I was planning on heading home to Indiana on Saturday night, but changed my Amtrak ticket to Friday night at the last minute because I was not feeling so well. It happened to be a great decision! Because my trip was fairly late (9:30pm Chicago time), I expected that I would not be able to interview anyone for Marooned. Then I was pleasantly surprised when my seat-mate, Frank, began the interview for me...
Frank, being a retired journalist, was curious about my hijab and initially confused it for a burqa (an Afghani cloak which, by the way, is totally different from an abaya - a long dress-like garment that some Arab women wear). I've shared a few pretty pictures of different colored abayas and hijabs below, if you are curious about them. I really love the one on the right.
Anyway! Back to my time with Frank! After I quickly corrected this little misconception, Frank and I dove into a long conversation. It turns out that we have a lot in common. Our fathers both attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to study mechanical engineering, we both have Egyptian relatives, and we are both well connected with the state of Indiana (my family lives there and Frank attended Notre Dame).
On my 3.5 hour trip we talked about everything from the value and future of journalism to the misconceptions that are often made about Muslims in today's society. We both agreed that though journalism appears to be declining, it is merely changing and adapting to our global, internet-based society, whether that's via blogs, websites, or online publications. We also agreed that the media is often a poor representation of Muslims, especially of Muslim women.
For instance, you may have heard of both the burqa, abaya, and hijab lately as both Lena Dunham and Annette Lamothe-Ramos felt the need to publicly poke a bit of (insensitive and offensive, if not racist) fun at them. You probably also heard quite a bit about the Sikh temple in Wisconsin that was recently attacked (and how Sikhs are not Muslims - as though it would make such actions acceptable!) and the mosque in Joplin, Missouri that was burned to the ground. I bring up these incidents because they are representative of a larger phenomena in the United States that was well addressed in this article in TIME.
It scares me to think that I have to repeatedly emphasize that I am an educated, intelligent, American woman who was born and raised here because of a small thread of bigotry and prejudiced ideology. And I hope that one day we can all work together to take a stand against injustice as we take the necessary steps for peace. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to ask me any questions about Islam as I am sure it can become confusing when the media gives such a skewed and inaccurate perspective.