What's It Like to Be a Muslim Woman in America? Street Experiment Explores

Here's an interesting video from YouTube star Yousef Erakat, designed to show what's it like to be a Muslim woman in America. Erakat recruited a female friend to dress in a hijab and hit the park for a little social experiment. Playing the part of an American racist, Erakat — a young Muslim man whose mother chooses to wear a hijab — publicly berates the woman for dressing "like a terrorist" and tells her "go home." The goal was to see how bystanders would react and whether people would ignore it or intervene.

For the most part, they ignored. As Erakat shouts at the veiled woman, ostensibly a stranger to him, the majority of people shown in the video avert their eyes and scurry on by. A few, however, do stop to intervene. "Are you kidding me?" one woman asks, making a beeline for Erakat as soon as she sees what's happening. "It's her choice. You can go f**k yourself."

After two hours of filming, "our spirits were shattered as only two people came up to us," Erakat writes on the video's YouTube page. But though it's easy to read this video as a damning critique of American apathy or racism or carelessness, I'm not so sure it's that straightforward. We're conditioned in this society to only intervene in other people's affairs when it appears violence is about to occur. It seems somewhat patronizing to expect that this woman can't handle her non-violent heckler on her own — to think oh, this poor Muslim woman, she needs protecting and saving by me! Apparently, my reaction was a common one in the YouTube comments. This was Erakat's response:

Is it as bad as Erakat says? How would you have reacted?