in case you missed that story
My mom is the director of a small and relatively new university library in the Gulf. It opened a few years ago to wide acclaim because not only is it the most gorgeous library since the Library of Congress, but it’s one of few libraries (by US standards) in the region. There isn’t a great demand for books in an oral culture, you know?
Before it opened, there was a promotional DVD made highlighting the building’s beauty and state-of-the-art technology. Well of course this required students to fill the video conferencing rooms, and sit in the fancy new presentation rooms, and to demonstrate how to check out a book—using the self-checkout stations. My mom volunteered me for that particular role and I gladly complied because self-checkout stations are the greatest library innovation since the barcode scanner.
What I didn’t know was that this video would be shown on the local television station. In fact, it wasn’t until several months later that a friend facebooked me with news that she had seen me on Sharjah TV checking out a book. I responded by telling her that I had also been featured in an interview with Campus Journal—a newspaper distributed to colleges and universities in the Emirates—so no doubt, what with all that media attention I’d received, I was well on my way world domination. One obscure media outlet at a time.
Since then (2006), I have been mentioned in half a dozen more obscure publications and was once spotted in Yemen on an Indian television station talking about how America really isn’t a nation of haters because Look! We have a statue of Liberty!
It was about this time that I defined “world domination” as “appearing on al-Jazeera speaking Arabic.”
Well, last week I got pretty close.
I was walking with some friends to grab lunch from the cafeteria on campus. On the way, we stopped in front of a crowd of women holding signs bearing a language we couldn’t read. Wait, does that say Hijab? Oh yeah! And I think that says—Killed?!
And then a woman, wearing clothes that covered all but her eyes, tapped me on the shoulder and asked if she could talk to me about the hijab. Imagine, for a second, this scene.
Me, in my slightly-tanned-with-freckles skin and red hair, wearing black capris and a purple scoop-neck tee. And her, in black gloves, abaya, and headscarf, nothing of her body visible but the eyes.
As she related to me in broken English the story of Marwa Sharbini, it occurred to me just how expressive one’s eyes can be.
She wanted to assure me that the hijab is not a symbol of oppression or terrorism. I responded to her, in Arabic, by saying that I knew it symbolized neither of these things, that I’ve lived and traveled in the Middle East for years, studied it in school, had lots of Muslim friends, and know quite well that more often than not, women wear it with pride. I understand, I told her. It’s a good thing.
She smiled, thanked me for my time and returned to the demonstration.
I was about to rejoin my own friends when another woman stopped me. She had overheard me speaking Arabic and wanted me to let her record me on video talking about the hijab issue. Because, you see, she is a program producer for a radio station in Jordan as well as a blogger for al-Jazeeratalk. Of course, I had no idea what “al-Jazeeratalk” was, but it had “al-Jazeera” in it so how could I pass it up?
Well obviously I couldn’t.
And it’s not in Arabic, and it’s not quite al-Jazeera. But get on my good side now because damn. I really am going to take over the world.
(I come in about two minutes in to
the report whose link has since passed, allahyerhamu.)