We feel uncomfortable when someone hides their face from us. Hoodies and headscarves scare some people and now we have the virus-protector face masks to deal with.
Do these articles of clothing represent an evil presence? Are the people underneath these coverings intent on something secretive, something harmful to us? Or are they following health or culture directives?
Having lived seven years in Afghanistan and traveled in the Middle East, I have lost such fears or apprehensions. I wore a headscarf, however hot in the summer or frustrating in the wind. Veiled women in sparrow blue burkas with webbed eye windows and black abayas with partial or full niqabs (face coverings) were commonplace.
As a resettlement city for immigrants and international students at local universities, there are many headscarves walking around my Kansas town these days. Now with concern to curb COVID-19, more faces are unreadable with masks.
There are people determined to live in the shadows and keep their destructive agendas hidden, there always have been since sin entered the human condition. Not all evildoers bother to hide their faces or negative plans.
My choice? I can live in fear of basically everyone since I cannot know their heart’s motivations. Or, I can present myself as a person hoping and believing for the best in my fellow human beings as we all struggle along through this scary life.
I can make every effort to appear kind and approachable, while of course conducting myself carefully and wisely. I can make eye contact and speak politely, even if my smile is concealed by a face mask. As others give me grace for my choice of protective covering, I can do the same for them.
Headscarves and face masks are appearing everywhere in the world. Resist feeling afraid or judging. Western women, don’t shy away from greeting a veiled sister in your path. Smile. Say hello, even through a face mask. (Men are not encouraged to speak to unaccompanied, unknown Muslim women for culture sensitivity.)
We must remember – under these coverings there is a human being who is not much different than us in his or her quest to live well.