Putting people of the same religion or race in one box is a generalization we all easily make. It’s so easy to say that people of a certain race are like this or saying people of a certain religion all think in a certain way. Think about it; would you (or anyone for that matter) want to be pigeon-holed because of your race or religion?
An assumption of this kind is what’s hitting the news once again. People find it so easy to say whatever they want through the media. Thankfully, such bullies also have to face those who choose to speak up on the media too, for what they believe in.
It all started when Lamyaa was on a group chat discussing President Donald Trump. The Muslim teenager, who wears a hijab, was attacked by a stranger for being Muslim and for choosing to cover her hair. “Bitch shut up,” the stranger wrote, “You couldn’t take that scarf off or your dad would beat your ass.”
Lamyaa told the BBC how the conversation began. “I had very strong views considering the impact the Trump presidency has on me because I am an Arab, Muslim woman. I brought up the fact that I was Muslim [in the group chat] and that guy didn't feel comfortable so he said what he said."
Lamyaa doesn’t have time for those who are ignorant about the Muslim religion. “The message didn’t really bother me, but I felt the need to prove him wrong,” Lamyaa told the Daily Dot in an email. “It isn’t uncommon for me to receive these types of comments as a Muslim woman.”
Despite being used to it, Lamyaa still wanted to make a point to shut down the stranger’s mean comment. In doing so, she would also be defending herself and her family. This is when she turned to her father.
Lamyaa texted her father in Saudi Arabia, telling him that she was thinking of removing her hijab. “It was never part of the plan. I just wanted to prove a point,” the girl told the BBC. Her father’s response was priceless.
“Sweetheart that’s not my decision to make,” her father responded. “That’s no man’s decision to make.” What else was this girl to do with such a perfect answer, other than to shut down ignorant haters like her online bully?
Soon as she received her father’s message, Lamyaa chose to share the response with the world. She took a screenshot of her father’s answer and posted it on Twitter. Not only did Lamyaa want to shut down her bully but she wanted to tear through such general misconceptions about Muslim women.
“When I saw how sweet my dad's response was I felt that this proved something. It proved that misconceptions are often made about people who end up being the exact opposite.” That screenshot did not go by unnoticed on Twitter.
Her post on Twitter drove some positive comments but it raised criticism too. “My intentions were never to speak over women that are oppressed,” Lamyaa told the Daily Dot. “Many women are oppressed and I’ve tried my best to help in any way I can to raise awareness.”
The responses Lamyaa received on Twitter once she posted the photo were mostly positive. Some praised the girl for standing up to her bullies and others praised her father. “Your dad is perfect and so are you,” one Twitter user told the girl.
“I love this whole thing. There's trust and mutual respect and, above all, love,” another user told the girl. Unfortunately, others were less than positive. Some tweeted how for certain women, wearing a hijab is not a choice but it is forced upon them.
“It is sad that it’s 2017 and women still have to deal with such horrid lack of human rights,” Lamyaa added. When questioned about Muslim women being forced to wear a hijab, the girl said that her religion is not oppressive — the culture in the Middle East is.
Lamyaa said that although there are some Muslim women who are oppressed and forced to wear a hijab, others have a choice. Some women, she explains, like herself, choose to wear a hijab because they want to empower themselves or to display their faith. It is a decision they choose to make.
Whether the women are forced to wear the hijab or choose to wear it because they want to, often the backlash from the outside world is constant. Muslim women, Lamyaa said, are ridiculed by those who don’t understand the religion. These are the people who choose to remain ignorant about Islam and how the hijab connects with their faith.
Much like others who have been oppressed for their race or religion, this 17-year-old girl dreams of change. “I have a dream that people won’t be so judgmental of women. Women should be the ones to “decide [what] to do with their own bodies, whether it be the hijab or a bikini,” Lamyaa said. “That should be their choice to make, not anyone else’s.