Thursday, October 21, 2010

I Get Nervous Seeing Juan Williams


NPR has now fired news analyst Juan Williams because he spoke his mind on, "Fox's "The O'Reilly Factor."

"I mean, look, Bill, I'm not a bigot. You know the kind of books I've written about the civil rights movement in this country," Williams said. "But when I get on a plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous."

I know.

I know, Juan.

Believe me!  I know.

Actually, Juan, I hate to go to the airport for this very reason.  I know I make you nervous when I show up at the ticket counter in my hejab.

Mind you, days before journeying, I have carefully chosen what to wear to the airport.  It's not as if I'm like other Americans who can just throw their clothes on.  No!  I have to think of how I'm going to get perceived or rather misperceived. 

I can never wear black when I fly.  I realize that freaks you out the most.  You equate black with death wish.  You think black means extremist rather than size-slimming chic.  I have to wear happy, colorful clothes in very American styles; too ethnic means to you that I hate America.

I also have to be careful with the style of hejab I choose.  Not wearing a hejab is not an options, by the way, as I see modesty as both a mandate and a protection from Allah.  I was once fired for wearing a hejab, yet I still wear it and believe I am rewarded for it.

I cannot wear my big, comfy, triangle scarves.  Nope!  These actually would be my first choice when traveling but they, unfortunately, connotate backwards thinking to you.  So, I have to wear my long scarves which I have to carefully pin and wrap and pin and wrap again. 

However, any hejab means body search.  Wear what you like, Juan, and walk on through.  Me?  I'm a danger with that fabric on my head.  Other women wear  many baggy layers which could conceal a multitude of sins.  But me?  Nope!  I've got to have some woman with a security officer badge sticking her wand up under my thin, stylish, carefully chosen, colorful scarf.

Wonder where she'd stick it if I was wearning a black galabiya and niqab.

But no matter what I wear to the airport, I get stares.  I know you are frightened I'm going to blow up your plane.  Sorry!  Remember that it's my plane too.  If you were to look downward, you would see my tight grip clutching the tiny hand of my young son.  I love him so much and pray for his safety every time we leave the house.  Would I really endanger him?  He's too little to see your stares.  By the time he is old enough,  I hope you will have realized that stereotyping us is wrong.

Until that time, I have to avoid many things.  I have to avoid saying the name of God, "Allah" outloud as I'm traveling (even though I usually invoke it throughout my day).  I absolutely cannot say Arabic names of family members and friends like Usama and Hussein.  I have to avoid praying in public.  I have to be careful about reading the Quran while on the plane. 

Even then, my son and I have been the target of a death threat while up in the air.  The white teenage boys behind us didn't feel any shame in discussing how they would shoot us.  It took the head flight attendant warning them that I could demand an emergency landing and FBI removal to get them to stop.

Is it like that for you, Juan?  Do you have to monitor yourself so much?  Fear for your safety?  Fear for the well-being of your children? 

You know what's funny? You should be happy that Muslims are on your flight!  Most likely, the Muslims on the plane have said a special prayer for travel; asking for God's protection on everyone---you included.

And I pray that you use your time away from NPR to reflect upon why they fired you.  They were right.  You were not in the public eye to add fuel to the fire.  I always thought you were the voice of reason and watched current event shows which featured you because I could count on you to be sensible.

You let me down.  You let Muslim-Americans down.  You took the easy way out and talked about fears in your self which you have to examine and eradicate.  I mean...you took years to write a book about Thurgood Marshall and the Civil Rights Movement but you failed to learn from the very words you wrote.

Yes, you are black AND you are a bigot.  You can be black and yet be blind to the struggles which other Americans face.

For Muslims reading these words, please take a look at my other blog endeavor http://www.yosraben.blogspot.com/ so that you can widen your understanding to those in the LGBT community.  Let's not focus our indignation on someone's ignorance and lack of compassion while forgetting to look at ourselves. 

May Allah forgive all of us who judge others unfairly.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Assalamu alaikum Yosra, have been eagerly awaiting your next hijrah post, I pray inshaAllah you are well! Aisha

Yosra said...

Wa Alaykom Asalam Aisha,

Thanks for reading and for poking me into productivity.

