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

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

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, Facebook, Twitter, 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.

*Editors’ Note: This education dispatch is part of an ongoing series reported from Mission High School, where education writer Kristina Rizga is embedded for the year. Names of students are changed. Read more: Should this pink-slipped teacher prepare students for a concert at the Symphony Hall or go job-hunting? Plus: Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get all of the latest Mission High dispatches.


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  • Kristina Rizga

    Kristina Rizga is a former education correspondent at Mother Jones. You can reach her at kristina@rizga.com. Rizga covers education, focusing primarily on how school reforms affect students and teachers in the classrooms, and how policies create or reduce racial disparities in schools. She is the author of Mission High (Nation Books, 2015).