I have always wanted to write on this specific stereotyping that has been bugging me for quite a while. I know of some in my disposition who have written of it in their blogs but I would like to write it in my personal point of view all the same.

The issue? Stereotyping females who wear headscarves not proficient in English.

There is this common misconception that women with headscarves aren’t able to converse well in English. I beg to differ. I assure you I have had my fair share of encounters of people doubting my ability to speak the language without having them point it out to my face.

Sometime around noon today, I was stopped by a lady promoting Lingu*phone. Below is the conversation I had with her.

Lady: Dik, nak pegi mana ni? Akak nak ambil masa adik sekejap je.

Me: Nak balik rumah(while trying very hard to look like I was in a hurry).

Lady: 5 minit je dik.

Me: (Hesitated but later gave in.)

Lady: Adik nak belajar bahasa dengan cara mudah tak? Tak payah pergi class… cuma dengar sahaja.

Me: Takpelah kak. Saya dah ada.

Lady: Oh dah ada? Adik dah ada yang mana?

Me: Saya dah ada yang French.

Lady: Comment tu t’appelles?

I couldn’t believe she was actually trying to test me! Thank God I could answer. I did think of being evil as to retort with another French question and see if SHE could answer. If not, then I’d make her buy her own product. Haha!

Lady: Macam mana dengan English? Adik faham tak apa yang lecturer ajar kat class?

Me: I think my English is okay, I don’t really need it (with a slight whiff of an accent to draw her aback).

Now before some of you start drifting away thinking I’m a show-off and missing the point, these particular promoters somehow had targetted us(females with headscarves) as their potential buyers thus the stereotyping. I was sort of prepared for this beforehand based on what my friends had experienced earlier in the day. But trust me, if I hadn’t mentioned that I had already had the French version, I’m pretty sure she would’ve ushered me to buy the English one like proposed to my other friends. I’d like to note here that their booth was set up in a very strategic place. Point being that of all the students that came and went, I was the lucky chosen one… and of course, many other tudung-wearing people.

On another totally different scenario sometime late last year, I accompanied my mother in her hunt for a new handbag. You would rarely notice this in department stores but if you enter boutiques(especially those situated on the 1st floor of KLCC) you would somehow sense yourself being ignored, given the circumstances. Why? Because you wear a tudung and can’t speak English thus you can’t afford to buy anything from their extravagant range of outrageously expensive items.

How to detect the ignorance? Simple. Firstly, instead of automatically being entertained as a rightful customer, you are forced to call them to assist. Secondly, they speak to you in Malay with a slight wave of ignorance assuming you don’t speak English. Thirdly, when in comes a foreign customer/mak datin, Poofff! they act like you are nowhere in sight.

There are a million of other examples I could quote here. In France, they disallow their female students to wear any form of headgear that could display religious motives. Which brings me to arise this question “If your own people look down on you, how are you supposed to gain respect from others?”

Never judge a book by its cover.


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