March 25, 2012
Written by: RoyaAziz
As a good friend prepares to put together a book on the topic of hijab in America I referred her to an incident during then-Senator Barack Obama’s televised presidential campaign rally in Detroit when two hijabis were barred from sitting behind him. The event occurred at a time when there was close scrutiny of Obama’s identity: the phonetic similarity to Osama, his very Arab middle name, Hussein, and, of course, the rumors that he was actually a practicing Muslim, not that there was anything wrong with that, to borrow the inappropriate disclaimer. Obama apologized to the women and vowed to fight discrimination of this sort. To many American Muslims it was perplexing because much of the racism directed at Obama at the time was being couched in anti-Muslim bias. At that moment he was not Obama the inspiring candidate, but Obama the typical American who showed his own anti-Muslim bias.
In the wake of 9/11, American Muslims took to Islamophobia with some borrowed humor: ‘driving while black’ became ‘flying while Muslim.’ And so, as it is with wearing a hoodie, wearing a hijab elicits similar prejudices, as Geraldo Rivera reminded us during his TV appearance last week. In the same commentary where he claims Trayvon Martin was killed because of his sweatshirt, Rivera cites Juan Williams’ comments about being scared when he sees Muslims in religious garb at the airport (one presumes hijab is among the articles of clothing that terrify Williams). Rivera writes that Williams was copping to his fears, but it was a cowardly cover — if a black man like Williams, whom Rivera pointedly refers to as “among America’s sharpest commentators” can say he’s scared of Muslim women, it should be valid for him to say that a black kid in a hoodie had it coming. The implications of his comparison are unsettling. Continue reading