Some of these take more time, thought and energy than others. Chapter XI is going to be a biggie!

I wonder who else is reading. Roll call?

Yosra said...

Asalamu Alaykom Halimah,

I love you. I admire you. I AM NOT FLYING WITH YOU!!! How is it that you get away with all that? I can't say "boo" without somebody threatening to shoot me!

Oh, wait. I think it has something to do with me being white in hijab. There is a special hate that whites have for defectors. So, maybe you shouldn't fly with ME.

Well, either way, the real one to be scared of on the flight is the person bringing a Samsung 7 along.

May God bless you and your hub :)

Yosra said...

From Mostly Anonymous Halimah:

Let's see, so you're curious about the black abaya / niqab combo, eh? Well let's see ... depending on how accustomed to flying you are, you'll be already prepared for the "additional screening" which they almost apologetically (if they're nice) claim they need to make. Usually, by the time they say that I'm already in a jumping jax stance, arms out, legs spread and everything. At this point, they will ask if you want a private screening room or a female doing it. I opt for the latter, but could really care less about the private room. I NEED for everyone to see that this is what they subject us (yeah yeah I bring it on myself for wearing this garb, I know) to, and make all the passersby feel awkward for watching. But, I know the drill, so I let them slide their wand up and down each leg (then they pat down each area they check out with the wand), and the torso, and squeeze the bun on my head, and whatnot. More often than not though, I chat it up with the TSA officer, and am always smiling and good natured. If they're an a**, and ESPECIALLY, OBNOXIOUSLY good humored.

As far as the niqab goes, in western countries, they only require seeing your face when you intially show your passport, not at the scanners. So there's that. In Yemen and Bahrain I breezed through never flipping it up once, as well as twice in Egypt. Once in Egypt, as well as Saudi, they took me to a special female only room to do the check (actually, the entirety of the screening was gender segregated in Riyadh). Once, in Egypt, I started to lift it up to show the officer but he just was like no, no, and gestured me not to, seeming oddly offended, so ... meh, the scrutiny depends.

Oh, and the niqab didn't make much difference, I don't think, as wearing the all black sans qabi rendered the same type inspections in the US and Europe. Just in my experience!

Oh, well, there was that ONE time that me and my likewise American born husband ended up in the refugee relocation area with all the other east Africans (of which neither of are) that one time in chicago ... but ... it coulda been his thobe, imama and shawl that triggered THAT mixup and not my full out niqab LOL *looks to ceiling*

As far as reading quran and the like? Pssshhhh, please. I'm busting out in dua, several fatihas, a few rounds of dhikr then catching up on my murajah in Quran while flying. All audibly. Maybe even through in a few qasaid or a random nasheed if u have to pacify my kids, too. If I'm gonna go down, I'm gonna go in rememberance bi'ithnillah and could care less about some uncomfortable westerners. Props to all the airliners (SAUDIIIIII) that do the dua as safr before take off (yeah yeah, Egypt air too, but their production is lame IMHO)!

Yosra said...

Asalamu Alaykom Halimah,

I love you. I admire you. I AM NOT FLYING WITH YOU!!! How is it that you get away with all that? I can't say "boo" without somebody threatening to shoot me!

Oh, wait. I think it has something to do with me being white in hijab. There is a special hate that whites have for defectors. So, maybe you shouldn't fly with ME.

Well, either way, the real one to be scared of on the flight is the person bringing a Samsung 7 along.

May God bless you and your hub :)

From Mostly Anonymous Halimah:Haha is there? Yeah, I guess the turncoat thing makes sense according to their logic lol. I have heard of people being more suspicious of white converts, and especially so if they've been in the middle east. The "radicalization" card immediately gets pulled. I guess being a black Muslim is neither here nor there in America since we collectively are in an identity crisis anyway lol. The saddest is the black Muslim who wants to erase their culture and past and become Arab. So, so sad.

I have learned a bit though, in our travels, and have since stopped covering my face. After being detained at the Yemeni - Omani border (due to weekend / processing issues to all informants tracking key words "radical" , "yemen" , "detain", " plane" haha) for three days, I ripped it off as soon as we were transported off to Salalah, never to don it again!