Guest Author: Silahsız Avrat
I am writing this article for I feel that there are people out there with whom I might share some mutual concerns and values. Despite of everything, I still identify myself as a Muslim. I feel that I exist on earth as a Muslim ‘woman’ in a very ‘binary’ way of thinking. I don’t want to die. Moreover, Allah is absolute and excluded from ethics.
I chose to wear hijab after I had decided to be a Muslim at the age of 12.
- This is not a toy.
- Okay, mother.
I was brave, radical, strict, and conservative. Because I was 12, so basically I was a child. I used to play the little Muslim Kant on my own terms. I was really so strict that I was not even sitting in the same room with my female friends who had boyfriends. But I used to feel so embarrassed of wearing a hijab that I couldn’t even go to school putting it on. My family was open-minded, therefore, I had the freedom to do whatever I wanted. In the mornings, I used to walk in my mini skirt to the bus station, which the mini skirt was a part of my school uniform, I also used to feel ashamed of putting it on every day. After I had gotten out of the school, I used to come back home with the same ‘school’ uniform. However, after school, when I wanted to go out in the evenings, I used to wear my hijab again. So basically I was doing whatever I wanted. I never went to the school trips wearing a hijab. I used to feel anxious about being seen by my teachers outside of the school. But I didn’t give up on my decision. Why? Because I had to be the most extreme ‘coherent’, clever, hard-working, true, honest, and well-behaved kid. This was an act that I used to perform in order to win people’s approvals around me, the God’s whom I believed in, my mother’s indeed, and the Muslim neighbourhood’s I lived in. They were helping this behaviour of mine grow by approving it. The sentences with those classic attitudes of adults which they usually stroke towards a radical kid like me used to start with “You’re still so young!” and eventually finish with “Well done!”. So I was becoming “all right”. That approval of others around that kid who grew up while constantly trying to be an adult was feeding an incredible need for approval by itself.
I “hardly” finished primary school with ups and downs. I experienced a cultural shock in my first year of high school. I was at the age of 15 and my classmates were throwing parties, talking about sex and alcohol. I put a serious effort to adapt myself to them and to understand their humours, which I actually never wanted to hear, and also their love for excluding their peers. It was one of the years when I was still keeping my enthusiasm for adaptation but keeping myself away from reactivating my own true self. I tried to adapt myself both to my conservative (but never an Islamist) mother at home and to my party-lover friends at school. Although I always protected some particular limits in my life, I never skipped putting my makeup on after having woken up at 6 A.M. in the morning, and shortened my skirt as my friends always used to do. I never saw any of my friends outside of school and never let anyone know that I wore a hijab and performed salaat. Why would I be excluded, why would I attract so many attentions by doing so, right? But then this situation drove me to an identity crisis indeed. I was 15, I used to go out, walk to the school bus, go to school, and enjoy my time as a totally different person in the mornings; I used to continue my life as an utterly different person in the evenings. I had to annihilate one of them. It was either I had to get rid of those religious values of mine, which this option didn’t come up to my mind back then, or I had to live according to my values openly. Hijab turned into something essential in my life and this development made me start thinking that I was going to wear a hijab throughout my life and would never be able to come out of the closet even to someone I loved, also I wouldn’t ever be able to marry someone who had no religious beliefs, or an atheist, or an Alevi, or a Jewish, or an alcoholic, or just someone with piercings. You know it was the times when you felt got stuck after having thought the simple details over and over again in those ages. But I kept my Kant side with me during those times. I started getting myself back on track with the light of my philosophy; “If I promise once, there is no turning back”. After I had made friends with some Muslim girls, I reached the courage to go near the school gate in a hijab. People who wear a hijab would know how important this step is. My brave heart wished to get in the school garden with my untidy hair during the Independence Anthem after having taken off my hijab. Don’t worry, I wasn’t that courageous. I used to take it off on the road to school, not even by the gate. I inevitably became a victim of psychological violence when I tried to adopt the situation and live accordingly. For instance, I never forget the girl who yelled at us saying “I hate you!” from the window of the school bus, she must be a radical since she was just a child back then (radical = child). I also remember the lady who told me “Why are you taking a photo of yourself, all your body is covered already?”