The day it was thought that I was wearing a hijab

I decided to go to Ankara for a day. 

In making that decision I was not prepared for the reaction towards what I chose to wear for my day out. 

Summer days are long, hot and unforgivingly humid in Turkey. To combat this uneasiness, I chose to wear a maxi dress. It was patterned and sleeveless and like all maxi dresses, skimmed to the arches of my foot. 

In addition to the maxi dress, I also chose to tie my hair up in a black headscarf. The choice of style was typically Afro-Caribbean- the bun style on the nape of the neck. 

Before heading to the station to get the coach to Ankara, I needed to attend to some 'formal' affairs, and so decided to wear a light cardigan over my maxi dress since it was sleeveless. 

 #OOTD: Maxi dress, cardigan and headscarf

#OOTD: Maxi dress, cardigan and headscarf

I didn't think much of my outfit at all. I was covered, comfortable and cute. 

However, I didn't that realise being in a predominantly Muslim country and being fully covered with a head covering would be automatically interpreted as being Muslim. 

Please note I was not wearing a hijab, which stipulates that your neck should be fully covered too if not by the head covering, by some other article of clothing. 

My hair was simply tied in a black headscarf and wrapped in a bun. 

My cardigan clearly showed my neck. 

Yes, everything else was covered. 

Hence, my shock when walking to the place of business and the station, I got a copious number of double takes, stares and pointing of fingers- way more than the average daily norm.

On my way, I heard whispers of "Ojam, hijabi."

It was only then that it dawned on me, that people thought that I had converted to Islam and had not learned how to wrap my hijab correctly to cover my neck, which was clearly exposed, at least to the front. 

And as a result, I sensed that some were offended. Deeply.

I clearly was not wearing a hijab, but in a Muslim culture, a head covering was almost certainly identified as such. 

In an effort to end the ambiguity, I took off my cardigan, thereby exposing my arms. In so doing I thought that it would be clear that I was not attempting to wear a hijab- just simply a headscarf. 

I think that made it worse. 

Retracing my steps from the place of business as I made my way to the station, most people stood in shock and confusion. 

They couldn't figure it out. 

And I couldn't figure out why?

In 2015, when everyone had internet and satellite television and most Turkish people consumed quite a bit of Western media including channels like BET and MTV, I couldn't understand why a woman wearing a headscarf not as a hijab but as a summer headscarf would attract such attention. 

I had worn headscarves already, I believe. Ethnic headscarves but never a solid black one, and that is the only difference that I could attribute to getting that much attention. 

I thought about it and thought about it some more. 

And I'm still thinking about it. 

The point is, is that I'm  not sure if I was perceived as rude; as if I were mocking the meaning of the hijab. I believe so- given the response. 

But, obviously that was not my intention. 

I was simply wearing a headscarf. 

So, if there is fault to be given for this situation, whose is it?

Mine, for not thinking about the implications of tying my hair in a headscarf or the people who are not au fait with the use of headscarves by non Muslim women as a hair accessory and/or maintenance aid; the purposes for which I used my head scarf?

What do you think?


Photo taken and edited by Petra.