The Burqa Experience: International Wear A Hijab Day: February 2, 2013

The Burqa Experience: International Wear A Hijab Day: February 2, 2013 March 16, 2013

by Calulu

For years I’ve sworn that going to my local Wal-Mart was sort of like visiting a circus freak show, a pageant of the trans-mundane. While I hate shopping at Wal Mart because I feel like I’m approving of and funding the general atrocities of the corporation on small town America and the people working there.  There are always the weirdest people you’ve ever seen shopping at Wal Mart. Once I was in a checkout line there and the little boy ahead of me kept trying to get his momma and grandma’s attention, telling them he was feeling sick. They ignored him, he turned and threw up right on my shoes and ankles. Going to Wal Mart is like spinning a roulette wheel of weirdness even if it is a good place to people watch if you want to see the odd.

Being that in some ways it’s the only game in town in my small town I end up there much more often than I would like.

But… Wal Mart anywhere is one of the most interesting people-watching places you can find. Want to see a women wearing all camo right down to makeup with a blue mohawk riding around in a wheelchair? People with huge Nascar tattoos? Questionable clothing choices? Wal Mart is your fascinating place!

So I made the choice to wade into that sea of humanity that are the customers of Wal Mart wearing my hijab just to see what type of reactions I would get. Some very uncomfortable people watching.

Once I pulled into the large parking lot in front of my local Wal Mart I was not expecting any reaction till I parked and went into the building. Not so, as soon as I was driving in front of the store looking for a spot a lady who’d waited for the cars in front of me pulled out in front of me, honked and flipped her middle finger at me. Not a young lady either, I’d say possibly 60ish with a grimace on her face. I almost hit her car he movements were so sudden.

Just getting out of the car and walking the lot on a busy Friday invited lots of stare/glare/ignore. But once I was actually in the store I was less aware of people doing that. Most everyone seemed focused on getting that giant pack of mac and cheese or Doritos than wasting time paying any mind to other shoppers.

I did run into a few people I know. One being a pastor at my church, Nancy and we chatted for a few minutes about our animals after I explained to her what I was doing there wearing a veil. I always feel odd telling people I know well what I’m up to and waiting for their remarks, good or bad. Thankfully Nancy is an interesting individual with an open mind.

That can’t be said of everyone I know. Not ten minutes later I ran into someone from my old church that I used to know well. They made some remark about knowing my faith had always been faked and this is proof of it. I am still waiting to hear the gossip from the hateful fundamentalists at the old church branding me a ‘moooslim’ and a ‘terrorrist” (their pronunciations). At least if they’re talking about me they are leaving someone else alone.

As I was trying to get to the checkout I passed two couples talking. The clothing worn by all had either Nascar insignia or something to do with Skoal or John Deere. I got death glares and ugly muttered insults as I passed. Typical rural viewpoints. It’s always the redneck types that seem to be the majority of the negative reactions.

It’s weird, it’s almost as if you cease to be a human in eyes of some people when you don the hijab, you suddenly morph into an ‘it’ that has a certain portion of the population acting as if that gives them the right to act like you’re just the devil incarnate or some evil trinket like a voodoo doll, something much less than human.

How can mere clothing strip you of your status as a human?

Managed to get out of there without much more than the stare/glare/ignore. That I can live with.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

Comments open below

Calulu lives near Washington DC , was raised Catholic in South Louisiana before falling in with a bunch of fallen Catholics whom had formed their own part Fundamentalist, part Evangelical church. Infamous for telling Jimmy Swaggert to go F**k himself back in 1981. After fifteen uncomfortable years drinking that Koolaid she left nearly 6 years ago. Her blog is Calulu – Seeking The Light  and The Burqa Experience

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  • Marky

    Since you donned the “hijab”, as you call it, and went to the local Walmart where all the “rednecks” and “fundamentalists who wear camis” shop, I would have been surprised if you hadn’t listed all the pathetic losers you could as having given you the bird and sniffed in your direction. This article isn’t humorous, which I assume you were aiming for; it is rude, insulting and hateful towards any one who lives in a small town, or holds religious views other than yours. Most conservatives I know are far more kind and less inclined to be insulting in any way than you describe here. Maybe you need a class in writing to help you understand what real humor is……

  • F. Bacon

    It’s not only hijabs. If you are a hippie in hippie clothes, you get those stares and harassment by cops, out in the boondocks.

