Muslim Woman Discovers Friendly New World When a Winter Scarf Covers Her Hijab

Chicago’s bitter cold temps led to an impromptu social experiment when Leena Suleiman bundled up in a knit scarf and cap.

Posted by Dennis Robaugh (Editor) , February 13, 2014

A south suburban Chicago woman who hid her hijab beneath a fluffy knit hat and scarf discovered an entirely different world around her when others couldn’t see the traditional Muslim garb.

“I didn’t understand what was happening at first. People started talking to me more. Women would speak to me like I knew them since forever. Men looked at me like I was actually approachable,” Leena Suleiman wrote of her experience on her blog, Facetruth. “And I was made to feel like I was actually from this planet.”

But with the hijab hidden, Suleiman also learned that the familiar place she inhabited comfortably for so many years, the world of American Muslims, no longer was warm and friendly.

“The Muslim taxi drivers who would almost always say “Assalamu Alaikum,” ask me where I’m from or if I’m single, or not allow me to pay for the fare became cold and dry. I would simply give the address, and the only dialog thereafter was at time of payment. It was puzzling,” she wrote.

But the wrap around her head made all the difference. And so she decided to conduct her own social experiment, much like skinny people who don fat suits or white people who darken their skin to see how others react to their new “body.”

“I started paying more attention to the difference in the way people treated me. It was fun feeling like everyone around me believed I belonged in their culture by default, and not as part of the begrudgingly adopted diversity piece of the pie. It was a good feeling. I secretly started looking forward to venturing out into the cold to further explore what it meant to be ‘normal.’

“I became even more confident walking in my city. My city. All the stares were not racially related anymore. I was addressed as ‘lady’ and ‘little lady,’ something I had never heard before. Men would hold doors for me. Women would crack jokes with me. I became respectable, lovable, and accepted.”

Suleiman, a 25-year-old architectural designer in Chicago who graduated from Illinois Institute of Technology, was born in Oak Lawn and lives in Chicago Ridge. A large population of Muslims, many with roots in Palestine, is concentrated in the south suburbs.

Her blog, posted on Feb. 7 and titled “I Took Off My Hijab,” has more than 200 comments as of Feb. 13. Suleiman goes on to write that the realization, only made possible by this winter’s record-setting cold temperatures and windchill in Chicago, saddened and angered her.

“I immediately began to despise the inequality, and it dawned on me that I acted like someone who was bullied for years, and finally was accepted by the mean girls …”

Her commenters found the experiment thought-provoking, however.

“Sounds quite adventurous! Perhaps the fact that the ‘hijabis’ ignored you because you were not visibly Muslim may indicate both sides of the problem .Too often insularity is what keeps people from being treated as ‘normal,'” said one.

Adds another: “Honestly, I think many non-Muslims in America aren’t quite sure how to approach someone in a hijab. It’s not that you’re Muslim. It’s that you simply dress in a way that is different and it’s a bit intimidating.”

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What do you think? Share your views in the comments.


Leena Suleiman | Source:

Leena Suleiman | Source:

Categories: Americas, United States

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1 reply

  1. It is socially acceptable to be openly racist towards Muslims in this country. Legally not so because more and more Muslims are standing up to this fascism and rightfully so. What, values like stripping down to get sunburned on the beach and drinking to excess on a Friday night out? Why don’t you just wear what you want and allow other people to wear what they want? The right to wear what you want is not a special privilege. Its a basic democratic right and one that you yourself enjoy. No one tells you what you can or cannot wear. Why do you think you can tell others what they should wear?

    These racist just don’t like being pointed out and don’t like to be exposed when challenged! So all in all, this university wanted to make a rule for less than 1% of the population who (I assume) aren’t causing any big disturbances or anything? In regard of safety/terror issues, I’d be more worried about backpacks, but I doubt those will be banned in an university setting. Ban on Burqa/ Niqab is against religious-***-human rights of Muslim Women in Europe. Those who support ban on veil are Islamophobic.

    Islam is for equality, freedom and respect for each and every individual.

    REMOVE BAN ON BURQA !!! Aaron Kiely, NUS Black Students’ officer, said: “”This ban is a complete infringement on the rights to religious freedom and cultural expression and is a clear violation of a woman’s right to choose.” I don’t remember the British adapting to my country of origin’s cultural practices when they came over to colonise the land.
    They did pretty much whatever they wanted to do, and they really weren’t that bothered about the sensitivities of the natives.

    We’re just returning the favour:)

    I do understand that some find it a symbol of oppression etc, but what if it is banned and these women (or their families) feel they can’t get a proper education? What does that solve? Whether we like it or not, these people are also part of the society we live in these days. If you want them to change, do you think it will change anything if we’d essentially lock them up in their home (either by free will or family force), whether that be in the UK or Pakistan?
    The liberation of women all over the world isn’t going along the same roads as western societies went.

    School in Britain is as much about learning to socialise as it is academic advancement .

    That’s not true, otherwise it would be illegal to home school and there would be no schools where there were just a handful of students. Any dress that obscures the face from view must hamper that process.One would think that it might, but it is not an absolute given. Even if it was a given, are not people entitled to do things that others think might affect their intellectual development? What citizens do in the street or at home or church is totally up to them . However , it is not up to them to demand that they be allowed to flout logical and sensible rules in a communal publicly funded environment.
    Who decides what is logical and sensible. Just you saying that doesn’t make it so. I think it is perfectly logical and sensible to allow people to make religious conscience decisions about their dress – because I would want society to give me space to make those kinds of choices for myself.

    The idea that someone else shouldn’t be able to do something because I don’t like what they’re doing is – I think – deeply illogical, stupid and absurd. Hence we live in a world where many disagree.

    The difference is that I’m comfortable living with disagreement, whereas you seem to just want to enforce your ideals of normality on everyone.

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