Over on Morethodoxy, Rachel Kohl Finegold shares her experience of an interfaith panel at Le Mood. In short, in reaction to Quebec's proposed law against wearing "religious symbols" while working in public life, they held an interfaith panel discussion, in which head and hair covering became a major topic, in discussion with a Sikh gentleman.
Finegold finds a place where she has more privilege than her Sikh co-panelist: she can pass as just someone wearing a hat, whereas his turban is visibly a religious item. Her observance would be marginally safer than his, if this law passed. She is less visibly different.
She also finds in herself a new sensitivity. The Sikh feel discomfort about having his turban patted down, based on Sikh belief that the head is a holy part of the body, not to be touched by other people. Hearing this, Finegold realizes that her own experiences in airport security are offensive to her. People ask her to take off her hat, which feels to her like being asked to take off her shirt. She'd never been offended by it before, but now, she was noticing the cultural insensitivity of the request.
She says that the conversation "sensitized me to my own tzniut". And yes, in a context where covering is the norm, it would be offensive to ask someone to uncover their head or hair. But in a world where indeed, she might pass, whether she is intending to or not, I have this feeling that there is also room for patience and tolerance- because the TSA folks might just not know. Educating the uninformed is worthwhile, getting offended at them may be more reaction that is needed. At least, that's my reaction today.
It seems that visibility cuts both ways. It's riskier- but you can also use that visibility to advocate for yourself and your community.
I'd never considered covering my head as inconspicuous, but I suppose that with a hat, on the street, it is. It's always a little squiggly feeling, noticing a privilege you have, if you want it, when you usually feel visibly identified and identifiable. I wonder if that's what Ms Finegold was feeling.
Do you feel like you can hide your religious identity when it's convenient? How does that feel for you?