. (I know that you will ask me if I start self dramatization again. Yes, honey. It’s a classic.) I had to experience so many incidents like these ones back then. It was permitted to go to the school trips in a hijab, so the rules were that strict. And it is so expected to take offence at these kinds of incidents like the ones I told you. In addition the existential identity crises that I had already had, I found myself with some persons who were fueling the battle inside me created by these crises. In my second year of high school, I almost had no friends at all. I was the person who kicked out by her close friend by only telling her “I will hang with blah-blah-blah person, not with you since you don’t put makeup on your face and don’t have a boyfriend.” Ahahahah! This was the most honest excuse ever. And people still ask if we are the victims in this society… And they continue emphasizing the high of percentage of people who are conservative Sunni Muslim Turks in the country… Even though I also belong to this group of people, I have to live through all these things. Because of all these reasons, the second year of high school was the year when my interest in the underground culture had started growing faster than ever. We had a legendary class in which Alevis, atheists, nationalists, Kemalists, apolitic kids of civil servants, Islamists, the followers of Nur (Nurju) movement could find a common ground. The vibe in the classroom was flavoured with several radical ideologies since everyone had an ideology. If there had been a person didn’t have an ideology, then that person must have belonged to the funky party people. However, everyone used to have fun together with the party people at some point, no matter to which ideology they belonged. The people who can adapt themselves to every situation always win in life anyway. I had some concerns about my devotion to Allah when I applied eyeliner on my eyes. On the other hand, I was listening to Grup Yorum, reading Nazım Hikmet, Zülfü Livaneli etc. Everything that had a populist left wing connotation in it used to attract me. After I had loved them without knowing to which political spectrum they belonged, I realised that those people’s ideas had not been similar to our neighbours’. Anyway, I noticed all those things during my third year of high school. Then I asked myself how those people on the different political spectrums could reconcile with each other. There were no organisations like the ‘Anti-Capitalist Muslims’ back then. There were only Nurju groups and the followers of Türkan Saylan (Was it called “ATK”?). The situation I was in can be summarized only in one sentence: “Just kill me!”. Anyway, I finished high school by listening to Grup Yorum, Grup Kızılırmak etc. Thank Allah, I had a deceased communist uncle. My mind was finally at ease. If I had a communist acquaintance, it couldn’t be such a bad thing. In his notebooks, the songs of Ferhat Tunç were written; “For days in corporal punishment, the victims of freedom have been”. I had learned the song from my mother. You are the son and the daughter of a conservative family from the Black Sea region. Tell me how you managed to understand Ferhat Tunç. It could only happen through the awakening of an opponent spirit.
Anyway, my mind, my perspective, my values etc. changed right after the change of my music and literary taste. Thank Allah, I had two socialist teachers whom I found very clever. They also contributed to this change. I left behind the days when I was in class saying “How can you say something like this to Süleyman the Magnificent, he was never a paederast, but a Muslim!” I had already been driven away from that nationalist, ottomanist, traditionalist mentality when I became a 4th grader in high school. My mind really expanded. But was it a good thing? No… I found myself in a subculture with each passing day by trying to understand Alevis, Kurds, crying for Madımak, searching about socialism, going to the concerts of Grup Yorum who supported TKP (the Communist Party of Turkey). But at the same time, I built a personal identity for myself as a Muslim woman. After awhile, I turned into a unique species with no use for anyone, someone whom neither Muslims nor the others liked. So I had to stay all alone. There was no one around like me; I didn’t have a role model; there weren’t any organized groups where I could find all the values in my mind in one place.
