I spent my day in Germany, where I had the opportunity to enthrall myself in a new country, culture, and people. We had 8 hours until our connecting flight, so we decided to go downtown where all the hustle and bustle of everyday life was. We took the train from the airport, which is when I first started to become more conscious of my hijab. I received many looks, which made me realize I was the only person on the entire train covering my hair.
However, it was a totally different story once we hit the streets. We went to a bustling urban square where, literally, everywhere I turned I’d see a group of hijabis. It was such a great sight to see and it surprised me that I saw more girls wearing hijab in this European country than on my American college campus, where we pride ourselves on having such a large Muslim community. And, ladies, these German hijabis had mastered scarf styles that I have never seen before and were rocking fashion that literally made me do double takes.
I took a seat on a bench next to a fabulously groomed tree (haha I’m serious!), where within minutes a young woman wearing trendy business attire and sporting a cute short haircut took a seat next to me. Her name was Malia, and after kicking up a convo with her, she told me that she was an Afghan Muslim working at a nearby restaurant. I took the opportunity to ask her about the Muslim lifestyle here. She told me that Germany is good at protecting the religious freedom of Muslims, but it isn’t as eagerly accepted by the society.
Though she didn’t wear the hijab, she made it a point to tell me that the other women in her family choose to wear it, and there is a huge discrepancy between how she and the hijab-wearing ladies are treated in their day-to-day lives. She shared that she doesn’t feel she is treated differently at all, but it in fact is much harder to get a job if you wear the hijab. If she and I were both going for the same job and I had more experience than her, she said that she would get the job instead of me. The dealbreaker? My hijab.
She also mentioned that she occasionally sees women wearing the burqa, and, like its French neighbor, it’s not viewed in the best light. Though Germany allows the freedom for Muslim women to dress however they want, the general public opinion is that the burqa is frightening, strange, and ultimately rejected. She also painfully told me about a German author (she couldn’t remember his exact name) who recently published a book entirely bashing Islam, saying that Muslims in Germany don’t work, are threatening, and seemingly burdens on society. In the same breath she also knew that there was a prominent Muslim politician working in the government.
I’m sitting at an outdoor coffeehouse right now, and the German weather is getting rather chilly so I guess I’ll have to rap this up! It was such a great opportunity to meet Malia and hear about Islam in Germany from the perspective of a young Muslim woman. It’s always eyeopening to see how our religion is lived and perceived in other countries!