this is MY hijab, not yours

I apologize in advance if this is incoherent (I will revise this at a later date) but I need to discuss something really fucking important right now.

So, I am a Muslim woman who participates in wearing the hijab. The hijab, if you don’t know, is a religious head covering women in the Islamic religion participate in. Now, before you ask if my dad forced me to wear it, no he did not, it was 100% my choice. I can only speak for myself, of course, as not everyone is as fortunate as me to have that choice.

So I’ve been wearing it since Ramadan 2013, so the month of Ramadan is more memorable for me since it’s kind of like an anniversary for myself, of some sort.

I know there are others who have worn it for longer than I have, and some for a shorter amount of time than I have. The longer you wear it, the more difficult it is to take it off, they say. It melds into your personality, and deciding to take it off means peeling off a layer of yourself. I find that explanation too dramatic and too specific to a certain niche of hijab-wearers, those who believe 100% of the hijab wearers in the world had a choice to wear it (how it should be, but sadly isn’t the reality).

So this next part is my own, personal experience, and in no way should be generalized to the entire population of hijab wearers so PLEASE don’t do it!

Ok. So I had an experience with a relative recently that sent my blood boiling. Sparing all the details of the argument, they told me it is difficult to go out in public with me due to the fact I engage in wearing my hijab. They claimed it made it awkward to walk around with an ultra-religious person at a festival around “normal” people because they would look at me differently.

So, please tell me how calm I am supposed to react to this tidbit of news??? Do I say, “Hey you’re right, I shouldn’t wear this damn rag on my head just to please you! Of course!” NO.

For me, my hijab is a part of me. And I mean that in an up close and personal way, too. It’s a tumultuous relationship we have since the political climate in the United States makes it difficult to practice freedom of religion. What’s worse is that when the people who also share your struggle as a Muslim in America (especially the male population) do not support your displays of religion because they find them arbitrary and pointless, then it hurts. Because for me, even the worst days with my hijab on were better than my best days without it.

I mean, sure, I would like to let my hair down and show off my haircut in public, but for me, I am attached to my hijab for more than the fact it is a head covering. It has become a part of me, and it has helped me in reaffirming who I am as a person, a student and a professional in this world. It is more than just a cloth on my head for me, it saved me in the battle with myself, and continues to give me the strength to continue battling to this day.

So to people who say I cause them embarrassment due to that one thing is disrespectful. The culmination of who I am was based on my hijab, and to claim it’s just a piece of cloth and a signal of extremism and to claim walking next to a hijab-wearing person makes you uncomfortable is disgusting, especially when these words come from a fellow Muslim!!!!!!

I am me, and my hijab is a part of me, and I can do whatever I want and have full freedom to live my life as a hijab-wearing American woman.

I don’t know why I have to reiterate this fact, but here we are because incompetent people around me give me a reason to need to defend myself.

– Hadeel




Autism “Awareness” Month…?

I suppose that because I am in school to become a Behavior Analyst, I should mention something about how today is Autism Awareness Day and how we all should “light it up blue!!!11” to find a cure and to bring awareness to the disorder. Well, I’m not about that, to be completely honest. I find that categorizing Autism Spectrum Disorder simply as a disorder is commonplace, and frankly, very lazy.

Anyone who has delved deeper into the concept of disorders, especially ASD, will realize that a campaign meant to bring “awareness” to a relatively gray-area disorder, although seemingly innocent, very detrimental to those who live/thrive with the diagnosis as they shut out the voices of individuals who experience ASD daily and instead only listen to those so-called “experts” on the disorder. I have had an issue with the “celebration” ever since it became familiar to my ignorant undergraduate self two years ago.

I was a Speech Pathology Major at a school in Chicago, and I had a senior capstone project on a disorder that leads to speech and communication disorders. Naturally, the group I was assigned to work with received the controversial Autism Spectrum Disorder. I remember my initial thought being oh great, we’re going to fail! 

