They think they know me well to analyze or offer advice,
Maybe to improve what they see,
Maybe in anger against what I say,
Or they just want a better me.
I listen to them, politely smile back, and walk away,
But I keep wondering: what is there to change?
Are they annoyed by the way I dress?
Jeans and tops
Boots or trainers
And a head-scarf,
Not a stereotype.
(I think, maybe I need to smile less).
Day and night, I roam London streets,
I smile and smile back
when a head-scarfed woman comes ahead:
“Assalam alykum” is expected by both,
Coded greeting to know our own:
We are one community who believe in peace,
“assalam alykum” “wa alyakum alsalam”.
No shia or sunni needs to interfere.
It is a secret language,
They ask me to remove the scarf:
Or they say it with love.
I don’t give it religious sanctity,
But I don’t throw my hair in the wind
Nor let free a suppressed beauty.
They don’t understand what it means,
To throw colors on
Pink and blue,
They don’t get how it makes me feel:
At home, while living nomad in a strange world
It is my mother’s Abaya and my sisters’ familiar eyes
It is the country I have left
N. F. Mohammed