Removing the Hijab, the Guilt of It


Following the ruling by the European court of justice to allow employers to ban religious symbols in the workplace, three Muslim women in Spain, The Netherlands and the UK talk about their experiences of looking for work while wearing a hijab….

The hijab. I’m so torn. On one hand, I love my hats. Always have. I feel “complete” when I leave the house with the perfect hat on my head. I have a special place on the bedroom wall, special hat hooks, where I display my favorite hats and can easily choose the hat d’jour. My favorite hat right now was a birthday gift from my hubby. A gray vintage Stetson with a perfect blue feather, the gumshoe sort, not the cowboy. I love it. We found it at an indoor flea market and it’s a once in a lifetime. Each time I put it on, I am complete. The rain will not bother me. I’ll be perfectly warm. No matter what my hair is doing, I’m sheik. But what if I had to where the Stetson?

Imagine. You are a girl, grown up in which the hat qualifies respectability? The same way wearing “proper” shorts or skirt means you are “respectable.” Covering is a norm for all communities. Especially for women. Even the head and hair covered in “respectable form” isn’t so far removed from Western society. “Proper ladies” wore hats late into the 1900s. Even now, Catholic nuns to Mennonite women, cover their heads. The religious expectation is not exclusive to Muslim communities. Though, let it be said, Catholic nuns and Mennonite women, though shunned, will not be murdered or mutilated for shedding their religious covers.

As a young girl, I wore a hat to Sunday school each week and all the women and men and the pastor loved me for it. I felt special and accepted. They knew me as the girl in the hat. And I was a proper Baptist young lady. So what’s the rub?

Many years ago, before I had know what a hijab was, I worked for a woman who wore a hijab. I’d neither learned about a hijab nor Muslim culture in school. I’d neither read about it in the newspaper nor seen it on the news. I was in college and working as a summer coordinator for a county at-risk youth services agency in Pennsylvania. 

I complemented her. Her hijab had affected me. It was elegant and unique in the drab county government office. It was crisp and white. She was very beautiful, so different than everyone else. Dark eyes and warm skin. I’d never met, let alone worked, for anyone who looked, dressed, moved or spoke like her. She became my mystery, this professional, strong, unique woman leading our department. I knew I could never be her or even like her, but still, I knew somewhere deep inside that she held something I could not ascertain and for that reason I was then subservient, not only because I was her employee, but because I knew on some level that she knew more of the world than I did. And she knew she knew more than I did. She knew I knew it too. I was at her mercy in what counted. She had an experience of life and humanity that I would never know. And here we both were, working our hearts out for at-risk youth in our county. 

I garbled some sort of complement about her “scarf.” I like your scarf, it’s beautiful… or some awkward Westernized idiocy. To this day, I still wonder if the silent response she gave was pity or polite disdain. Either way, she tried to make me feel welcome. The grace of it.

Each time I put on my Stetson, I see her in the mirror as an unresolved cipher. And it echoes in each article I read about a woman wearing a hijab and a woman mutilated for not wearing the expectations of her community. 

If I were forced to give up my Stetson, I would refuse. I might likely die for it. I’m Scotch-Viking and feisty. I would be the ridiculous person fighting to the death for the right to wear my Stetson. And it’s all so subjective, the hats. My hat might be another’s hat for a far better reason.

Rae Bryant is the author of the short story collection, The Indefinite State of Imaginary Morals (Patasola Press). Her stories, essays, and poetry have appeared in print and online at The Paris Review, The Missouri Review, McSweeney’s, DIAGRAM, StoryQuarterly, Huffington Post, New World Writing, Gargoyle Magazine, and Redivider, among other publications. Her digital intermedia has exhibited in New York, DC, Baltimore and Florence, Italy. She has won prizes and fellowships from Johns Hopkins, Aspen Writers Foundation, VCCA and Whidbey Writers and has been nominated for the Pen/Hemingway, Pen Emerging Writers, The &NOW Award, Lorian Hemingway, and multiple times for the Pushcart award. Rae earned a Masters in Writing from Hopkins where she continues to teach new media, technology for writers and creative writing and is founding editor and designer of Eckleburg. She also teaches and lectures in the International Writing Program at The University of Iowa and The Eckleburg Workshops. She is represented by Jennifer Carlson with Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Literary Agency.

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Introducing Sky Stage! Eckleburg Reading Series with Lindsay Lusby and Rae Bryant on 9.22.16 @ 7pm, 59 S. Carroll St., Frederick MD

Sky Stage 9.22.16

Frederick Arts Council and Eckleburg are excited to announce the Sky Stage Eco-Urban Reading Series, a new literary arts initiative in Frederick, MD. Heather Clark’s Sky Stage, framed by historic stone walls, will include an open-air theater that will seat an audience of 140 people among trees.  Sky Stage is an eco-urban art installation hosting local events: music, literature readings, performances and more. Our first literary reading is September 22, 2016 from 7 to 9 pm, featuring poets/authors, Lindsay Lusby and Rae Bryant, as well as an Open Mic session. Come join us!


