It's no secret that there are people everywhere who seem to miss the mark when it comes to treating our fellow human beings with respect.
It's even less of a secret that Muslim individuals take the brunt of humanity's lack of prowess.
And, to put it plainly, if you're a woman and you're Muslim, forget about it.
This unfortunate occurrence is, of course, not the case for everyone in the world. We do support the notion that there are good people trying their best to understand their female counterparts and their Muslim neighbors.
The evidence, though, is that we're still having a hard time.
As a young, white woman, I can speak honestly when I say I know very little about other cultures and the people who carry them out as I do my own. And while I know that Muslim is not a race, I associate religion with culture, thus making me inept in much of the things that I associate with them.
I am 24 years old and grew up in a very white, intolerant version of America. I would argue that my geographic upbringing is intolerant of both race and religion. From Northern New Jersey for much of my childhood to Connecticut for University, to a life I now live in New York, I've surely seen the diversity of religion and race, but I haven't lived or learned it.
Now, before anyone jumps down my throat, I am someone who confidently expresses both curiosity and effort when it comes to learning about my fellow human beings.
As much as I want to say it's because I care genuinely for all cultures, I would have to argue that it's more a desire to be able to treat everyone with respect, in the right way. I'll explain this.
I know so many people who feel as though they "get it." Yes, mostly other white and religiously intolerant people.
So many people think that because they ask things a certain way or neglect to address certain things that they're immediately dumped into the "I'm not ignorant" organizing bin.
Now, I don't claim that all white people are racist and intolerant of religion; I don't even consider myself such. But I do believe that people like me who grew up in similar environments to mine lack the necessary experience it takes to qualify your words, opinions, thoughts, and actions as "getting it."
We will never get it! And because we never will? We sometimes make huge mistakes in the way to do things.
Although I don't think this qualifies myself of others as outright ignorant intolerants, I do think it keeps us from being able to show respect to our human neighbors who truly deserve it.
And while this goes for all walks of life, I want to talk specifically about Muslim women and how we might do a better job at supporting them.
So, here we go!
1. Recognize first that Muslim is not a race.
YES! I KNOW! I have thrown the word race around multiple times. In my own opinion, I don't believe I can talk about a lack of respect for religion without also talking about a lack of respect in reference to race.
In truth, though, it is crucial to identify Muslim precisely for what it is and not to lump it in with race.
2. Remind yourself that there are millions upon millions of people who are Muslim and practice it.
That being said, recognize that people practice their religion differently. One group of negatively practicing individuals do not and should not color the entirety of religion.
3. Do not ask Muslim women why they do or do not wear the Hijab.
If you're reading this and you're not Muslim, you've never had to deal with pressing, invasive questions such as this. So, what qualifies you to ask anyone else this question? You're right, nothing.
4. To follow, don't assume that a Muslim woman wearing a Hijab is doing so against her will.
Do you take the "body of Christ" against your will? Does anyone assume that? Probably not. You probably shouldn't either then.
5. Do not ask what's under the Hijab, and do not ask what someone's hair looks like beneath it.
This should speak for its DAMN self.
6. Don't assume that Muslim women are sexually inexperienced, straight, or all destined for arranged marriages.
Making assumptions about any woman's sexual history is equal parts disrespectful and repulsive. People don't outwardly assume that every Christian waits until marriage to fornicate, maybe we shouldn't assume anything about anyone's sexual history and call it even.
7. Do some research before you ask questions.
This, to me, goes for anything you're not familiar with. Whether you're talking to someone about race or religion or you're about to make a general assumption that could be deeply offensive on a smaller scale, take the time to educate yourself.
Unfortunately, the education system in our land of the free is landlocked by government influence, keep children and now adults from a proper education on culture difference and religious practices outside Catholicism, Protestantism, and any other religion brought over to the mainland hundreds of years ago.
Read as much as you can without judgment and keep your mind open. The difference between being respectful and royally pissing someone off could be in learning about something you didn't previously understand.
8. Support black Muslim women.
People, unfortunately, wire their brains to associate one image with one thing. Just because someone doesn't "look the part" to you, doesn't mean they can't practice something they believe in.
Support them regardless of your "confusion" or lack of understanding.
9. Avoid passive comments like: "You'd be so pretty without the hijab too!"
That is not a compliment. And if you think it is, please read it over and over again until you understand that it's just as offensive as calling someone ugly.
10. If you see a woman praying in public, do not interrupt, do not ask her to move, do not walk in front of her, and do not stop and stare.
A moment of prayer is arguably a sacred moment for any religion. Many people who practice any form of religion argue that their moments of prayer are a moment of pure connection to them and the deity they choose to support.
Your moments of divinity and moments of prayer do not get interrupted in church, they are not more worthy of privacy than anyone else's. Keep it moving, and respect anyone's right to religious freedom while not treating them like a zoo animal.
All in all, there are so many ways we can support our fellow females, of all walks of life. But there are so many ways that we ignorantly miss the mark.
While I don't contest that this is 100 percent our fault, and very willingly give a significant amount of responsibility to our society and government, I do believe that to a fault, we are responsible for what we do, say, and who we choose to become.
All of this includes what we choose to educate ourselves with and how we use that knowledge to become better people.
In my eyes, no woman from any walk of life should be less adequate or desirable than another. And no, that statement wasn't meant to say that that's how Muslim women feel.
But I do recognize my own faults as a human being who knows little about other cultures and I recognize that my species, though capable above any other to think critically and intricately, often choose to shrink their thoughts to categorize and label others.
Make the effort, watch what you say, and treat people the way you want to be treated.
We all deserve basic levels of respect, and we should all do everything we can to give that to one another.