FRANKFURT — It's a Thursday morning on the No. 39 bus in Frankfurt, Germany. Suddenly, a migrant woman with an accent begins to complain loudly and aggressively about a woman wearing a niqab. "I don't feel safe next to her," she says to no one in particular.
The other passengers remain silent, though one eventually speaks up to defend the woman in the dark blue niqab whose eye slits were covered with trendy, slim glasses.
But the woman continues her lament. "I don't feel safe next to you, especially in times like these... I don't even know if you're a woman or a man."
The veiled woman remains silent, sitting with her baby in a stroller in front of her, and her 5-year-old son sitting at her side, her hand resting calmly on the boy's thigh. Her husband, a heavy man with a full black beard, jeans and a leather jacket, is sitting on the other side of her, silently as well. Maybe they don't understand what their tormenter was saying, though her rude tone is crystal clear.
The bus keeps going, and so does the woman. "For myself, I come from your same culture," the abusive woman continues. "I know what I'm talking about."
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Street scene in London — Photo: Photocapy
She is shaking with anger but keeps her distance. The driver too remains silent, as do the two dozen or so other passengers. Everyone is avoiding the husband's eyes as he scans the bus for help, some kind of support.
"Leave the woman alone," another passenger finally speaks up. Even before anyone could say anything else, the angry woman now starts to scream: "Here, equality rules, and it will remain like that."
She gets off the bus, mumbling to herself, at which point the couple's hands relax.
The outburst lasted about 10 minutes, and when it was finally over, everyone on the bus breathed a collective sigh of relief. She was impolite and offensive, and unfair to focus on one person, but was her criticism really wrong? It took a while until it began to dawn on me that perhaps I had seen the future, what is to come in an increasingly anxious Europe.
The fundamental clash between more secular Muslims who have integrated in Europe and strict Muslims among more recent arrivals, is not going away anytime soon. And it is bound to become nasty.
Though silent, any veiled woman does make her own kind of statement, speaking through her clothing and attitude and, in her own way, denouncing others as dishonorable. One of those who refuses such judgment wanted to let the world know, beginning with the No. 39 bus in Frankfurt.