Growing up in Pakistan in the 70s and early 80s, I only knew one woman who wore a Hijab. It was Apaa, my Quran and Urdu teacher. I would have tuition with her two times a week and I always thought it weird that she would come up to our home wearing a black burqa (something like this). She would then take out the head piece and the rest of the outfit and then proceed with torturing me with Alif – Bey – Pay etc. Head covering for women was sort of the national/cultural dress in Pakistan – with women wearing shalwar kameez, covering their heads with dupata. Even when I visited India – I noticed both Muslim and Hindu women covering their hair as part of the national dress. I have never made much of women covering or not covering their hair – untill very recently.
Over the past six years – since I moved to the People’s Republic of Cambridge, I have noticed more and more Muslim women wearing the Hijab. And I am always confused as to what to do. As a Muslim male – hijab was never part of my upbringing – all the women in my extended family went outdoors without it – both in Pakistan and in the West – so I have no clue on the proper etiqutte when crossing paths with a hijab wearing woman. Here are some of my quandries – perhaps someone who wears a hijab would be so kind to answer them for me:
1) Usually I am a friendly guy and like to say hi! Given that you have identified yourself so obviously as a Muslim – is it appropriate to lock eyes and say Salaam?
2) If I don’t say anything – but simply smile or acknowledge you with a nod – will that be considered offensive?
3)If I meet a hijab wearing woman at a social occasion – is it halal to shake hands?
Unfortunately these days – since I have no clue on how to be around hijabs – I simply and rudely ignore my Muslim sisters wearing it. Maybe someone can help. Please!
Btw – this is a nice dossier on hijab.