pro: dul-dul jabrut 

"People were afraid of me"

A Muslim woman explains why she decided to stop wearing the hijab
and the role faith plays in her life as an American. July 30, 2007
issue - Karima Berkani knows better than most the difficulties of
trying to straddle two cultures. The 24-year-old daughter of an
Algerian-born Muslim father and an American-born Roman Catholic
mother, Berkani was raised in a bireligious household. Her parents
taught her to believe in God, but left the faith of choice up to her.
When she was 17, she chose Islam, and ever since she has been dealing
with the question of how to live her life as a good Muslim in one of
the nation's most liberal, all-American towns. NEWSWEEK's Alexandra
Gekas spoke with Berkani about her life in Madison, Wis., and her
work as a political activist in Palestinian and anti-Iraq War


NEWSWEEK: Do you wear the hijab?
Karima Berkani: Not anymore. I went through a period where I wore it
before September 11, and after [the 9/11 attacks] I tried to keep it
up for almost a year, but [I was] being accosted. Although I could
deal with it, my parents had a problem with it. I was attracting
attention, and it was creating a huge divide in my family. They
thought it wasn't safe for me to wear it.
What are the major dilemmas you face about wearing the headscarf or
My personal interpretation of what Islam is asking of me is that I
dress modestly. I don't think the Qur'an insists on the hijab, I
don't think it's required of me, but at the same time I do feel that
I should follow the example of Muhammad and his wife, who both
covered their heads. It's also a lifestyle, and I felt like it was
easier to be an active Muslim by separating myself from American
culture. And if I wanted to pray, boom, I already had the veil on. It
also easily identified me as Muslim to other Muslims, and it made it
much easier to dress modestly.

When you decided to wear the veil, how did non-Muslims react to you?
A lot of my good friends, who I was friends with before I started
wearing the hijab, we stopped being friends, because they just didn't
get it. A year or two after that there was more tolerance.

And how did people react to you when you were wearing the veil?
I love talking to old people, but I felt like when I was wearing
hijab there was more fear from them than willingness to talk to a
nice girl in the grocery store. I would get really sympathetic looks
from some women and they would be way too nice to me, or sometimes I
felt like I was deformed, and people were looking, but trying not to
look,or people would talk to me like I don't speak English. The
October after September 11 I was in my car with another girl who
wears hijab and we were driving to an event at the mosque. It was
around Halloween, and these drunk guys starting yelling "get a better
costume!" But I wasn't wearing a costume.

Was there a big change in the way you were treated after September
After September 11, a lot happened. One time I was walking with my
cousin and this college guy ran up to us and was like "You f---ing
rag head, go back to where you came from." But I've been living in
Madison my whole life, probably longer than him. At airports, I would
give people my American passport but they would still assume that I'm
an immigrant, that I don't speak English. Going onto an airplane,
people would poke the person next to them, point at me and start
whispering. And that's what really upset me. People were afraid of me
like I was holding a gun to their face, just by existing. But the
people who were affected most by it were Muslim men, my boyfriend and
my father, because when I was wearing hijab they got weird looks,
too. One time someone asked my father why he makes his daughter wear
that, or people would assume my dad is my husband.

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