For the past two years, the Mark Garrison Salon has offered a private space to covered women to remove their headscarves and be offered the same treatment as uncovered women of having their hair done and their confidence raised.
As a hijabi myself, I could only dream of having professional work done on my hair and would always feel left out from the crowd as Iman Rashid did, the woman who spoke on her first time experiences at the Mark Garrison Salon. This is a service that has been a long time coming for Muslim Women.
Their accommodation into a place as small as a salon demonstrates that perhaps one day they can be accepted into public spaces. They can practice their religion, stay in their comfort zone and still retain their uniqueness.
In no way can an assertion be made that this small act of inclusivity makes up for the millions of accusations held up against Muslims at this current day and age. Muslims are accused of being backwards, of being terrorists and of being just plain archaic. Many claim that their forefathers came from different worlds to the nation of America and assimilated.
That is what everybody did because this country was formed on the basis of religious freedom — coming to the new world meant that you wanted to be “American.” The question thus posed to Muslims is why we refuse to do the same and assimilate into this culture.
After all, America is a melting pot. Or is it?
If America was formed upon religious freedom, how can this be a valid question? It is equally a right of Muslims to practice their own beliefs and express themselves in the way they choose to do so. How can we say that this does not embody America?
America is anything you want it to be. There has been a long held image of America as a melting pot — a homogenous mixture into which individuals from different backgrounds are tossed and, through some interaction, emerge as one distinct people. But the truth is, this description will never really fit. Certain groups in the United States including those categorized as White, Christian and Western European maintain that their races, religions, languages, traditions and values made them unable to become truly “Americans.”
Many other races have been completely disregarded from this mixture — from the Blacks who due to their skin color cannot be part of the mixture to the Native Americans who are just too “savage” to walk the road of the American.
This assumption that America is a melting pot is thus where the fault lies. We cannot expect everybody to enter this so-called land of freedom and melt away their individuality and their uniqueness into assimilation.
Such limitations of this metaphor has called for a new vision of our national identity — as stated in a conversation between Muslim Americans and their white counterparts on Oprah’s show — of America as a mosaic, a tapestry, or even a salad bowl. Here, every part retains it’s individual flavor and it’s individual identity. This is the essence of America. There is an unconsciousness that we don’t understand we are being hypocritical of what it means to be American.
American history began with waves of immigrants, bringing their own cultures and traditions to a vast new country. No other place in the world has such a diverse population. This spurge of ongoing immigration of those across varied cultures is the difference between our country and other nations across the globe.
They have every right to be who they are and claim love for the country they have contributed to — is it thus not their home?
A salon now catering its services to Muslim women, however small it may be, is an act that respects and accepts the individuality of a Muslim and still recognizes our unity. It brings back my faith in the nation I am lucky to call home; that perhaps one day — the hijab that I done upon my head will be accepted and regarded as my right and my choice.
I have faith that perhaps one day I can pray five times a day and mingle among my friends without fear of being judged. Each and everyone of us has something to bring to the table, and this trend towards multiculturalism, and not assimilation, is giving way to a transformed America.
So what is American? As stated by a Muslim man on the Oprah show, “This is a country founded on religious freedom, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of association to express who you are — there is nothing more American that that.”