Then I told myself that I didn’t have to belong to a group. While I kept going on by myself as a Muslim, I never gave up on some humanistic values and always kept criticizing and questioning.
When I got into a university, I turned into someone I always wanted to be. I achieved a significant breakthrough success in my mind after I had met the LGBTI community at university along with my friends I had met in high school. I became a total humanist. In fact, I became an intermediate form. “If it is about performing salaad, it is already done. Or if it is hijab, it is also done. And if it is adultery, absolutely no! Then everything must be awesome. Pompeii? Well, it shouldn’t have been thought in that way. Should I shake hands or not?” I was up in the sky flying with joy in those days, those were the days, they were absolutely great. Meanwhile, I was standing with the different ideologic mentalities from diverse ethnicities. The only thing kept me there was this idea: I could change the disrespectful, rebarbative, unlovely Muslim prototypes in people’s minds.
I hadn’t got a role model but maybe I could be an alternative role model for someone. Don’t judge people, just love them and only talk about your teachings to them. Only because of this, I sat and listened to so many different people whom you couldn’t even imagine. I used to think that I had to respect everyone so I could also be respected by them in return, it was really a great idea… And it didn’t work in that way. So eventually I became a newborn liberal.
So eventually I became an adult. (liberal = adult)
There was one time in my life when there were no women around who tried to live as a Muslim; they absolutely didn’t approve the way I interpreted Islam and my way of living a Muslim life. We were certainly rotating around different axes. So I couldn’t succeed in finding a balance but only swapped my place with the opposite one. Therefore, I also couldn’t go on building up my personal identity and my existence. On the other hand, my rightist friends excluded me from the group I was actually in by saying “You are an exception, Muslim women are not like you.” It was clear that I couldn’t manage to serve my goals thoroughly anymore. The things I had done particularly for I had thought they had a use in Islam were never considered as they had. Furthermore, while I had been going on putting up with those people for the sake of Islam, they thought that I had been doing it spontaneously. So I was not a representable person for anyone anymore. My leftist friends didn’t take me as an example because I was far away from being ‘normal’ and the ‘new’ prototype in their minds. Moreover, Muslim women excluded me after a conversation between us that made me lose my mind, they were showing off how devoted they were to Allah during the whole conversation. According to them, marriage was a must! I couldn’t manage to explain to a group of women that it was not. According to them, I should have been excluded from my religion already if I had had the courage to say such things. So basically they wanted me to leave my Allah, that’s to say, my Lord whom I had believed in for years, to leave Him to them. Theirs was a religion in which they had adopted with such an extreme devotion and absolutely had misinterpreted while doing it. Therefore, the effort I put in order to accept that we believed in the same God despite of the different paths we were following was actually pushing the limits of philosophy. So I lost my faith in them eventually. When I realised that I hadn’t created a different representation for anyone, I took my hijab off. It was my third year at university.
When I noticed that it was not possible for me to be respected by everyone in return, I also realized how much I had exaggerated the limits of showing respect and tolerance for some communities. So why would I keep on putting up with this disrespectfulness?
After I had given up wearing hijab, I had to hear the reactions of some fools around me such as “I knew that you were going to do this on the same day we met because you are an intellectual girl”; I had to reply them with “I did this but I don’t think that this was the right thing to do”. So really a few people can understand this, the dear jam makers.
I stopped fighting with people and explaining them who I am. I gave up trying to respect communities. I only recognize individuals, only listen to them, and only respect individuals. I still question the religion I believe in but I inevitably believe in Allah. It’s something like love. If you love someone, you just love them. You can lie to them if you wish but that doesn’t change that you still love them. I am here as a Muslim woman and love you all no matter how mature or childish you are. In my private life, I always defend you against men. ;) I always feel side by side with you. By the way, I became an extreme liberal… I still live as a Muslim like a troll. I don’t try to provide any benefits for anyone or to be understood by anyone. They will never try to understand you in return. However, I think that this blog might be full of women who can understand me.