Now I can explain why this was so. Partially, her thoughts on the field and popular knowledge of “Autism” were those of frustration and general distaste. She believed that individuals who were autistic were often perceived as broken individuals that needed to be fixed and it simply wasn’t true. She was 10000% against behavioral therapy for these individuals, which includes ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis).

Now, she hated anything about the field of behavioral therapy, and this counted for presentations on Autism as well. So, we had to discuss the prevalence of Autism, the speech/language disorders and general information on ASD as well. Of course, I was given the topic of the approaches many take on managing behaviors. I presented a sample task analysis, breaking down one task into many simpler components, on shoe tying. I thought I did a pretty good job. THOUGHT.

We finished the presentations and it was a week until we received our scores. For this class, although we were assigned to provide a group presentation, we were individually scored on our performance. Which is why I was surprised, but also expectant on receiving the lowest score of all my peers. I looked over her notes that detailed her criticisms. It was a year ago, but I distinctly remember one specific scrawling on my rubric. It read:

Work on your voice.

Without context, the comment is vague and hardly any justification to lower my score. While the context does not provide any justification, it sheds light on how ridiculous I had felt after working all semester for a seemingly lackluster output.

As I previously mentioned, I was diagnosed with a speech disorder called dysarthria after my spell with Meningitis over 5 years ago. I was left with a lack of coordination of the muscles of speech. For example, if I want to say “Cheese Pizza” (pronounced CHEEZE PITZA) 20% of the time I’ll pronounce it “CHEESE PEESA” with an “S” sound rather than a “Z”. Sometimes, I can’t control this and it’s just something I work around and accommodate for my listeners in presentations.

The funny thing is, in the two years I was in the degree program, this professor was told about my condition and wrote that comment, completely disregarding my attempts at accommodating due to the fact she was not willing to look past that difficulty I face.

Okay, Hadeel. We get it, you’re still petty. But what does this experience have to do with Autism “Awareness Month”???

I had/have a speech disorder and the people who claim to advocate for individuals with speech disorders, language impairments and the like should advocate and support me. Now, let’s compare to autistic individuals.

The big-shot group, the BIGGEST so-called advocate for autistic people is known as Autism $peaks. They claim to be the biggest voice for autistic people and write how they continually support the communities of autistic people and how they provide them with services, donate to research and provide autistic people a voice they do not have. In fact, their mission statement reads as follows:

“Autism Speaks is dedicated to promoting solutions, across the spectrum and throughout the lifespan, for the needs of individuals with autism and their families through advocacy and support; increasing understanding and acceptance of autism spectrum disorder; and advancing research into causes and better interventions for autism spectrum disorder and related conditions.” – Autism Speaks (About Us)

Now, this sounds perfectly acceptable, but what does it mean? As per my own interpretation, I find it to mean that the group is an advocate for autistic people and willing to exhaust all of their resources in order to discover more accurate “solutions” to the treatment of autistic tendencies.

That’s not ok because autistic people are still people, and shouldn’t be stigmatized and spoken about in this “othering” manner. Also, why, why, WHY would you use “condition” to describe Autism when you are an “advocate”?

Basically, I am saying that as an advocate of individuals with disabilities, one should actually listen to the needs of that population instead of isolating them and using them for your own “inspiration porn” needs. They have voices, as do all individuals (doesn’t have to be a verbal voice) and rights.

My job as a BCBA is to represent their needs by actually advocating for my clients, and I don’t care how famous or supposedly well-intended giant “charity” and “research” organizations are, I will work with all my effort to use the voices of my clients to meet their needs, not the needs of other people to lessen their “burden” of existing with an autistic person.

I find it imperative to do more research before blindly supporting organizations that claim to support people with disabilities when in reality the phenomenon is a cash cow for their CEO. Let’s accept these individuals first before we bring awareness to a disorder we are getting a completely biased perspective on.