Three women shared how it feels to be Muslim in a society where wearing a hijab, a Muslim headscarf, makes them stand out.
Through humor, sarcasm, anger and sadness, they each recalled personal events when they had to defend themselves, and gave themselves a label they were proud to wear.
As part of Women’s History Month, the Cal State Fullerton WoMen and Adult Reentry Center hosted a panel called “Muslim Misrepresentation” on Tuesday in University Hall.
“I don’t think that it’s fair that I’m getting clumped up with (extremists) who ruined my life, and people don’t understand that,” said Rose Rteimeh, a second-year political science major at CSUF.
Rteimeh said Muslim extremists are just as much of a threat to her way of life as they are to non- Muslims.
“To have someone come up to me and say that I have anything to do with them is just absolutely disgusting,” she said.
Khalida Jamilah, Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Auxiliary coordinator said it is up to both sides, Muslims and non-Muslims, to ask questions and start conversations. Jamilah said the way the media portrays Muslims can close the door to an honest dialogue because of the negativity associated with Islam.
“It’s like talking to a wall,” Rteimeh said.
Rteimeh recalled times when her dad would yell at her in public, and she would feel the need to argue back so people passing by wouldn’t think, “Poor girl, she’s not allowed to talk.”
Nila Ahmad, another Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Auxiliary coordinator, recalled a recent conversation she had with a non-Muslim woman who told her of a time she was at a park and saw a Muslim woman taking care of her two kids. While the woman was, “just covered,” her husband was in a tank top and shorts. The woman asked Ahmad to explain the situation to her, making the assumption that one Muslim, in this case, represented the entire religion.
Offering explanations like, “Maybe her husband’s just a jerk” offered the notion that there are more logical answers to everyday scenes cast in a stereotypical light.
Rteimeh also said Muslim women have been dressing in fully covered clothing for a long time and know they can handle being out in the heat.
“It’s not a cloak from Harry Potter,” Rteimeh said.
Ahmad said he was taught that a woman should start wearing a hijab when you enter puberty and begin to show a “female figure.”
Rteimeh said wearing a hijab is seen as “a rite of passage,” and not wearing a hijab does not make a woman any less of a Muslim.
“One Muslim does not speak for every other Muslim,” she said.