Wednesday June 7th, 2023
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Yalahwy: I Am an Egyptian Veiled Muslim Woman and I Date

[Op-Ed]: Following the avalanche of hate comments John Legend's new video received, which depicts an interracial romance between a veiled Muslim woman and a Mexican man, Sarah Shehata breaks down why hijabi women who romantically date shouldn't be criticised for it.

Staff Writer

To the horror of a great deal of Muslims out there, John Legend just released a music video for his latest hit titled Surefire. The video features the interracial love story of a veiled Muslim woman, Jamila, who is infatuated with a Mexican man, Roberto, and breaks through the boundaries and traditions of her conservative family in order to pursue this love. The powerful video sheds light on a number of issues, the most obvious one being Islamophobia after Jamila is attacked by another woman for wearing a hijab and then has her scarf ripped off. Another issue is prejudice in a broader sense in America, even among non-white races as Roberto is deported after being reported by Jamilia’s dad who disapproves of him - a true depiction of how racist rhetoric is normalised even to those who experience firsthand racism.

My Islam is not the same as your Islam. It is not the same as the next person's Islam.

The video ultimately conveys a message of unity, love, and faith among different races and religions against hate and discrimination. But upon the release of the video, a third issue seemed to have risen and that is the casting of judgement on a veiled Muslim woman dating.

Hi there, shall we lower our voices and close the door? We’re about to address something very sensitive and that could be considered slightly obscene. I am an Egyptian Muslim - veiled - woman who romantically dates. I am among the many Muslim women out there who also date. My religion and my veil do not protect me from infatuation with the opposite sex. Contrary to popular belief, they also do not oppress me or restrict me from a romantic relationship, which may include (gasp!) a hug or a kiss. These actions are between God and I.

When I decided to date, it wasn’t because I was bored or because my partner was trying to take advantage of me. I dated because I was in love and expressing that love was far more important to me than the outdated thoughts of the people around me. So don't interfere in my journey and try to write my story because it is not yours to tell. John Legend’s tweet says it all, really.While I am very much a private person and I often steer clear of writing about these topics, I was enraged when I came across some of the video comments on social media. They criticised Jamila - and likewise many other Muslim women - for dating Roberto, for kissing him, and for pursuing her love for him after he was deported for the sheer fact that they are not bound by marriage. And when it comes to religion, suddenly every Tom, Dick, and Harry wants to be the noble hero who saved you from hell.  

Here are some of the comments:

 That's right Caitlyn, you don't know and you are not allowed to have an opinion because it is NOT your life. 

You know what else isn't allowed? Pretending like you're a godly creature with the power to tell me what to do and what not to do. 

So is it ok for a Muslim woman to kiss a guy in public if she does not have a head scarf? Or do you mean it's not ok for a Muslim girl to kiss in public? 

Would no hijab and kisses be ok? Wow, religion has really gotten wild! Now all Muslims are hijabi kissing infidels. I feel so exploited. 

What is pivotal here and what the public needs to understand, especially the Muslims who take it upon themselves to police the lives of other Muslims, is that my Islam is not the same as your Islam. It is not the same as the next person’s Islam, nor is it the same as Jamila’s Islam. I am my own individual and the choices I make are not for your prejudice. And if Islam tells us all to equally judge ourselves before others, then why are we perpetuating the cultural stigma of prejudice that is already so heavily and systemically ingrained? You are certainly not doing a good deed by showing me the teachings of my own religion according to you. We are no longer misinformed like we once used to be. We have access to a plethora of resources that will tell us dating before marriage is haram. And still, if we chose to date, that is our problem and not yours.

*The views expressed in this op-ed are the author's and don't necessarily reflect Cairo Scene's.