Dear Ethar

Dear Ethar,

I’m sorry
For every time
I look at your hijab
And stare
Smile
Stick my eyes to that
Fabric substitute for hair
Until you pass
Eyes down
Reluctant to look at me.

I want to push my hand out
In those moments
Grab you by the arm
Apologize
Explain
Sister I’m Muslim too.

I just want to say
Al-Salamo Aleikom,
I just want to hear you say
Wi Aleikom Al-Salam Wi Rahmat’Allah Wi Barakato.

But you are the victim
Of impolite stares and
Inquisitive objectification
And I
A woman
Wearing shorts
Bare shoulders
Long hair everywhere
Suddenly naked
Compared to you.

We feel shame in that moment
When my eyes persistent and yours indifferent
Why won’t she look at me?
Why does she look at me?

It’s not just covered hair.

It’s a jersey
A team’s uniform
A unification system
I don’t belong to
Without approaching you
Startling
Insisting
Sister,
It’s me.

I could cover my hair too with you.

I’m sorry
I can’t imagine
What my staring
Does to you

I’m sorry
I turn you into
A specimen of research
An object of inquisition
A body full of answers
To my question

I’m sorry
But how do I become
Just like you?

— Farrah Abdel-Latif

 

Farrah Abdel-Latif was born in Cairo, Egypt and moved to Toronto, Canada when she was two years old. She spent her school years in French Immersion programs and went on to receive a B.A. in English Literature and Professional Writing and an MA in English Literature and Book History – all the while writing poetry. Her writing centers on issues of sex, gender, sociopolitical identity, and religion.

 

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