Bound To My Safety

“I took my hijab off, and I put it away, and I told my husband, ‘No more.'”

Hold a Conversation

Can you imagine leading a conversation about this story? Where? With whom? What kinds of questions would you pose? (See How to use the questions for reflection for one approach.) Please email your questions to us or post them in the comment box for our consideration. If you use them in an actual discussion, let us know how the conversation went.

Transcript for Bound To My Safety

The African American that I married was incarcerated at Westville Correctional Center.  I went into Westville as a chaplain for the Lutheran church, and we would conduct Bible studies and all this sort of thing.  And the guy who was in charge—the offender—was the man that I ended up marrying.  I got on his visiting list, and we started building a relationship, and a year later, we decided to get married.  And he was a Muslim, and so he had the chaplain—the imam—who came over there gave me all kinds of material, but anyway, so I agreed to convert.  So that’s how I became a Muslim.  And I still consider myself to be a Muslim.

I’m a lifelong resident of Valparaiso, Indiana.  I’ve seen a lot of changes, and when I was growing up, it was totally white.  I had always heard that there was a Sundown law.  Now, nobody can tell me whether it actually has been on the books or not, but people of color were out of town by sundown.  My husband at the time worked for the Post-Tribune in Gary.  His coworkers would come out to our house in the summertime for cookouts.  So, when it got close to sundown, I’d say, you know, ‘You guys need to be headed for home.  And I want to make sure—I’m going to escort you out.’  You know, like this is 1970-something at this point.  We never had any problems, but I heard enough stories to know that I wasn’t being overly-cautious.

Two incidents that happened directly to me gave me an opportunity for lack of a better word to understand what people go through because of the color of their skin, or their religion, or both.  My husband and I would go over to Lake George in Hobart.  He loved to fish.  So anyway, we were over there one day, and we’d had lunch at some fast food thing, and I’d walked across the parking lot to throw the papers out, and all of a sudden, this car came racing through the park round in front of him and called him, ‘Blank,’ and ‘Why don’t you go back where you came from?’ My husband carried a filet knife to filet fish when he needed it, and the look on his face,  his whole demeanor—I had never seen that before.  I just froze.  And the tears are welling up in my eyes because it’s like, ‘What do I do?’  The guys went up the hill, turned around, and came back.  Well, they yelled at him again, and by this point he’d pulled out his knife, and, you know, they zoomed on out.  But I mean, I can just remember just shaking afterwards and thinking, ‘My God.  This is what people go through all the time.  And only because of the color of their skin.’

So I had gone out to an open air market out on 30, and I was dressed in hijab.  I had gone out to the produce and I was alone.  And I had my head covered, and I had something loose on, but it wasn’t, you know, a cultural thing.  So, all of a sudden, I heard behind me a car screeching through the parking lot and somebody yelling at me, ‘Go back where you came from.’  And again, I froze.  But when I got home that day, I took my hijab off, and I put it away, and I told my husband, ‘No more.’  So there’s a lot of guilt about that.  Because I kept thinking, ‘I can do this because I haven’t worn this all my life.’  But what about the women who have the same experience who this is so much a part of their life that they would not even think of taking that off? You know, they would not be able to do it.  I had not been a Muslim that long that I was bound to it.  I was more bound to my safety.