Silly, silly, silly . . . .
I consider my appearance quite unremarkable. I'm 5 feet 8 inches, 150 pounds, fresh-faced and comfortably trendy - hardly, in my view, a look that should draw stares. Still, the Muslim headscarf, or hijab, that I wear makes me feel as if I am under a microscope.Others have already observed that Cambridge, Massachusetts, these days resembles nothing so much as the famous bar scene from Star Wars. As the fellows over at The New Editor put it:
I try to go to the gym just about every morning. Because I work out with my scarf on, people stare - just as they do on the streets of Cambridge.
The other day, though, I felt more self-conscious than usual. Every television in the gym highlighted some aspect of America's conflict with the Muslim world: the war in Iraq, allegations that American soldiers had desecrated the Koran, prisoner abuse at Guantanamo Bay, President Bush urging support of the Patriot Act. The stares just intensified my alienation as an Arab Muslim in what is supposed to be my country. I was not sure if the blood rushing to my head was caused by the elliptical trainer or by the news coverage.
For those of you unfamiliar with Cambridge, it is quite possibly the most liberal place in America, and not just in Harvard Yard. John Kerry got 35,241 votes to George Bush's 5,275 -- a 7-to-1 margin. If you go to the very popular Cambridgeside Galleria mall, the first thing you're struck by is the diversity of people -- just about every ethnic group imaginable is represented. Arabs, Indians, Asians, Africans, Europeans -- all waiting in line at The Gap and Starbucks. There is a popular Afghan restaurant right across the street if Cheescake Factory isn't to your liking. In fact, not only are women in hijab numerous there at any given time, but it's not unusual to see women in full burkas, despite the fact that Cambridge leans socialist rather than Taliban.We learn later that Ms. Abdrabboh is a student at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. And may I suggest that she's not working out in her local YWMA gym, but in a place sufficiently upscale and trendy that, later in her tale, she encounters Al Gore (whether literally algore or merely allegorically is an issue), who
represented all that I yearned for - acceptance and acknowledgment. There in front of me, he stood for a part of America that has not made itself well known to 10 million Arab and Muslim-Americans, many of whom are becoming increasingly withdrawn and reclusive because of the everyday hostility they feel.So here we've got a student at the Kennedy School, working out in a trendy gym, whining about "acceptance." And surely this Fatina Abdrabboh is not the very same person as this Fatina Abdrabboh, who the Detroit News described in 2002 as a law student at the University of Michigan. That would make her a lawyer with a taxpayer-subsidized law degree, presently at Harvard, working out in an upscale gym.
Complaining about "acceptance."
In wearing her hijab, Ms. Abdrabboh intends to make a religious or a political statement. Fortunately for her, her parents or grandparents decided to come to a country where her attempt to draw attention to herself draws no more than the sort of attention she seeks, rather than the other kind.
She has our attention. It is a shame she has nothing to tell us.
[UPDATE] Of course, it's hard to beat Kathy Shaidle's reaction: "Dumb broad, dumb paper."