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Hijab in the U.S.A.: Readers Respond

1 May 2011 Mother Jones 4 Comments Email This Post Email This Post

Eman, reading comments from the Mother Jones community about her, at a Mission High School computer lab. Photo: Mark Murrmann

By Kristina Rizga

Remember Mission High school student Eman?* About a month ago, she shared a disturbing story about being called a terrorist by an older commuter at a San Francisco BART station. The most painful part of this incident for Eman wasn’t the verbal assault. It was that among 15 or so people around her, no one said a word; no one stood up for her. “Maybe they didn’t hear it?” I asked her. “They heard it,” she assured me. “The man was yelling, and most people were looking at me.”

Most Mother Jones readers were appalled, and you used our comments section, FacebookTwitter, and Tumblr to spread Eman’s story, express your support for her in hundreds of comments, and propel the story to tens of thousands of new readers just hours after it was published.

Last week, I ran into Eman. “Did you see the comments?” I asked. “A lot of readers stood up for you!” Eman said she’s been busy filing out scholarship applications and hadn’t looked at the responses yet. So I pulled up my chair next to her at the computer lab, and we jumped to your comments, like these:

aproricht: “How terrible that this poor girl has had to go through things such as this. It is true, so many people are cowards. Unfortunately, so many people are also uninformed and may have either agreed with this man or didn’t know any way to counter such ridiculous claims.”

KarenJ: “I’m not a physically imposing woman, and I’m a “senior,” but at the very least I would have stood in front of Eman, buffering her from the direct verbal assault. … ”

Catseye: “Actually, the best coffee comes from the Arabic part of the world. It is, indeed, “part of [her] culture.”

SpiritOnParole: “But I just feel like that is one of the things wrong with our world today. We don’t help each other or stand up for each other any more. We are not islands we are communities. Or should be. … ”

jmtaylor700: “To say nothing is to condone …. ”

@modestgrrl: “Wearing the hijab can be an act of liberation—liberation from being seen as a sex object. … a lot of Muslim women choose to wear the hijab, often defying their families in the process.”

As Eman read your comments in silence, her face lit up. “Thank you very much,” she said, many, many times, scrolling down the screen impatiently. Eman wanted to make sure I let you know: She got your message, and it made her feel more welcome in a place she calls her home.

Kristina Rizga covers education issues and culture for Mother Jones. She’d love to hear your ideas on what she should be covering in schools. Email her at You can also follow her on Twitter. Get Kristina Rizga’s RSS feed.

Original post: Hijab in the U.S.A.: Readers Respond


  1. If someone started yelling such things with me around, I’d have made quite a scene and stood up for the victim. Don’t care what race/religion they are.

    It sickens and saddens me that most Americans are so indifferent toward others. People just don’t go out of their way to do a damn about anything anymore.

  2. This young lady is not the only one who is the victim of indifference or fear. Every day you can read the papers and see where someone is assulted or bullied and the most active thing people do is pull out their cell phone and video it. I am not sure if our values are slipping, if people are afraid, or they simply look at incidents such as this as another form of entertainment. It is my guess and hope that the vast majority of these “incidents” do have intervention but they are not covered because what would have been news was averted.

  3. There’s an immense amount of research that shows that people who see TV violence, as well as those who actually experience violence in their lives, tend to become not only less likely to try to stop it, but more likely to become violent themselves.

    A large part of what we see today can be traced to our living rooms, kitchens, & bedrooms, where even small children are exposed to TV violence, if not personal violence, more or less constantly.

    I would have stood up for Eman, I would have told that man that he was ignorant and prejudiced, but I am a minority.

  4. Leslie Sirag: I really dont agree with those studies, then again, I have also seen studies that showed such things had no effect on mentally stable people.

    I will agree that people in much of the country are apathetic to the plights of others, and many people around this nation are quite ignorant, on to be more accurate dumb(ignorant by choice), they think that because faux news said it, it must be true..or because rush said it, it must be true….bah….

    I would have stood up for her, but then again, I would have gotten between them and likely would have ended up having to remove him from the car, I cant and wont put up with racism, sexism or assholery anymore, I spent to many years letting it slide and keeping my mouth shut(so I wouldnt loose jobs and such) I have come to believe its each persons responsibility to standup for those who need it.

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