Islamophobia In the Heart of Europe: “I Had to Change My Hijab to a Turban In Order to Feel Safer”

The year is 2018, in “the heart” of Europe, Hungary, especially in the capital, Budapest. For those who are not so familiar with the country or the city, I am talking about one of the countries that treated refugees with absolutely no mercy whatsoever. Yep, this is the country where the camerawoman kicked the man who was holding his child while running away from war. That was Hungary.

Since then, everything has changed for Muslims in the country. I can only speak for myself, a hijabi, in her mid twenties, but I know many stories just like mine. But let me tell me mine. Before the refugee crisis, more or less, it was peaceful to walk around in the city with your hijab on. After that, well, not so much. Just going to university was a struggle for me. It is located an hour and a half away from home. This journey that I took every  single day was spent with intense anxiety and worry, then out of the blue, people started picking on me. One of the most intense bullying was on the tram where I offered my seat for an elderly man, who took my seat, and started yelling at the top of his lungs – I remember every single word as if it happened yesterday, even though it happened 3 years ago. He said: “You only offered me your seat to show your fake politeness towards us, but you want to bomb this country! You will not fool us, you are like Hitler jugend, go back to your country you freak terrorist”. Needless to say, that I was born in Hungary, from a Hungarian mother and my mother tongue is Hungarian, although I look like my Egyptian root, I am still Hungarian too! So much for “don’t judge the book by its cover”, huh?

I had to change my hijab to a turban in order to feel safer. I am constantly listening to music so loud so that I won’t hear them talk trash about me, I am scared to go outside alone after sunset.

The Hungarian government in that year (2015), and the following years too, was entirely based on the hate of immigrants and refugees and everyone who looks “different”. They displayed massive billboards saying “If you come to Hungary, you cannot take the jobs of Hungarians”, which was everywhere in the country. The vast majority of the people do not understand what these people are running away from, in order to do that they should stop being so narrow minded. These acts forced me to change the way I am. I had to change my hijab to a turban in order to feel safer. I am constantly listening to music so loud so that I won’t hear them talk trash about me, I am scared to go outside alone after sunset – and I am sure most of us can relate.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of open-minded people here, too, but it is so hard to make a change when the government literally shuts down every source of freedom here. There is literally no free press anymore, nor television, they are blinding the people everywhere they can reach the masses.

I just wish they would remember the history we have with different cultures and the things we have gained from them, for instance, from the Turkish. We have amazing baths, wellness centres and a great cuisine too. Or just going back to our roots, to see that old ladies still completely cover themselves as well as scarves on their head. I just hope that, one day, the people who are not afraid to make a change will conquer the hatred against “difference”.

The above picture was taken the summer of 2018, and it says: “They both wear long clothes and scarves. One of them is preserving the Hungarian tradition, the other one is apparently threatening it”. This picture alone could show the nation that we are not at all different, yet we are still creating barriers between each other.