The last time Fathima posted a picture on social media, she received derogatory comments implying that she was too ugly to show her face.
In this story, Fathima shares her hope for a world where we can accept each other, not based on anything other than who we are on the inside ..
I get palpitations when faced with this request, "Please attach a clear photo of yourself."
Whether it's for my resume, LinkedIn profile, or job recruitment sites, I feel like the grim reaper is after me when asked for a "head and shoulders" portrait.
I see the look of confusion on your face, so let me explain my circumstances. I am a woman who wears a face veil or niqab. I choose to do this for my religious beliefs without coercion. Herein lies my dilemma.
Posting a picture with my face veil isn’t as easy as some may think. The last time I posted my picture in my niqab, a follower on my social media made some derogatory comments about my religion and my womanhood, implying that I was too ugly to show my face.
I am never sure how the viewer on the other end will react. Some accept me as I am or are indifferent, and others become mad with rage as if I am imposing my religion on them. I am always in a quandary trying to guess my audience.
That’s why up until now, you’ll see my face as a pot plant. Pot plants, my daughter's wedding cake, pictures of nature, or my business logo are set as my profile picture on all my social media accounts, except for official documents: identity document, passport, and driver's license. I request a female official to compare these documents to my person when the need arises, be it at a roadblock or international airport.
This creates some problems when job hunting and when requests are made for Zoom meetings. Since I don't know who will interview me, I usually attend the meeting with the veil. If there are no males present, I remove it. But I often find that the damage is done. If the person on the other end has preconceived notions of my religion or practice, the consultation is over before it has begun.
During the present pandemic, a South African minibus taxi driver made me laugh but put things in perspective. As he entered my driving school office to make enquiries about driving lessons, he quipped, “I was once scared of people like you all covered up, but now that we are all wearing masks, I see you differently.”
For the first time, he saw me as a person without being afraid. He smiled at me, and we conversed. He saw me. I was humbled by the newfound respect that shone in his eyes. He asked about the significance of my veil and listened attentively without judging my beliefs. I truly felt that we had connected.
He departed with a smile on his face, and I was beaming. I experienced the thrill of being recognised for ME. At that moment, I thought, "Wow!
If only all people could look past religion and see a person for who they are on the inside, we will achieve something."
From the day I met the minibus taxi driver, I endeavored to see people beyond their crucifixes, skullcaps (or yamakas), and tribal beads. I accept people based on their humanity.
The minibus driver's words brought me peace, and I no longer feel stressed about who I am and how I appear to the world. I still use the pot plant on social media and hesitate when asked for a photo, but I now take the initiative to explain my circumstances proudly without fear.
The next time someone with a pot plant profile sends you a friend or job request, please find out the story behind the image before rejecting their request.
Meet Fathima S Meer
Fathima S Meer is a ghostwriter, blogger, editor, proofreader, and a full-time mum to four delightful daughters with a passion for life, travel, and politics.
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