Today, my wife became a global topic of discussion, thanks to the interview and subsequent article that was posted on BuzzFeed this morning about my wife and her decision to wear hijab for Lent. There are very few people who go through this sort of a reality – and most of those who do have probably grown used to seeing the one they love the object of both admiration and public scrutiny.
It’s not an easy thing to deal with.
First of all, the article that was published by BuzzFeed was almost exclusively positive or neutral. My wife was asked six questions via email and that became the framework for the article. For the most part, nothing was taken out of context or exaggerated in what she said in the interview. What is uncomfortable to deal with, at least for us, is that what is said may or may not be understood by the reader (or even the writer). You send your words out into the universe and leave it to someone else to tell your story on your behalf. Thankfully, Jessey has been writing a daily journal, so there’s actually a primary source to go back to if there is any confusion or misrepresentation.
To give an example of how vastly one could misunderstand my wife’s Lenten journey, here’s something that was written to me in an email on Sunday (before the BuzzFeed article was published): “By wearing the hijab, Jessey is essentially siding with ISIS, and the supremacist political system of Sharia. It is not just a piece of cloth. Symbols matter. Think of it this way – would any of us fly the ISIS flag at our house? Or wear the Swastika on our clothes? No way. The hijab is that powerful a symbol for Islam.”
My response: “I think you have misunderstood Jessey’s purpose for wearing hijab. It is NOT to say ‘See, hijab isn’t all that bad’. The point is to understand what women go through on a daily basis in America who wear hijab. It is a view into what WE do to women in Islam, how WE view them, how WE treat them, how WE insult, oppress, or ignore them.”
Aside from this extreme example, there has been plenty of uproar about Jessey’s comment that she was considering using makeup to darken her complexion in an attempt to see if she is being treated more blandly because of the color of her skin while wearing hijab. Honestly, this, when read in a vacuum, sounds pretty crazy. This was compounded by the fact that BuzzFeed chose to change font size and use bold text for that comment, indicating that this was important to the story. All of a sudden, my wife moved from the sphere of inspiration to bigot, racist, idiot, dope, backward, small-minded, ignorant, and foolish. An article was even written on an alternate website about that one comment.
A full article, about one comment, about my wife and her desire for understanding a little more deeply what it means to be an outsider in a very insider culture.
Needless to say, all of the attention has been more than overwhelming and more than we could have ever expected. In fact, it made my wife lose her mind this morning to the point that she insisted that we take the kids to Chuck E Cheese (a money pit that we have never been to with our children) just to get away from her computer and her phone.
However, one thing remains, which I think is the most important: Jessey is deepening her friendships with her Muslim friends, challenging the stereotypes and lack of neighborliness of other friends, and shared a message of reconciliation and love of neighbor, stranger, and enemy to literally thousands of people in one day.
Here’s the best from the BuzzFeed article: “Jesus said to love our neighbors, strangers, and enemies. I think this is something that is not often taken seriously by many Christians,” she told BuzzFeed News. “We are so influenced by the media, that we allow fear to take over, and forget to love. Fear is the opposite of love.”
I am immensely proud of my wife for her decision, for her willingness to make the most of the attention that her story has garnered, for her resolve, her beauty, and her heart.
She, like me, sincerely believes that love can actually change this world. She, in her naivete, believes that hospitality is not only lacking in American communities (especially amongst people of our own race (something we’ve been learning isn’t PC to acknowledge)), but is also the necessary first step towards developing loving relationships with people across lines of difference that can potentially change the shape of our world.
That’s some good news to chew on.
In case somehow you missed it, here is the article on BuzzFeed.