So Twitter is probably not the best source of inspiration for reflective thought, but a comment I received on my hijab piece “Just leave me and my hijab alone, please” and reading this reflection on a talk given by Tariq Ramadan on the importance of actually engaging with others in our religiously pluralistic society, got me thinking on what my hijab represents and whether I, by virtue of living in a pluralistic society, am even allowed to make such a statement.
The title of my article is provocative and purposely so – I want people to read the stuff I write, yes, it’s true – but it was clear that that certain Twitterer did not actually read my article. I don’t frequently receive questions from people about hijab (mostly because I can be a hermit at times). But when I do, I don’t just simply brush them off and tell them to mind their own business. When a non-Muslim can muster the courage to actively engage with a visible Muslim, I am really appreciative of that fact and try to answer their question to the best of my ability.
But I struggle with my answer on hijab and that’s why I wrote that article.
Still, because I am a visible Muslim woman, does that mean I must therefore serve as a spokesperson for all of Islam and all Muslims?
Further adding to the complexity is the fact that I’ve been involved in interfaith work and want to continue doing it – Tariq Ramadan’s lecture only reinforced this conviction of mine. But am I inherently contradicting myself?
After giving it some more thought, I want to say No. When I come to an interfaith gathering, when we all do, we come with an understanding that we don’t represent, the actions particularly, of all our coreligionists. I can want to educate others on Islam and yet still not serve as the official spokesperson for all its adherents. I don’t think it’s a contradiction and I have to remind myself of this fact when reductionists make me feel like it is.
Man, this is making me think back to my “Secularism and the Citizen in the Middle East” class I took at UChicago. Thoughts of PhD have been swirling around the past few days. I still have no plan of action, but I’ve been thinking I may revisit it again in the future. When a 70 year old man can get his Bachelor’s why can’t I get my PhD, if I decide that is what I want?
I’m learning to accept that goals and aspirations, like my faith and spiritual development, are neither static nor are they linear.