Poetry

To A Mere Headscarf

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You are spit at,
ripped off,
flown and lit.

But when I
advocate
for you,
shout out
the world
for you,

they treat me
like you.

I am spit at,
ripped apart,
torn and lit.

I remember
sixth grade: Are you
bald? cancerous? dangerous?
Pulled off
once,
twice,
three times.

I stayed,
seventh grade I had
no friends,

eighth grade,
I was a terrorist-
to them,

ninth grade,
they stared at me,
dissected me,
debated me like I
was a massacre,
because I advocated
for you.

French, German,
western tongues
that try to ban me
from public display
because I advocated
for you.

They ask me who
oppressed me,
thinking that I could
not have possibly
done this to myself,

but they don’t see
the way I felt brave,
representative
of freedom,

when I read the book
of a girl
who made my choice.

What they see,
is not a choice,
they think I cannot
run,
dance,
cry,
sing,

but they don’t see
that I can
run, if only from them,
who believe we’re un-American,
dance, if only to disconnect
from the world turned against us,
cry, if only because they
have turned against us,
sing, if only to protest
the oppression they had put on
us.

They are blind,
because I advocated
for you,

and they are deaf,
because I proclaimed
your freedoms,

and they are mute,
because I am not
a nun,
who still covers
as I do,
but who never advocated
for you.

Because
you,
the symbol
of oppression
in their eyes,
are made into
the symbol
of oppression
in my eyes,
until no longer
am I brave enough
to advocate
for you,

because,
when we are lit,
we eventually all
burn out.


Author’s Note: This poem is about my feelings regarding the negative perception of hijab in the west. It is a letter speaking directly to my hijab, but at the same time, speaking to the audience as well. I wanted to show the personal hopelessness and fear created by others in me that I sometimes feel at my low points. Most significantly, my poem speaks to how the hijab is not a symbol of oppression, but rather it is the people who proclaim that it is oppressing us, the people who misunderstand and hate us for our religion, the people who try to rip it off our heads, that are the ones oppressing us. Despite knowing all of this, fighting back against this false belief and feeling is increasingly difficult, and sometimes feels too difficult, because “we eventually / all burn out.”

Eman Akhtar is a junior in high school who is studying abroad in Morocco under a government scholarship. She hopes to major in international studies in college. She believes that tolerance and respect is key to world peace and understanding. She enjoys reading, writing, art, dance, music, and many other things. Her family is from Pakistan. She joined MYM because she felt their was little representation of the experiences of current Muslim youth in writing. InshaAllah, one day this will change.