Guilty before proven innocent

Bismillahi ir-rahman ir-rahim – In the name of Allah, most gracious, most merciful

While shopping today I exited a shop while carrying a shopping bag with a couple of books that I purchased at the bookstore a few doors down.  I noticed the lady standing at the door.  Its funny, I often think of her as having a customer service role – to smile, answer questions and just be lovely.  But shopping with a shopping bag changes everything.  You are no longer just a casual shopper, you are a potential thief.  Actually, no…you are a thief!  Until you can prove otherwise, that is.

As I exited the doors with my bags I was aware of my current status.  I was also aware of the customer service come security lady at the door, but I didn’t want to show her my bag.  Not because I had anything to hide, but because I was tired, I couldn’t be bothered, and I had to walk across the other side of the store to show her, so I did what anybody else would do in that situation, I avoided eye contact.  I could see her from the corner of my eye coming towards me, so I bit the bullet as she asked if she could check my bag.  I smiled politely and obliged, opening my bag for her to see all its contents. She thanked me, and life went on.

I walked away thinking about this, how I smiled and politely showed her the contents of my bag.  How I allowed her to invade my privacy, allowed her to accuse me of stealing, and didn’t so much as raise an eyebrow at her.  Why do we allow ourselves to be treated like this??  If it were in any other situation we would never allow it.  Could you imagine…you visit somebody in their home, and as you leave they smile and say “would you mind if I had a look in your bag before you leave?”.  You’d be fuming!!  But for some reason in this context its ok.  Why? Because its always been like this, we don’t even give it a second thought.

Yes, I know, theres a lot more to it than that.  For the most part people can’t decide who does and doesn’t visit their store.  And people DO steal, probably a lot more than I would like to believe.  But why should that make it ok for me to be treated like a criminal?  Does the actions of a few bad apples justify the assumption of guilty until proven innocent for all of us?

I remember as a teenager being in a shop with some friends, when a staff member waited for me at the front of the store asking to search my bags.  Till this day I have never seen such a thorough search, they were very determined to find something.  It was as if they had decided my guilt when they saw me, and now it was just a matter of confirming it.  And when they didn’t find anything they seemed quite upset about it!

Now I understand that people have to protect their investment, but surely by now we have the ability to do this in a better way.  We have cameras at every corner, unpurchased objects to beep upon exit, and even contraptions attached to garments that can not be removed without damaging them…yet we still feel the need to hold onto this degrading practice.

When will demeaning practice stop and allow us to shop again with our dignity?


10 responses to “Guilty before proven innocent

  1. As-salaamu’alaykum wa Rahmatu Llahi wa Barakatuhu my dearest sister,

    Haha.. I really don’t think we will ever get to shop with our dignity. Shop online? 😀

    Wa’alaykum as-salaam
    Love Farhana

  2. wa alaikum assalam wa rahmutallahi wa barakatu,

    lol yeah i thought of that, and shopping online has its advantages. But its not quite the same, some things you really need to buy in person, or at least I prefer to.

  3. Asalaamoalikum,
    Perhaps it is our Nafs talking, what does it matter if the owners want to make sure that no one accidently slipped something in their bag?

    Perhaps shopping less would be the solution?

    According to the Sunnah : “The worst place is the marketplace”
    May Allah SWT minimize our shopping hours and dignify our purchases so that they fulfill our needs for a long time:)
    Jazaail Allah hu Khairan.

  4. Assalaamu alaikum sis 🙂

    You’d be surprised how much worse it is here in KSA! You can’t even take shopping bags into the supermarket, you have to hand them in and take a ticket and collect them when you have finished shopping. All you are allowed to take in is your handbag. Can be a pain if you are forgetful like me or if you just make it out of the store before it closes for prayer only to find that the guys at the left bag counter have closed up already for prayer!

    There are some shops in particular that really make you feel like a thief or feel guilty when you have done nothing! I mean when there are cameras around and security tags on clothing and then still follow you around the shop or want to check your bag it’s annoying. Felt so frustrated recently in Harvey Nichols here in KSA, I picked a belt I wanted to buy but my friend wanted to check out jeans on the second floor, the guy from the first floor followed us up the escalator and watched us in the jeans section even though I was holding the belt quite conspicuously and there were plenty of other sales people around. I felt really irritated at the time. 😡

  5. Maybe it’s how we leave modesty to go to the hospital [as we are prodded and poked] and now dignity to go shopping.

    Leave a piece of our Deen behind, makes you wonder:Is it worth it?

    I know ti’s absolutely necessary, but it’s upsetting to hear stories like yours.

  6. asqfish: you’ll be pleased to know that I am shopping less! Trying to stick to what I really need, and I’ve been buying stuff from ebay as well, its often cheaper and easier, but not for everything.

    Ummibrahim: i can imagine i’d be forgetting my shopping all over the place if i had to hand it in 😉 I also find it sad how in a Muslim country people can’t be given the benefit of the doubt, i know that people still do steal there, but i just find it sad that it has to be that way.

    HFM: Thanks, i guess i’m over it now, its pretty normal, but I guess the normality of the incident of being indirectly accused made me reflect on it.

  7. Assallam Alaikum,

    I had no clur KSA was so securely guarded… you’d think folks there steal as much as people do in malls here. There are store security, mall security and undercover “loss prevention” folks.
    YET, many days as I ride the lightrail past the mall… or cruise the mall I hear teens bragging about their stealing, or friends stealing, or stealing the clothing their friends stole. Seriously… it’s practically bragging rights in some teenage circles around here.

    Sad… although, for some reason my nafs usually pipes up with, “Ugh I’m a hijabi… don’t you know we’re religious/modest etc.” (proud much/ astafirullah) At the same time, it’s expected. Kind of like many browner friends of mine expect to get tailed especially in departments in the South.
    Maybe it provides more jobs.. like how we’re not allowed to pump our own gasoline here in Oregon (or in Massachusetts).
    Peace, Eid Mubarak and welcome back to the blog-osphere



  8. I agree – showing your on the way out makes you feel quite humiliated.

    One solution in Dubai is that you can take your shopping bags to a security guy at the entrance to the store, and he will staple each bag closed for you. Then there is no question as you exit the store.
    It’s not a perfect system but I think its better. Volunteering to have your bag stapled doesn’t feel horrible in the same way as giving in to a demand to open it.

  9. Hmm. I mean to say showing your bag on the way out is humilating! LOL

    What I wrote sounds a little bit dodgy!

  10. lol that did sound a bit funny

    They do something similar here in egypt, with larger stores they either seal your bags, or you hand them in when you enter. I dont mind the bags being sealed so much, or even handing in your bags, although annoying, isn’t quite as bad. But being watched like a potential thief and then having your bags searched, it makes me feel very uncomfortable.

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