Welcome to the thoughts, rants and passions of a young Muslim woman seeking soulful enlightenment in cyberspace.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Shouldn't Walk Here

I am walking along College Street, random thoughts sorting themselves out in my mind, when a sharp voice cuts through my blissful reverie. "You shouldn't walk here; you'll scare the patients." There's a middle-aged man strolling towards me. Pleasant face, hostile eyes. Is he talking to me? Seems so. But...scare the patients? Why's he saying that to me?

In a split second I realize why. I am walking past the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. And I'm in full Islamic dress, complete with jilbaab (outer garment) and headscarf. It's warm outside, so there's no winter coat or spring jacket to hide my scariness.

Walking towards me is a complete stranger with the audacity to insult me to my face. In public. On a bustling street, with other pedestrians nearby. You shouldn't walk here; you'll scare the patients. And before I can properly school my response, my eyes are widening with restrained humour, my mouth already quivering upwards. The absurdity of the situation hits me so suddenly that I can't help chuckling. The chuckling turns to laughter. And the laughter feeds on itself, drawing strength and growing louder. He is taken aback, trying to interpret my strange reaction. My merriment seems to confuse him more than anger or submission. Finally he glowers at me, mutters something and stomps away.

He probably thinks I'm one of them. Somehow I really don't care.


  • At 5/16/2005 04:11:00 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You're laughing, but I would run! Watch out, those nutcases can be dangerous!

  • At 5/16/2005 05:04:00 p.m., Blogger Safiyyah said…

    He couldn't have harmed me. It was daytime hours and there were people around.
    I still can't believe I did that though! :-D

  • At 5/16/2005 05:16:00 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Salaam. You're a strong woman who can think on her feet, but sister, you really should be careful. I know Allah is adequate for the believer, but you shouldn't be asking for hostility... I agree with the last anonymous.

    But your reaction was pretty spectacular ;) I'd be almost frightened if a similar woman started laughing uncontrollably in the middle of a street.

  • At 5/16/2005 05:45:00 p.m., Blogger Hasan the Not-So-Great said…

    you can only be offended if you choose to let yourself be

  • At 5/16/2005 07:32:00 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Good for you Saffiyah, you should have added a beazalbob face after the

    Like WOW, Sister, you ever think of getting into creative writing. I mean I was totally into this story. Well Done.

    The more important Anonymous,

  • At 5/16/2005 08:26:00 p.m., Blogger Maryam said…

    Hasan, what if someone had said that to a black person because they are black?

  • At 5/16/2005 11:14:00 p.m., Blogger Hasan the Not-So-Great said…

    i get called a terrorist almost on a daily basis. even kids in msa think my backpack is heavy cause its full of quraans (it is meant in a derogitory way). I have learned to deal with insults using this method. it works for me.

  • At 5/17/2005 08:00:00 a.m., Blogger Maryam said…

    I guess anyone who is the victim of racism and prejudice has to come to grips with it in a way that doesn't eat them up, but I worry that we may become immune to it though.

  • At 5/17/2005 12:52:00 p.m., Anonymous Yusuf Smith said…

    As-Salaamu 'alaikum,

    Well, people with those sorts of disorders can get religious delusions - there was one occasion here when nuns were banned from wearing the habit when attending mental health patients, and it was explained that some patients think they are God, others think they are Satan.

    Was this guy one of the patients or just a common busybody? If the latter, perhaps you can tell him that you have walked this way many times before and nobody has been scared yet. If the former, like the previous commenters said ... run.

  • At 5/17/2005 01:53:00 p.m., Blogger Safiyyah said…

    I believe this was just a regular guy off the street. Judging from his clothing, he looked like he was on his lunch break. But even if he was a patient, not all patients with mental illnesses are dangerous.
    I’m curious: how do you know I’ve "walked this way many times before"?

  • At 5/17/2005 01:59:00 p.m., Blogger Safiyyah said…

    I admit what I did was unwise - don't try this, anyone! But I like to think I’m street smart, and I do hope I'm able to read character well;-) Sometimes I just get fed up of submitting to the dehumanization and I feel the need to assert myself. I'm not naive enough to think everyone’s harmless, but I believe there are some individuals who will rethink their behaviour if they encounter someone who just won’t put up with their nonsense. In this case, I judged well;-)

  • At 5/17/2005 02:34:00 p.m., Anonymous Yusuf Smith said…

    :I’m curious: how do you know I’ve "walked this way many times before"?:

    I don't. I just assumed.

    But from my limited experience (I've got quite a long beard, which as far as I've seen nobody grows to this length other than for religious reasons), the only trouble I've had from mental patients happened in a mosque, where a recent convert who had talked with me for a while started throwing things at me and calling me a shaytan.

    And also, if sisters in hijab scared people with mental illnesses, this would be well known. It isn't.

  • At 5/17/2005 02:45:00 p.m., Blogger Maryam said…

    Yusuf wrote: "I've got quite a long beard, which as far as I've seen nobody grows to this length other than for religious reasons"

    ... or philosophy professors

  • At 5/17/2005 04:42:00 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I can't see why are you curious, I mean if you wore hijab and jilbab that day while you were wlaking along the street, it is normal to assume that you wear that often aka many times before.

  • At 5/17/2005 05:29:00 p.m., Blogger Safiyyah said…

    Aaah, but this is where language usage gets interesting. When Yusuf said I've "walked this way many times before" I assumed he was referring to the route. I now realize he might have been talking about clothing, in which case, there's no mystery there.

  • At 5/18/2005 01:58:00 p.m., Blogger Leila M. said…

    Aw you have a better reaction than I would, Saf. I probably would have tackled him (or yelled).

    what a booger!

  • At 5/18/2005 04:40:00 p.m., Blogger cncz said…

    macha Allah

    i would laugh too

    people are so wrong.

    nice husband never gets the terrorist treatment though because his skin is this pale yellow color. in new orleans they think he's creole, and everywhere else they just think he's mexican.


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