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Friday, January 29, 2016

My Scarf

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,
Of stereotypes.

They ask me to remove the scarf:
                    Angry maybe
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
Black hair:
Pink and blue,
Sometimes cream.

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
                              In fear.

N. F. Mohammed 


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