I identify with Evangelical Christianity and am currently a student of Spiritism, but every now and again I wear my knitted red, black, and green taqiyah (also called a kufi), sometimes to hide a two-day growth of hair on my otherwise shaved head, but most of the time to make a statement - to express my militancy, to show my solidarity with Muslims world-wide, especially in these times in which they are so severely vilified.
As I ride the subway or walk the streets of New York City with my kufi covering my head and with my thick, fully grey beard, I often get a lot of stares - some curious, some hostile. One time I was stopped in a subway station by law enforcement officers and my bag searched; no doubt I was being profiled. I was even told one time by a young man that I looked like a terrorist. What inveterate ignorance! But on rare occasions I would get an "As-salam alaikum, my brotha" from a brotha. To tell the truth, wearing that particular taqiyah gives me a sense of pride and power, for there was a time in which those colors (red, black, and green) meant something. Together they represented the symbol of the Black Liberation Movement,...but that was a long time ago (sigh).
I used to be a Muslim when I was a child, not by choice, for my father (who at the time leaned towards Marxism) had me attend the village mosque for reasons unknown to me to this day. Nonetheless, I enjoyed every minute of my association with that Faith, for not only did I learn Arabic, but there were also impressed upon my young mind notions of benevolence and self-discipline and a sense of the Holy. Interestingly, my father eventually withdrew me because of the persecution I experienced (while still a child) because of my affiliation with Islam. Unfortunately, such intolerance was prevalent then and continues to be prevalent to this day. Sad indeed…very, very sad.
[Photographic Art by Ric Couchman]