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Sara Watkins (a pseudonym) is an African-American Muslim who wears a hijab.  She thinks she has it better than some other Muslims.  “People will look at me a certain way, but their attitudes often change when they hear that I have an American accent.  They think I am less threatening than a Muslim who was not born here.”

Even so, she always gets stopped at Logan Airport.  “One time I overheard a security agent tell another agent that she was pulling me over because of my headscarf.  I walked up to her and asked if she had pulled me over because of my hijab.  She confirmed that this was the reason.  I felt so angry.”

She gets very frustrated when she hears about other things that happen at airports.  One of her friends and her husband who were coming back from the haj had a horrible experience at New York’s Kennedy International Airport.  They were questioned for a very long time and all of their possessions were searched.  One officer took away the wallet of the husband without telling him where he was taking it. 

When she worked as a community organizer with the Muslim American Society (MAS), she was scared by the groups that hated Muslims and targeted MAS very publicly.  She says that she personally knows the name of three or four informants that come to the mosque.  One comes with his whole family.

“It is funny that people always think that an informant will be some white new Muslim convert.  It is usually some person who is entrenched in the community.  I have nothing to hide, but I am still careful about what I say around these people.  I don’t want anything to be distorted.  It causes a lack of trust and openness.”

When she worked with MAS she organized several town meetings where she asked people to express their concerns and say what is important to them.  “The number one issue across the board for adults and young adults was that they wanted the American community to be educated about Islam.  Everyone felt that it was this ignorance about Islam which led to a lot of the discriminatory behavior they were being subjected to in schools, at work and at airports.”

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.