  • Marky, there was no attempt at humor there. I was simply seeking to describe the place, the situation and the local clientele. There’s nothing humorous about trying to understand what others who are routinely excoriated by a section of our national population experience day to day in public.

    Read the entire series at and my journey away from fundamentalist/evangelicalism and the going on six year harassment I’ve endured and perhaps you might glean something about who and what I am.

  • ixo

    From the burqaexperience about page:

    “After my experiences with head covering, racism and judgmentalism occurring around me I started to wonder if perhaps devout innocent Muslim ladies arrayed in everything from the lightest hijab through a full body burqa were being treated differently than the average American woman who wears nothing on their head. I suspect they face treatment that most would not believe is taking place in America, the Land of the Free.”

    Being free to do what you want does not equal getting no consequences for your choices. Xenophobes, misogynists, homophobes, ect. broadcasting their beliefs SHOULD get jugded and called out for that.

    That being said, I would have given you a stinkeye. And I am far from being a redneck. I’m a left-liberal (European), atheist Ex-Catholic, feminist. So why would I give you a stinkeye? Here’s why:

    A. You’re a western woman with a hijab, indicating a convert (which you are not). (Yeah, there are western looking Muslimahs, too, but usually you can distinguish them by their clothes.) Female converts to Islam are rejecting all the freedoms our female ancestors fought for, throwing them away. Furthermore, in most cases they convert because they are in a relationship with a Moslem, all the while having no idea what’s actually written in the Koran or the Ahadith.
    Now women raised as Muslimahs are a different matter, they didn’t choose it, but were brought up in that culture, so they are exempt from that criticism. But if you are choosing it yourself i.e. choosing a misogynistic ideology, you have to live with the fact that people judge you for that dicision.

    B. Hijab is based on the concept of awrah , which is deeply insulting. Awrah means shame or intimate parts. For men it’s the area between navel and knees, for women their whole body (save face and hands). So while you walk with a hijab (which is not only the headcovering, but includes the whole garment, btw) you signalize that you think women are nothing more than walking genitals. You also signalize that men are nothing more than animals who cannot help themselves but rape a woman, if she’s not covered.

    On your blog you write that you want to honor their commitment to devout modesty and humility. Are you aware of the fact that most of them do not choose it? Like Christian fundies they are brainwashed from childhood to accept it. In recent years girls with hijab get younger and younger, sometimes they still are toddlers. (Formerly they started wearing it in puberty.)

    So if you want to do something good, why not support i.e. rawa or your local safe house instead of wearing a misogynistic garment.

    P.S. I found this: “devout modesty and humility”, worded as if it were something good, problematic.


  • ixo

    *It’s Musilmahs, of course.

  • madame

    It’s Muslimah.

  • saraquill

    For shame, painting all Muslims with the same brush. It is NOT a religion of evil, or misogyny. The Prophet was quite fair for his day, making sure that women had rights under his new religion. Furthermore, I am disgusted that you would declare hijab wearers as victims of a system designed to crush them. It does no good to stereotype anyone as an object of scorn or pity merely because of what they wear or their religion or lack thereof. They are people and need to be considered individually, not as a lump.

  • newcomer

    Another left-liberal (European), atheist, feminist. As you said, xenophobes, misogynists, homophobes, ect. broadcasting their beliefs SHOULD get judged and called out for that. That’s why I’m responding to your post at all.

    You have become yet another person who judges a woman as stupid, ignorant, or misguided without ever bothering to speak to her, based solely on her clothing. You have shown yourself to be profoundly ignorant of the diversity of Islamic cultures, Islam’s history and the important roles women played within it, and continue to play (at times, as head of Muslim countries, something our own country has not yet managed to accomplish). You utterly disregard the many Muslim feminists that are active, strong, intelligent voices for change, and who absolutely do not consider feminism to be at conflict with their faith, merely some cultural practices (which differ tremendously from place to place). Have you actually ever actually discussed this with any hijab-keeping women? I have. This was the subject of my thesis. I can tell you those of whom I spoke with on-campus, both Fulbright scholars and professors, both working on their PhDs , and both women who chose and utterly loved keeping hijab, spoke very emphatically of how much more objectified they felt here, within our ‘enlightened’ Western culture, than they ever felt in their home countries of Oman and Egypt. We are in NO position to cast stones.

    In the meantime, I suggest that you stop using ‘feminism’ as your excuse to appoint yourself authority on what women are allowed to wear, believe, and be without serious social shunning. You don’t even remotely speak for all of us, and you’re hurting the cause in doing so.