Featured Readers

Lindsay LusbyLINDSAY LUSBY is the author of the chapbook Imago (dancing girl press, 2014) and winner of the 2015 Fairy Tale Review Award in Poetry, judged by Joyelle McSweeney. Her poems have appeared most recently in North Dakota Quarterly, Tinderbox Poetry Journal,  Third Point Press, and elsewhere. She is the Assistant Director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House at Washington College, where she serves as assistant editor for the Literary House Press and managing editor for Cherry Tree. Read more at

Rae Bryant, ContributorRAE BRYANT is the author of the short story collection, The Indefinite State of Imaginary Morals (Patasola Press). Her stories, essays, and poetry have appeared in print and online at The Paris Review, The Missouri Review, McSweeney’s, and elsewhere. She has won prizes and fellowships from Johns Hopkins, Aspen Writers Foundation, VCCA and Whidbey Writers. Rae earned a Masters in Writing from Hopkins where she continues to teach creative writing She is the founding editor of The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review and Director of The Eckleburg Workshops. She is represented by Jennifer Carlson with Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Literary Agency. Read more at


About Heather Clark

Heather Clark

In her artwork, HEATHER CLARK builds systems that critique our current world predicament. Her work plays on what she calls cultural neurosis: the human tendency to over-consume, over-build, over-groom, etc. in lieu of direct physical exertion to ensure survival.  She views this as a misdirected attempt to satisfy basic primal urges for shelter, food, and clothing in a society where actions are grossly amplified because one gallon of gasoline equals five hundred hours of human work output.

Heather’s work and perspective have evolved from her background in green redevelopment and ecology, and most recently from her life in exurbia, where she has lived and worked for the last four years.  She is embedded in a landscape that feeds on cultural neurosis.  Meadows, forests, and farms transitioning to tract homes and cul de sacs have become her muse.  As an inhabitant of exurbia, Heather is both complicit and trapped in the consumption economy and its byproducts – climate change, inequality, unhealthiness, boredom.

Here, the uncanny valley, which is usually discussed in relation to artificial intelligence, appears to Heather in the industrially designed and generated vernacular; she works with her hands, in defiance.  She dissects infrastructure, places, and the meaning of the built environment and its relation to nature.   Her work becomes a metaphor for the greater ills of a consumption based society.  It is within this landscape that Heather attempts to reveal the messiness that lies beneath over-constructing the perfect life and the near impossibility of escape.

Heather’s work and life has led her to believe that greater satisfaction can be achieved through physical proximity to meeting one’s basic needs – building with one’s hands, using one’s body, growing one’s own food. She yearns to reinvent how we live, using art, architecture and public interventions to catalyze built environments that power themselves, cleanse themselves, transform waste, provide wildlife habitat, produce food, and deeply satisfy inhabitants.

Heather holds a Master of Science in Real Estate Development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, School of Architecture and Planning, and a Bachelor of Science from Cornell University, summa cum laude, in Environmental Science and Community Planning, a self-designed major.  Heather founded Biome Studio.  As principal of Biome Studio, Heather previously designed and developed green affordable housing.  Attempting to lead the path toward zero-energy buildings and neighborhoods, she oversaw the largest deep energy retrofit in the U.S., converted historic mills into green affordable housing, and installed over one megawatt of solar pv on 2,300 low-income apartments.  Heather is also an environmental activist, creating the Play-In for Climate Action, a family-oriented climate change protest held in 2014 and replicated many times since by Moms Clean Air Force.


Eckleburg No. 19

Eckleburg No. 19 Hardback


Moustache | Annie Terrazzo 

Small Fiery Bloom | ROSS MCMEEKIN 
I Am Not Who I Am | EURYDICE 

3RD PLACE | Song of the Amputee’s Mother | SHANEE STEPAKOFF 

A Diverse Flora of Native and Introduced Species, Beautifully Adapted to Their Microenvironment | DON HUCKS 
Bomb Squad | JASON OLSEN 
Her Husband Leaves Her | STEPHEN DIXON 
The Nonsense Singers of the Red Forest | RICK MOODY 
from Something Wrong with Him: A Hybrid Memoir | CRIS MAZZA 
The Yellow Wallpaper (1899) | CHARLOTTE PERKINS GILMAN 

Eating Children on a Fall Day | AMYE ARCHER
Earthboy | NOAH BURTON
Alligator Ecology | AARON APPS
The God of Knickknacks | ROCHELLE SHAPIRO
His Flaming Sister | LINDSAY VAUGHAN
Scene Likely Needed (Frankenstein Machine) | MATTHEW HARRISON
Undertow | MEG TUITE

The Talking Cure | VIPRA GHIMIRE
On Alois Riegl and Miley Cyrus’s Intervention: A Prospective, Postmodern Critique | RANDY LEONARD
Ernst Gombrich: Art Historican in Debate and Dialogue with Scientists | RICHARD PERKINS
Oskar Kokoschka and the Search for the True Self(ie) | DANIELLE DAY
Sixty Thousand Truths | J. R. WILLIAMS
The Password to Postmodernism Is Denmark | PETER J. GOODMAN
To Arthur Schnitzler | EMILY TURNER
What Photography Did | BARRY PALMER

A Supposedly Relaxing Thing That Gives Me a Really Serious Case of the Heebie-Jeebies | BRETT SLEZAK
Along the Path to Citizenship | MAYA KANWAL
Average Ordinary Trainwreck | RUTH BERGER
For the Greater Good | VIPRA GHIMIRE
I Live in a Town | CHELSEY CLAMMER
Famous Writers Groups | JACQUELINE DOYLE
Virginia Woolf, Illinois | TATIANA RYCKMAN
An Open Letter to a Suicidal Friend, a Bulimic Friend, A Long Lost Aunt and Stephanie, My New LinkedIn Connection | RAE BRYANT

Annie Terrazzo
Kim Buck
Zina Nedelcheva
Rania Moudaress