Generally, flying is considered a male-dominated sport. I can count the number of women in my aviation club on one hand. The number of hijabi pilots – well I only know one, and that’s me.
The first time I stepped in to the club, I could feel the awkward and confused stares. I didn’t have to look around to know I was out of place as the only hijabi in the room. That didn’t stop me.
Soon enough, I became part of the gang. I was the butt of many mean jokes, but never failed to dish it right back with my witty responses. A club member said to me once, “teasing in this club is a sign of acceptance”. I became rather comfortable in the club and felt almost like a little sister to the guys – they took good care of me.
On a few occasions, they managed to ask me their burning questions. “Why don’t you shake hands or drink alcohol?” “Why do you have to wear hijab?” “How long is your hair? Is it curly or straight?“ “What is Islam about?” Aside from genuine curiosity, I also had friends who would pass remarks such as “Oh you are Muslim, so you’ll probably have an arranged marriage.” “Aren’t you being oppressed by wearing that hijab?” “I’m surprised your parents allow you to fly, considering you are a Muslim girl.” I didn’t blame them for their ignorance. I figured they didn’t have much exposure to Muslims or Hijabis. I welcomed the opportunity for dawaah and sat to answer their questions briefly and logically and dismiss any false stereotypes. I realized my presence in that space was important for that very reason- to shatter their preconceived notions of what Muslims and Hijabi women are.
I spent over two years in the aviation club. I didn’t let the male-oriented environment hinder me from continuing my hobby and passion.
At the end of the day, who really owns the sky?