This Week On How To Be a Non-Threatening American Muslim in the United States…

by Bushra on June 6, 2015

If you all haven’t seen Jon Stewart’s segment on the incident on a United flight that happened with Muslim Chaplain, Tahera Ahmad, you need to check it out.

Part 1

After discussing the incident on the plane, the video also includes a segment by correspondent Hasan Minhaj in regards to a Muslim Makeover. It’s on point.

Part 2

I’ll be honest, I tend to dress a certain way when I go to the airport. This usually involves a superhero t-shirt or something else related to pop-culture. I smile more, talk a bit slower than my usual fast-paced self, and generally act in a manner that suggests the following: “HI, I’M A FRIENDLY AMERICAN! YOU HAVE NOTHING TO FEAR!!”

Since I’m brown and give off an obvious “Muslim-y” vibe, I have to think about these things. My goal is to to be as inconspicuous as possible, which sometimes means letting things go when I really shouldn’t because you never know when it’ll turn into something else entirely. I also tend to joke around more than I normally would but that’s just me going out of my way to let everyone know that everything is all good.

When I came back from my solo trip this past February of Turkey, Bosnia, and England, I had to go through one more step than usual after the normal customs routine. Instead of being let go with everyone else after I picked up my luggage, I was pointed over to another counter with two security people with a stern “You need to talk to them.” I’m pretty sure this extra line of questioning was due to the fact that no one could figure out why I went to Bosnia by myself.

I went over to the counter and handed the dude my card. He looked it over and started asking me about Bosnia, what I did there, and all that. Because I had an awesome time, I had more than enough to say. He was genuinely curious about the tourism aspect and so I told him what a great country it was and why people need to go.

He then asked me if I bought anything. Right after he asked it, he looked down at my card to see what I had declared and read what it said: “Shirts”*. I pointed at the t-shirt I was wearing and said “How could I not buy this?” It was an AT-AT from Star Wars except the main body of the AT-AT was a boom box. He laughed while slightly shaking his head and just waved me along. My wardrobe choice totally made a difference! 10 points for Gryffindor!

So everything turned out fine. Usually, the above doesn’t happen to me but I always try to be mentally prepared for something just in case, which worked out well in this situation. If I acted remotely weird, which can happen when doesn’t expect to be questioned, it could have gone a lot differently. Alas, that’s why Minhaj’s makeover is both funny and not at the same time.

By the way, after initially almost brushing off the incident with its first official statement, United issued an actual apology after investigating the Tahera Ahmad matter, which is cool. Check it out here.

*I’m so paranoid about everything, I tend to over declare.

Side Note: If a security person ever asks you if you have anything sharp on you, don’t say your wit. I thought it was funny when I told one of the security ladies in London after she asked me the question. To give her credit, she didn’t make fun of me in the slightest when she told me everyone says that.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Adeeba Mehvash June 17, 2015 at 7:44 am

Amazing post and I have to agree with you. I travel on a weekly basis between work and home and I tend to radiate the same feeling of “I am super friendly and I don’t even watch violent movies.” Wearing a hijab with a million hijab pins securing it always stops me through security. Just a simple answer like “Oh its my scarf pins” and a quick tilt of the head tends to break the awkwardness.

First day of Ramadan insha Allah tmrw. May you have a blessed Ramadan.

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Bushra June 17, 2015 at 9:29 pm

Salaam, thanks for reading and for the comment! It’s funny how just adding a smile/being friendly tends to put people at ease. Sounds like you have to deal with it way more than me so it’s cool you have a great attitude about it.

And Ramadan Mubarak! I hope you have a blessed Ramadan as well :)

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