Discover more from Blind spots with Farah Maraqa
Chronicles of a new “Anti-Semitism Scandal” (part 8): Won’t use my Veil!
I won't set all of the great veiled women I know under the stereotype of being radical, illiberal, or even worse: Anti-Semitic.
My “veil story” was the most prominent topic everyone tried to remind me of using when speaking of “my cards”, that I should use it to tear loose of the “Anti-semitism” label some of the German media was trying to ascribe to me.
My friends, colleagues and acquaintances thought this story would convince the investigators and the management at Deutsche Welle that “I changed” or that “I am not guilty”!
The personal story of Mr Ahmad Mansour, the Arab external investigator, who was heading to be an Islamist before changing and coming to Germany, made telling my veil story make even more sense to them. They thought “our stories are similar” and told him that I took off my Veil would shower me with “mercy” from the investigators and DW.
I felt how bad my colleagues wanted me to stay; their compassion is valuable and came as a compromise for the challenging moments I had to live. However, I kept reminding myself that the unfair attack shouldn’t make me use illegitimate weapons or cards.
My Veil and the story behind it were not a political status. Using them as a sign of political change will make me set all of the great veiled women I know under the stereotype of being radical, illiberal, or even worse: Anti-Semitic.
I am convinced it won’t favour anyone, including me. Although I believe telling the story for its true connotation will serve more significant yet different purposes, including helping my German and multicultural colleagues and friends understand the veil culture.
The Veil never meant that I was a close-minded or radical woman at any point. Instead, it meant that we respect our community: its values, traditions and religion.
I studied journalism at a university in another city. I had a career where I was hopping from one office to another till midnight, writing stories, interviewing people, participating in media campaigns, lecturing at the university, giving training courses, and editing other colleagues’ work — all while being veiled.
I came to Germany, lived alone, and worked in DW while veiled. My issue of not feeling like I am truly myself and as I wanted, had nothing to do with the Veil or Hijab itself but with me. I made a personal decision, and whoever worked with me respected it as well because they knew me for the professional journalist I am, and not my hair!
That said, I have to admit that I found it too simplifying- unacceptably- for anyone to attribute my story about taking off the Veil as a change in my values in itself. Rather, it was part of the process and part of my promise to myself to live the values that I am representing, and my first value is “the freedom of choice”.
Deciding openly to take off my Veil after living in Germany for one year was one of the most important yet complex choices I ever made. I had to confront one of my images about myself and some of my family surroundings. I had to ask myself many times about belongings, and what that may change in my image in the family, which saw me always as their successful girl. Who will still be around and ask about me and who not?. Many questions were without answers but full of fears and uncertainty. My inner conflict was the greatest of all.
In the end, the answers left many scars on different levels in my relationships with my extended family. However, My professional life kept being at the same level. I did it after being well recognised as a professional journalist, not as a woman, nor as veiled or non-veiled.
Nevertheless, I won’t use it as it was (and still is) not a card or a sign of me abandoning some “bad ideas” I had in my life on a political or religious level. Still, it is a sign of growth and making choices that fit me better and reflect my personality in my own way.
That said, I took off my Veil, or Hijab, three years ago after experiencing one year of being veiled in Germany. My decision was huge. I didn’t know back then how it would go, but what I knew was I wanted to look more like myself and to make clear that my decision is about me, not about the Hijab itself, nor its values, nor abandoning the women in my life.
I decided to put on my Veil when I was 12 years old and never questioned whether it suited me or not until later in my twenties. I chose back then to look like every girl and woman in the big and extended families of both of my parents.
Being veiled didn’t pose obstacles to becoming a journalist in Amman since many female colleagues are. Nevertheless, here, things were different. I took the time to reflect and choose how I wanted to look without judging others or letting them judge me.
I jumped into my unknown when I felt it would give me clarity, and it would bring me steps closer to myself even with the massive resistance of friends and family in Jordan.
The only reason my veil story is worth telling now is to remind myself of the strength I had in confronting my own self and my beloved ones and how it turned out “after the storm” to bring me closer to myself and to the people who believed in my choices.
The woman who faced the community she was born in can confront the community where she chose to live: its stereotypes and misunderstandings about my history and culture. I believe facing this will bring me and my values closer to the latter!
*This article is a part of my “Chronicles of a new “Anti-Semitism Scandal” series documenting my experience while being wrongfully accused of anti-Semitism and subsequently under investigation by Deutsche Welle and the German media. I am a professional journalist who believes in my profession’s mission, ethics, and values, and I will not remain silent in search for the truth, facts, and honest dialogue. I will keep writing and documenting until the end of investigations on the 15th of January 2022 or longer if needed.