Thursday, June 23, 2005

Thank God for Al Gore

See I was in the gym the other day in my hijab, and people stare at me when I go to the gym -- not because it's odd that someone wears a Muslim headscarf while exercising, but because I'm a Muslim and I'm under the microscope.

And there was all kinds of stuff about the war on terror on the TV, and it made me uncomfortable, because I'm wearing the hijab, see, and I assume that everybody who looks at me thinks I'm a terrorist. It's not that anybody says anything to me or does anything to me -- but "the stares intensify my alienation as an Arab Muslim." So I ran away from the TV to another part of the gym.

I got on the treadmill and ran away, ran away, ran away. But I dropped my keys, and "my faith in the United States seemed to fall with them. I did not care to pick them up. I wanted to keep running."

But Al Gore, southern gentleman that he is, who happened to be working out nearby, picked up her keys and handed them to her.
It was nothing more than a kind gesture, but at that moment Mr. Gore's act 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that has not made itself well known to 10 million Arab and Muslim-Americans, many of whom are becoming increasingly withdrawn and reclusive because of the everyday hostility they feel.
I've read this piece twice now, and she says herself that "the . . . hijab . . . makes me feel as if I'm under a microscope." Everybody who dresses in an unusual way gets stares -- Amish, Hassidic Jews, Orthodox priests, heavily pierced or tattooed people, old women who try to dress like teen-agers, fat teen-agers who try to dress like skinny teen-agers. Some people dress that way for the point of being different from other people. Others just happen to be in a society where most people don't dress that way. But the stares are more likely curiosity than hostility. The self-consciousness comes from within.

All the same, Al Gore rescued more than the woman's keys:
It is up to us as Americans to change how the rest of the world views us by changing how we view some of our own citizens. Mr. Gore's act reminded me that rather than running away on my treadmill, I needed to keep my feet on the soil in this country. I left the gym with a renewed sense of spirit, reassured that I belong to America and that America belongs to me.
I wonder if this means she's going to be jogging in the park instead of the gym.

UPDATE: OK, Goldberg's a hero, too.

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