OPINION: “Don’t Call Me #Alhaja! I Have A Name!”— Muslim Women Speak Out Against Generalizations, Expose Suppression Through Stereotyping.
“Calling us “Alhaja” is a form of erasure. Say our names. Learn our names. It is very much connected to the way you view us; subservient and not worth the stress”—@RedCloakedGirl, via Twitter.
Social media platforms sprang alive late Thursday once again, after a controversial topic on title allocation based on dress code slid into the spotlight. Muslim women took center stage, revealing an intense dislike for being stereotyped into being called “Alhaja” as a generic title for every covered woman.
Others, notably non-Muslims, argued that the title is a term of “endearment” and shows acceptance.
Nigeria, like every other country has peculiarities native to the country. Names are attached due to certain images that each person fits into.
“Lagos boy” automatically refers to his drawling Lagosian accent. “Mama/Mame” tells you that she’s active in church.
However, the main contention revolved around the effect of the being referred to simply as “Alhaja”, as the Muslimahs say it removes the woman’s identity immediately.
“They’ll learn everyone else’s name but they won’t learn yours, they’ll call you Alhaja.
You’ll be referred to as “that Alhaja babe wey dey civil” “that Alhaja babe that works in our office” “that Alhaja in “…” department”— @Aifeoluwa via Twitter.
Explaining further, @RedCloakedGirl says:
“I don’t think Muslim men & non Muslims understand why Nigerian women ask that you don’t call us “Alhaja”.
For one, it’s a micro aggression, said to make us more complacent. To guilt trip us based on our Muslimness.
“You know what’s worse? How you all (Muslim & non Muslim men) sexualise us. If you’re wearing hijab, you’re seen as hiding “treasures” & you’re reduced to what is under the veil. It’s far worse if you’re wearing niqab.
We are seen as sexy, but God help us if we show we are sexual.
All of you, Muslim & non Muslim men need to fix up. I don’t care what choices Nigerian Muslimahs are making and whether it fits into your idea of liberated, conservative, right or wrong. Let us make choices without boxing us into your stupid expectations. WE DON’T LIVE FOR YOU”.
What Others Say:
As with every debate, there are always at least two sides. Some people don’t see the downside to name stereotypes, while others are vehemently against the trend:
“Why is this Alhaja thing even up for discussion?
People said they don’t want to be called XYZ but you’re insisting they shouldn’t have a problem being called XYZ.
I ask, is it crack?”—
“I actually Know this is bad. I called a friend alhaja for months, not bad? Till you find out I didn’t know her name”.
Twitter User @Ashade Itunu says:
“I don’t know where all these no is coming from…I honestly do not..but for some of us, we really do call Hijabis ‘Alhaja’ from a place of respect for thier choices and standards not of any of all these you pointed out.
I don’t know where all these no is coming from…I honestly do not..but for some of us, we really do call Hijabis ‘Alhaja’ from a place of respect for thier choices and standards not of any of all these you pointed out”.