I am too loud and too outspoken. I just have too many opinions. I am conservative. But also too liberal. I travel alone sometimes. I drive a car. I talk too openly about my feelings, and sex, and other topics good Muslim women shouldn’t talk about. I perform poetry in front of mixed audience (blasphemy) Sometimes, I work with men on creative projects. I am too overtly smart- it’ll scare away the suitors.
I’ve gotten harassed for not being covered enough. And for being too covered.
At the end of the day, I will never be enough. Not for the random old women at the mosque, or the privileged man conducting the job interview. And yes, on bad days, it sucks (a lot).
Once, at a women’s gathering, I argued that there should be no physical segregation in a mosque (like a wall or barrier) between men and women, and one of the Muslim women told me if I believe that than I am not a Muslim.
When I dress like a J. Crew model (aka a white person) I get through airport security seamlessly. The people next to me on the plane will feel less uneasy. That same outfit however, gets deemed “too white” "too western" by some Muslim people.
To a majority of Muslims, I should be studying engineering, accounting, or medicine, and I quote, “doing something useful for the community.” When I tell non-Muslims people I study humanities, all their presuppositions of my oppression suddenly dissolve.
I am constantly torn between two overarching ideals, and I can never I can quite fulfil both of them.
Even if I believe that I can reconcile my faith with a western lifestyle, the majority on both sides of the equation, I think, don’t believe so. So for a good portion of the time, I do not feel like I belong neither her nor there.
I was once told that “Well behaved women seldom make history.” I laugh at that, because misbehaved for me means shaking hands with men or performing a poem about love.
You see, I am constantly trying to meet standards that are on varying points on the spectrum. And they are contradictory. If I wear slim dress pants: I look smart to some and too liberal to others. If I wear a Jilbab: I am modest to some and an oppressed terrorist housewife to the rest.
I think I have come to terms with knowing I will never be good enough, that I will never meet the people’s standards of openness, or piety, or religiosity. And maybe this is all in my mind, but on days I have to fight with a strange man who tells me “leave this mosque, may God guide you,” I remember it also a reality.
** I wrote this after visiting The Great Mosque of Kairaoun where on three separate occasions random men told me I was not allowed to be there, dress the way I was, or take photos (none of which are actual rules).**