the enemy of hate.
Natalija Jameela Vavilova says
Masha Allah,it was so inspiring to read. I’m so glad that I’ve found your blog!May Allah SWT bless you for all that you do.
Shannen Espelien says
Jazak Allah khair for stopping by and I hope to see you around again soon via the comments!