Something I find myself doing every time I am in a social setting meeting new people is trying to decipher what perceptions of my exist in the minds of people in the room. Since I wear a headscarf, this perception is usually related to whatever it is that they think of Muslims/ Muslim women. I then proceed to do everything in my power to break that expectation and re-frame that image. Here are some examples of what goes on in my head in these social settings:
1. Hmm that person probably thinks Muslim women are quiet and/or voiceless. Make sure you’re loud and have a firm handshake. Oh yes look them right in the eye when you say the things you say. Did you just end your sentence with a question mark? FIX YOUR TONE, WOMAN!
2. Is it just me or did that person just give me a strange look? Her past experiences involving hijab-wearing women must have been negative so it is now your moral OBLIGATION to set a new image for your people. Smile, fix your posture and make sure everything you say is politically correct.
3. Hey, is that a lesbian couple? They probably think I hate lesbian couples because you know, I’m Muslim, duhh. Head on over there and show them you love all people, especially those who may have experienced hate/discrimination! No time for a bathroom break, they’re going to think you’re avoiding them cause you hate lesbian couples! GO GO GO!
4. Oh my goodness it’s a dog. I know, they’re quick, have sharp teeth and you don’t know what they’re thinking, which is why I’ve activated your SNS. But DON’T YOU DARE flinch as it comes towards you because the owner will think you hate dogs because of something religious despite the fact that half your Muslim friends love dogs and then we’ll have created a situation #2 for the next Muslim girl.
I wonder if this type of judgement-paranoia exists among other Muslims. What kind of psychological impact has negative stereotypes about Muslims had on our people? Am I the only one who has this kind of social anxiety or could Post-9/11-Muslim Stress Disorder be a thing?