Poem: When I First Learned the Word “Hijab”

When I first learned the word “hijab”

My life instantly became more complicated

Suddenly there was a name for the scarves I wore over my head

I, however, was not wearing a hijab

I was wearing the scarves the ladies in the 1950s movies wore

Suddenly, it became inappropriate to wear my favourite garment

Suddenly, I was appropriating someone’s culture

I was confused

On one hand, I saw beauty in the veil

Meant to shield a female from the eyes of prying men

Meant to symbolize a relationship with Allah

Meant to symbolize the protection He gives His people

But on the other hand, I saw constraint

under the veil

the hair is hidden

the body is hidden

sometimes the face is hidden

It seems awful, because isn’t beauty meant to be shared?

Yet the more I thought about it, the more I convinced myself that it was wrong to do what I did

that in order to wear this garment, I must commit to a new religion

I realize now that I was more in love with the community religion creates

I, however, have not outgrown my confusion

It seems wrong to wear my scarf around my Muslim friends

I feel judged

If I wear it around town, I’m expected to act like a Muslim, never mind the fact that it’s my accessory

Yet there are days when I want to be hidden

When I want to be cloaked in a chador

when I want my face covered by a niqab

Or even a burqa

when I want to brave the seemingly oppressive garments

But there are also days when I want to wear nothing

Short skirts and low cut shirts

But I can’t have both

Not today, not anymore

When I first learned the word “hijab”

my life changed forever

And I’m not entirely sure it was for the better

Poem: When I First Learned the Word “Hijab”

Farah Chamma: I Am No Palestinian

A poem by Farah Chamma

I am no Palestinian

I am no courageous, fearless, valorous, gallant, proud, adventurous, selfless patriot.

I am a soul in exile,

expressing my thoughts in all languages but mine.


I am Palestinian.

Salut, je suis Palestinienne.


I cut my mother tongue in half

نصبت المبتدأ و لعنت أبو الخبر

كسرت الضمة التي ضمت ما بيننا

Palestinian poet Rafeef Ziadeh was right when she said

“Allow me to speak my Arab tongue

before they occupy my language as well.”

Allow me to speak my Arab tongue before they occupy my language as well.


to that I must add: allow me to be the Arab that I am.

Allow me my write to learn, to travel, to pray.

Allow me to walk through any foreign street without having to fell this shame,

without having to think twice about my clothes, my face, my name,

or the visa.

Or the goddamn visa I had to work day and night for to claim,

because at the end of the day

I am not the one to blame.

I am not the one to blame for Bin Laden or 9/11

and all your other schemes and games.

I am just a soul in exile.

I am in no hall of fame,

I have to opt to be someone I am not just to fit in your frame.

Despite the agony I went through,

despite the struggles I overcame,

despite the diplomas, the agrees the awards I claim

I am still no Palestinian.

I am still no Palestinian,

no matter how many “I love Palestine” stickers I stick on my car.

No matter how many time I cry over Gaza and argue over the Israeli settlements.

No matter how many times I curse the Zionists, blame the media, and swear at all the Arab leaders,

I am no Palestinian.

Even if I memorize the names of all the Palestinian cities.

Even if I recite Mahmood Darwiche’s poetry

and draw Handala on my walls

and even as I stand here today

in front of you all

I am no Palestinian

أنا مش فلسطينية

And I might never, ever be

and that’s exactly what makes

the Palestinian

in me.


Video here:

Farah Chamma: I Am No Palestinian

Poem: Compliments & Coersion

“You look like an exotic Amazonian goddess.”

“I’ve never been fortunate enough to taste such divine chocolate as yourself.”

“Hey baby,

Why don’t you walk that cake over here

so I can have a slice?”

Sorry not sorry


I don’t care if it’s just the tip,

NoMeans No

I don’t care if you’ve waited a year

No MeansNo

I’m closed for business.

What’s in my pants

under my shirt

up my skirt

is mine and mine alone.

So you can keep your “dayum shawty”

I don’t want it I don’t need it

My body is my property

get off my lawn

This is not what love looks like

you’re despicable

sullying that sacred 4-letter word.

“Are you as kinky as your hair?

Lemme see you drop down & touch your toes.”

People like you are the reason the

goals of the feminist movement are skewed

people like you are the reason women

walk home at night clutching their

purses and furtively glancing

left and right.

I shouldn’t have to be forced to hide my castle away

I own this ish

It is mine and mine alone

so now and forever


your “compliments” are unappreciated


Poem: Compliments & Coersion