"Abaya" or Loose over-garment

In Attire

The "abaya" is a loose fitting robe that's worn prominently by women in the Muslim world. My father left Yemen and headed to America in 1996 and my mother and I followed two years after. My father had already established a stable life by the time we got here, so things weren’t too tough. However, life changed after the September 11th attacks. My mother wore the abaya her entire life and to her, it was a representation of her obedience to God. I remember walking with her and hearing racial slurs being yelled. Most of them, she could barely understand. I saw people on the street giving her dirty looks and even going so far as to pulling off her headscarf and abaya telling her to "Take it off or get out of America." Despite society's distaste for her appearance, she never once yelled back or compromised her modesty to their liking. I feared for her safety, and questioned her choices, but I remember her telling me, "I do this because Allah (God) tells me to. Don't listen to anyone who tells you its oppression. This may look like a simple piece of cloth, but it's so much more than that. It forces people to recognize you for your inside rather than your outside." The abaya is a symbol of my mother's resilience and unique struggle as an immigrant.

Year: 1998

– Roba Alam

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