I told myself I wouldn’t be judgy. And yet, here I am.
A moment that I can’t get out of my mind from yesterday’s Solidarity Vigil at Dar Al Taqwa came at the very end, as folks were leaving. A group in front of me on the sidewalk paused as a man held up his phone to take a picture. Someone said,
“Put your scarves back on.”
“Yes, get one with the head coverings.”
And in that moment I felt a prickly uncomfortable feeling that these people were somehow at the mosque as tourists. They wanted a souvenir photo in native dress.
That one little moment left a bad taste in my mouth after what was a powerful and sacred event.
The message from speaker after speaker was clear: we must come together, again and again, as neighbors. It is not just a nice thing to do. It is essential.
Being a neighbor is not the same thing as being a tourist. Wanting a souvenir photo wearing your vaguely exotic headscarf is an act of playing pretend, dressing up, and wanting to get brownie points for your efforts. It feels really, really “white man’s burden” to me. And it made me sad.
I don’t doubt that everyone who came yesterday did so because they wanted to do something good, and that they cared about the Muslim community. But that one moment reminded me of how easy it is for those in a position of privilege to “visit” other cultures and yet not truly enter in.
As for me, I admit I hadn’t given a thought to a headcovering at all until I walked in and realized my mistake. I am grateful to a well-prepared UU friend who had brought extra. I noticed that that Unitarian Univeralists around me knew the proper responses to the prayers, as well. Their informed and thoughtful participation make me think.
There were many references to love last night at Dar Al Taqwa. Will we carry that love with us? Will we put love first instead of letting differences divide us? Will we learn to put others first instead of making it about ourselves?