Original entry on May 14, 2014
Driving can be dangerous. Driving while hijabi is it's own form of extreme danger.
About a year and a half ago, I was driving up to Los Angeles for one of my graduate school residencies. I'm not a fan of LA, but I was trying to get used to it. I was on the Interstate 405 North. Traffic was insane, as usual in LA. I was driving 5-10 MPH, if I was even moving.
I remember I was bopping my head to some song when I glanced in my rearview mirror and noticed the driver in the car behind me was shaking his fist at his rearview mirror. His face was scrunched in anger, and I'm sure if I had paid more attention I would have seen the spit flying from his mouth with the intensity in which he was yelling. I turned my attention back to the traffic in front of me. We were beginning to inch forward a little less slowly.
As the cars around me began driving, I realized that the car behind me had made it's way next to me. While my lane wasn't moving, his was. I realized then that he was holding up all the cars behind him because he was keeping pace with me. I stared at him, all while taking glances at the cars around him honking like crazy. It took me a moment to recognize that this was the same car that had cut me off a few times after I merged onto the 405. Seeing that his window facing mine was down, I kept my windows up but I turned down my music a little to confirm that he was yelling obscenities at me. I was able to drive a bit quicker, but this guy was keeping pace with me as cars moved from around him.
I considered my options: what the hell was I supposed to do? Call the cops? And say what? "Hi, I'm on the 405 and this psycho is keeping pace with me. I can't see his license plate, but he's an old white guy in a very expensive car. He's wearing a suit. What's that? Oh, yea, I have no idea why he's doing this. Me? I'm Muslim. Hijabi, to be specific... Hello? What do I do?!!" Or, I could smile, wave, and pray to God that another safer option was ahead of me.
I chose to smirk and drive off, placing myself on the other side of the freeway between two large cars. If anything, this experience cemented my hate of LA.
I share this story because it was one where I could have been in danger, but an hour ago, a car tried to drive me off the freeway... in San Diego.
As I was driving to my current destination, I noticed this white soccer mom type van was driving circles around me in a box-like car waltz. He was literally boxing me in. I am always exceedingly aware of my surrounding while driving.
When I started driving, back when I was a teen, my grandmother's advice was, "Drive like you're the only sane one on the street, and everyone else is insane!"
I kept denying that this driver was driving around me on purpose, but after quite a few miles, I couldn't ignore it. I have been wanting to tint my car windows so that drivers can't look into my car while I'm driving. I checked my mirrors and could see this driver focused on me. I tried to slow down or speed up, anything to get around him and take the other side of the freeway, but he was vicious in his movements. I finally drove at his pace and looked straight at him, another old, white guy staring at me. Once again, I couldn't get a license plate. I could see my exit ahead and knew I needed to exit and merge onto the next freeway. I knew I needed to make the only logical choice, keep myself safe to also make sure there would be no horrendous consequences to anyone around me. Seeing an open opportunity of having no cars around us, I pretended to swerve as if I was going to hit him and he moved quickly. I exited, missing the sign on the end of the divider by an inch. All it would have taken was one second. I wasn't even speeding!
In my head, I saw my car splitting down the middle and throwing my body straight into the middle of the freeway. My fast reflexes, steady driving, and strong brakes would not have saved me. I have no idea how I made it. It was Allah swt. Period.
My first thought was,"Pray two rakaat shukoor (thanks) to Allah the moment you park!" My second thought was, "An entry on Facebook would be a good way to tell my parents I almost died tonight... and get my brother to look into tinting for my car." In all seriousness, AlhamduliAllah, I arrived safely.
The fact that my religion and choice to wear the hijab is what makes driving dangerous, not the usual reasons, is beyond ridiculous. Thank you, San Diego, for reminding me that ignorant scum reside everywhere. I still love you SD, even with your own psychos.
I will say that I drove the rest of the way to my destination smiling. It's moments like these that I recognize my strengths. Despite all the situations, some more dangerous or hurtful than others, I have been in specifically because I have made the choice to wear my religion visibly, I continue with my jihad (struggle) for the sake of Allah swt. To all my Muslim brothers and sisters, especially my hijabi sisters, stay safe out there on the streets.