Thursday, May 8, 2008

Frustrating Encounters

The Birmingham Posts’ Roshan Doug recently blogged about a frustrating experience he had at a retail outlet. Many of us could relate as many of us have been in similar situations. Therefore, I understood much of his frustration throughout the post until......

The clerk he was dealing with was a Muslim woman in a hijab. He mentions this early in the piece. I did wonder why he had mentioned this until I read in his explanatory blog entry which followed this one (which he had to write due to the response to this post) that he mentioned it to set the scene. Makes sense, except that what he was setting the scene for was very problematic. After much frustration in dealing with this clerk, he explains:

I'm also not too impressed with the fact that she throws the card on the desk and not hand it to me - it's a cultural thing apparently. Some Muslim women - like her - avoid all - even the faintest - contact with men.

Now this is quite the assumption to make. There has been nothing in the post indicating her level of conservatism, or what she adheres to religiously. He based this assumption simply on her wearing of a head scarf. It is her status as a hijabi he refers to when he says “like her.” Anyone who knows anything about Muslim women will know that such generalizations are absolutely inaccurate. After all, Doug himself is an ethnic minority and should understand the rudeness of having one generalized with one’s group. But he seems to forget how inaccurate and harmful such generalizations can be when dealing with a woman who wears hijab. Especially since she is more likely to have thrown the card because she was rude, not because she did not want to have contact with him. The no-contact-with-men-whatsoever is not as common a belief as he would have us believe.

He then continues to say:

Why they then take jobs that require dealing with the public on a face to face basis, I have no idea.

Again, he is making this assumption based simply on her hijab. This generalization appears even more inaccurate and foolish since objections to face-to-face association are rare among women who wear hijab. Analyzed further, this statement appears to be based on the underlying belief that women who wear the hijab would prefer to remain within the walls of their home away from society. That they would prefer to not be a part of public life. That they would prefer to remain secluded. Wow! Waaaay too many rude and insulting assumptions being made about hijab-clad Muslim women.

Doug has written a response to this post based on the many complaints against him. And in his response he comes across as an intelligent man. This makes it even more depressing that he would make the assumptions he did. Especially, since he does not explain why he made those assumptions or what they were based on. Was there something we missed? Apparently not. Now whether no complainant brought up this issue or whether he just ignored it if it was brought up, I am not sure, but for some reason he still does believe that the reason she threw the card was because of her interpretation of Islam. I am still at a loss as to how he came to that conclusion and with so much conviction. However, it is very clear that he just does not get it.