My tale of 2 towns: **Experience as a Muslimah

Alhaj concentrate on your work, he said.
I wasn’t sure he was talking to me so I did not respond.
40 mins after…Alhaja you were told to stop writing and you continued, he said.
Why are you calling me Alhaja? I asked.
Because you tied a scarf (in this case a pashmina) on your head, the lady sitting directly opposite me replied.
I looked at her and then at him to confirm this statement and he smiled.
In Lagos, you are automatically tagged a muslim the moment a scarf is weaved around your head and if you are a Christian you are labelled an “SU”.
There is this level of respect that is accorded to women who are assumed to be religious. Scarf tying, veil covering and hijab wearing woman is considered a religious one.
The Area boys do not sexually harass you, you hear words such as “This one na SU/Alhaja oh” when you come across them.
In Ilorin….
I did not know that you are a Muslim; he said as I walked past him with a kettle to perform my ablution for the Asr prayers.
So you are a Muslim, another said when I told him my name. Why did you assume I am not a Muslim, I asked.
You are not wearing a hijab, he replied. But I am tying a scarf, I replied.
Well for us an hijab is what signifies you as a Muslim, a scarf round your head may be for fashion or you are covering your undone hair, he said.
I did not grow in a hijab wearing family, I replied and that does not make me less of a Muslim because I am wearing a cap. Well that is what we use in identifying our women, he replied.
Actually from what I am told my method of tying the pashmina on my head looks more like a fashion accessory than hair covering.
I cannot say I fault the views held in any of these towns, yes Lagos is a more liberal town. Any form of head covering for women is acceptable as religious. But for Ilorin, there is a standard in Islam which is followed. And no matter how we liberal muslim will like to have, there is still a standard. My mum and her siblings frown upon scarf tying, I probably would have become an hijabite at some point in my life. But I know my family, they won't even marry me off to a man who will want me to wear one. Their reason is story for another day.
But for one I don’t see myself any less of a Muslim simply because I do not wear an hijab. My pashima tying which I have since discarded since I moved back to Lagos is enough for me.

Molara Brown


  1. I guess the environment you are in dictates how you are looked at, assumptions will always be made, but in the end you know yourself and where you are coming from -and thats all that matters I think.

  2. Blessings.....
    Too often people judge and rush to assumptions of others based on their physicality and mode of wear without entering into a discussion. In Christianity it is said, "Judge not less yea be judge," but they judge anyway. Regardless to the "norm" identifiers of Islam/Muslim they should not assume something outside of the "norm" is non-Muslim.

    Isn't it funny how many wish not to be labelled and put into a box yet readily label and box others?

    It would be so nice if people will ask a question and not assume their eyes are your truth.

    Peace and blessings.
    have a fabulous week.

    1. "It would be so nice if people will ask a question and not assume their eyes are your truth." says it all

  3. LOL!!! Seriously! I just can't deal.

  4. Lara,

    I enjoyed the depth of this post.

    Like I always say, people's various expressed perceptions of the same thing is usually like a game of chinese whispers.

    I enjoyed reading your "About" page, I was an Aiesecer in my undergrad days at Uni :-)