A few years ago I had interviewed a very inspirational woman for one of my assignments at university -Ahlam Saeed, who at the time was a student at the University of Roehampton, aged 22 but is now 25.
To my surprise, as I scrolled down on The Evening Standard website, I came across an article where I had noticed Ahlam’s name mentioned under the title”Women subjected to Anti Muslim abuse while trying to buy sweets in London newsagent”. I was in shock; it was the same Ahlam I had interviewed about 2 years ago
Ahlam was verbally abused by a man at her local news agent; she was allegedly called “Batman” for wearing a niqaab. Ahlam, being the brave individual I know was courageous enough to record the verbal abuse as it happened and soon the footage was shared amongst different platforms of social media
The man, who was with two young children, could be heard saying: “My kids can’t even see your face, who the f*** are you? Are you a man or woman?”
Despite his young children watching the dispute the man repeatedly swore at Ahlam asking “why are you wearing that” referring to her niqaab. “Are you ISIS” he asks
This video was very frustrating for me to watch. Having spoken to Ahlam before I felt inspired by her decision to wear the full face veil and received such a positive aura from the things we spoke about.
But it frustrates me, not only because I’ve spoken to Ahlam before, but the fact that cases of verbal and physical Islamophobic abuse are becoming more and more common in a country which used to encourage multiculturalism and respect for all religions.
Unfortunately, the visual representation of Muslim women who wear the hIjab or niqaab, are the ones who are more likely to face this kind of abuse, not only because they are most vulnerable but because they are the most obvious representations of Muslims.
It is upsetting that the way one chooses to dress has such a negative impact on a person’s perception of another. How quick was this man to attach negative connotations to a woman he has never met, a woman who was simply minding her own business?
As Ahlam said in the video “I’m not going to keep quiet due to your ignorance” and that is exactly what needs to be done, people like this man and many other racist and Islamophobic individuals cannot keep getting away with such hurtful remarks.
I will end with something that Ahlam had said to me during my interview with her
“The way I dress is my voice, why should something on my face completely put me in the dark and differentiate me from you”
Watch the video on: