Peace in Aloneness: Muslim Women in the Ivory Tower

For the last month, I have been looking into the literature on discrimination in academia, reading books with titles such as Making Our Voices Heard: Women of Color in Academia and Overcoming Adversity in Academia: Stories from Generation X Faculty. At the same time, I have been attending a course intended to teach academic teachers how to teach in higher education.

The experience has left me thinking over my situation, as a hijab-wearing Muslim woman in the ivory tower. For a long time I have thought of myself as a student and as a researcher. But something of a transition is required, now that I am thinking of myself as an “academic teacher.” Amidst a group of other academics in various fields — from doctors to physicists and geographers — I found myself really thinking about what led me here, and whether this was where I really wanted to be. I was beset by the doubts that I suppose most new teachers face. Could I really make it as a teacher when the stereotype of the socially awkward academic would be all too true in my case?

As a hijab-wearing Muslim, I found myself thinking about what preconceptions I would be facing, how students would react, and whether what I wear could be seen as affecting academic neutrality, always a central theme.

I was the only hijab-wearing woman in the group attending this course. When I have told people in the past that I am a PhD candidate, they tend to jump in with two predictable choices. Something to do with medicine, they say. Dentistry? Pharmacy? Or it’s Middle East Studies. Translation? Arabic? Urdu? Persian? One of those “Islamic” languages?

Well, it’s a language. But not one of those that involves “deciphering crabbed oriental scrolls” like St. John in Jane Eyre. There’s a clue there. Because I am a hijab-wearing woman who has been studying English literature at university level for a decade, more or less — although I am predictable in that I choose to study novels about and from the Middle East…

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  • “I love literature.”

    What a fraud. Nobody “loves literature”. We all have books we love, books we like, books we’re indifferent to, books we admire but can’t enjoy, books we think should never have made it to the printer’s let alone into the cannon. There is no such thing as “literature”.

    Another stupid person trying to sound smart. Academia is worthless, drop out.

    “Spending some time talking to people who are fascinated by string theory or mathematical equations or working in labs with tea bags and batteries has only deepened my conviction that this is what I want to do with my life.”

    Yeah. Because, had you so chosen, the worlds of tea bags and string theory would have been blown apart by the genius brain modestly sheltered under your hijab. After all, it’s not like you’re a dipshit who can’t count to five or anything.

    • Drunk_by_Noon

      “What a fraud. Nobody “loves literature”. We all have books we love, books we like, books we’re indifferent to, books we admire but can’t enjoy, books we think should never have made it to the printer’s let alone into the cannon. There is no such thing as “literature”.”

      YES, YES, AND YES!
      Thank you!

      She might as well have said: “I love books and sh*t”.

      And 10-years on an English Lit Grad Degree?
      Please!

      • “I love books and sh*t”.

        Exactly.

      • Frau Katze

        She seems awfully worried about lack of “women of color.” Myself, I don’t go by the writer’s gender, race or nationality. I’ve read great books by a real range of writers.

        My favourite novel is by (male, Turk) Orhan Pamuk (“The Black Book.”). You turn up books you like by the most improbable writers.

        • As books should be read.

          Women of colour in the ummah are decidedly kept apart. Did Missy Hijab forget that?

      • dance…dancetotheradio

        Studying English in university is too subjective and offers no concrete payoff. The main reason English departments survive at all is that they get glommed onto STEM degrees as mandatory ‘electives’.

      • Minicapt

        She’s studying English novels set in the Middle East …

        Cheers

    • People can love many examples of literature. I just don’t believe this girl actually does. She sounds pretentious.

  • simus1

    “I keep trying to analyze why muslims like me put such huge stress on our outward appearance while we are 100% rotten starting from one millimeter in right on down to the core.”

    She didn’t say that?
    I was thinking it for her?
    Oops, my bad.

  • lucius

    Now there’s a lady just looking for trouble. And if she can’t find it I’m sure she’ll have no trouble creating it. The humanities have become so useless.

  • If you don’t want to stand out, then just don’t do it.

    What a petulant teen-ager this person is!

  • Rosenmops

    I’m so tired of these prissy, whiny sharmutas. Its always all about me me me. Look at me you filthy kaffurs, I’m special.

  • Raymond Hietapakka

    I’d like to ask her what its like belonging to her shit culture.