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Dear Alma, Our new violist wears a hijab

Dear Alma, Our new violist wears a hijab
Dear Alma, Our new violist wears a hijab

From our agony aunt’s mailbag:

Dear Alma,

There’s a new player in our viola section and she wears a kind of hijab – a black headscarf that also covers her shoulders. For what I can hear she’s not that good, but she must have sneaked through some kind of audition and now we are having to adjust both to her playing and to her presence.

What bothers me is not her religion – I treat all faiths as nonsense – but the effect she is having on our section. We cannot socialise the same way any more. Can’t go as a group to the bar, or to a club. We can’t even invite her to a barbecue without first having to research what she’d eat. For the first time, I feel uncomfortable in my own orchestra.

I bought her a coffee at intermission the other day. She thanked, but never touched it. I asked after her family. She said they’re fine. 

There’s a new CFO upstairs, also wearing a head-scarf. Tell me if I’m being unreasonable for being so put out. Tell me if you know of such issues in other orchestras. 

Bothered and bewildered

Dear Bothered and bewildered,

I can see that this is troubling you. You seem to be confused by a number of different prejudices which are becoming mixed up with your insecurities. I am not saying you are a bad person, although your questions are glaringly racist, just that this could be a moment where your eyes and heart could be opened to a new experience. If I were a member of your orchestra, I would hope that there would be obligatory diversity and inclusion training, as there is in most universities. For all of your sakes. Let me answer your query with an imagined query from the other side.

Dear Alma,

I have landed a new job in a good orchestra. I am a violist who graduated from a strong music school, and have worked my way up the orchestral ladder in the last several years. Last year I won a blind audition and am now a member of a wonderful group. I am working hard and doing my best.

I wear a hijab (a scarf which covers my hair, ears, and neck). I have had to overcome many pressures from my faith and community to pursue my passion for classical music, which is almost universally considered forbidden. I played in school as a young student, and was strongly encouraged to give it up as I grew older. One day my teacher invited me to attend the Zohra Symphony Orchestra, and my life changed. This all-female orchestra from Kabul is conducted by a woman and plays classical music and wears hijab. That day I decided I would be a professional violist and I have never turned back.

My struggles have been all worth it. But small struggles still enter my every day life. In orchestra, any slight mistake I make is noticed with a glare and snide remark from a member of my section. I can hear them talking, saying I got into the orchestra because of this or that reason – that I am a bad player. They all know each other and for the most part don’t speak to me. Last week a man from my section bought me a drink which has caffeine, and I thanked him (I don’t drink caffeine) and he glared at me across the cafeteria as I politely sat with the drink in front of me.

After all I have been through, these small problems are nothing to me. I am here to do my job. To play the music I love, even though it has separated me from some of my family who I love.

But, dear Alma, is there a way to help my colleagues become more comfortable around me? They seem frightened or intimidated.

Please Advise

The post Dear Alma, Our new violist wears a hijab appeared first on Slippedisc.

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