Islamophobia is big problem in the United States. Like most forms of prejudice, the discrimination against people who are Muslim exists on both a large and small scale. Islamophobia looks like the executive order Trump signed regarding “extreme vetting” of immigrants and refugees from primarily Muslim countries, and it sounds like the common microaggressions Muslim women hear on a regular basis.
So, how do you combat a problem like Islamophobia that pervades all aspects of society? You start by changing the narrative. You start by listening.
To this end, The Scene recently published a video on some of the comments Muslim women are sick of hearing. It touches on everything from “Are you bald under your hijab?” to “Do you have to have an arranged marriage?” The video features Muslim women, in their own words, calling out both the coded and not so coded discrimination they face regularly. Be sure to also check out this piece that goes further into depth on microaggressions you should stop saying to Muslim women published by Muslim Girl.
I’ve heard microaggressions compared to mosquito bites. Experiencing one every once in a while doesn’t seem so bad; it hurts, but it’s manageable. However, being constantly stung by mosquitos, while others are rarely or never stung, becomes a less manageable problem.
Mosquito bites are annoying. Microaggressions are harmful. Here are a few of the microaggressions Muslim women want you to stop saying.
1Comments About Their Hijabs
These comments usually go further into questioning someone's choice to wear (or not wear) a hijab. This quote from the Muslim Girl piece on microagressions says it best:
2Comments About Not “Looking Muslim”
Hi. Hello. As someone who is racially ambiguous, saying a person "doesn't even look" like their race, ethnicity, a member of their religion, etc. is not a compliment. In this case, as these women point out, there is no single version of "what a Muslim looks like." Trying to compliment a person by saying they don't look Muslim creates a hierarchy of what stereotypic physical traits associated with being Muslim are more or less attractive. Not OK.
3Comments About Their Relationships
The question "Are you going to have an arranged marriage?" is laden with the assumption that Muslim women are not autonomous and will be subordinate to a male spouse. Like Muslim Girl says:
4Comments About Their Food Choices
Asking a woman who has grown up Muslim if she feels like she's "missing out on bacon" is like asking someone who's grown up in America if they feel like they're missing out on eating snails. It doesn't necessarily sound tempting if it's something you've never even eaten.
5Comments About Their Agency
The assumption that Muslim women "aren't really allowed" to speak up or say how they feel is just that: an assumption. Instead of speaking for Muslim women (or any community you are not direct a part of), try to listen and let them tell their story.