Artist Shepard Fairey, who created the 2008 "Hope" poster of Barack Obama, has produced a new set of images in time for Donald Trump's inauguration. RNS photo by Lauren Markoe

In a hijab at the inauguration, Muslim woman says: Here I am

WASHINGTON (RNS) Baraa Ktiri didn't support Donald Trump for president and recoiled at the anti-Muslim bigotry she heard from his campaign.

But the 23-year-old, hijab-wearing Brooklynite wanted to be at his swearing-in. She stood in a security line for hours, surrounded by Trump supporters, because she had a message deliver. Simply put: Here I am.

"I want people to see me," Ktiri said.

Filmmaker Baraa Ktiri, 23, from Brooklyn in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20, 2017. RNS photo by Lauren Markoe

Baraa Ktiri, 23, from Brooklyn in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20, 2017. RNS photo by Lauren Markoe


 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Just by showing up as a visibly Muslim person, she said, she reminds people that Muslims are part of the fabric of America. Donald Trump talked about Muslims on the campaign trail. Well, said the New York University graduate, here is one of the people he was talking about.

"I live in this country too and just because you don't see me everyday doesn't mean I don't exist," Ktiri said.

But she actually wanted more than to be seen. She wanted to engage.

Though Ktiri approached no one directly, she made eye contact, and kept her face open and friendly. She intended to make it clear that anyone could start up a conversation. She was hoping for questions about why she came, about Islam — anything.

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There were no takers. Still, standing in an endless line heading toward the National Mall on Inauguration Day, she felt she accomplished something. "My presence is a present," she said, quoting a Kanye West song.

And like hundreds of people in downtown Washington Friday (Jan. 20), Ktiri's hours of waiting in line brought her closer to the Mall, but not close enough to pass through security in time to view the inauguration, where Trump drew cheers after he promised to eradicate “radical Islamic terrorism.”

She and her small group of friends — none of the others' religion was identifiable — watched a live-stream of the inauguration on their phones not far from the National Air and Space Museum.

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Ktiri, a Moroccan-American raised in a Detroit suburb, said that while disappointed that no one engaged her on Inauguration Day, neither was anyone mean to her.

That's not always been the case. Since she started wearing the hijab as a young girl, people have hurled anti-Muslim slurs at her, and tried to pull the sign of Islamic piety off her head.

She said she understands, though, why nobody talked to her. Many people who came to the inauguration may never have met a Muslim before, and talking to her would have put them out of their comfort zones.

Not far from where Ktiri waited in line sat Olga Smith, a Trump supporter from Houston taking a moment's rest on a bench. She identified herself as a Catholic, "pro-life" voter who supported Trump from the very beginning of his campaign.

Trump supporter Olga Smith from Houston, Texas, in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20, 2017. RNS photo by Lauren Markoe

Trump supporter Olga Smith from Houston in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20, 2017. RNS photo by Lauren Markoe


 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Smith, 72, said she believes Muslims like everyone else in this country have a right to worship as they like, and she wasn't fearful that Trump would restrict their rights.

"There are lots of good Muslims," she said. "I don't have nothing against Muslims in America as long as they're not terrorists."

Told of Smith's comments after the inauguration, Ktiri — who voted for Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary and Jill Stein in the general election — said even well-meaning people can hold stereotypical views. For those who have been prejudiced for a long time, she added, it could take some time to change their minds.

"One conversation is not going to do it," she said.

Was Ktiri nervous about showing up in her hijab to an  inauguration so packed with people who voted for a man who called for a registry of Muslims, and took counsel from a general who called Islam a "cancer"?

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"No, this is nothing new," she said, explaining that she's been the lone, obviously Muslim person in groups before.

What about her parents? Were they worried about her?

Again no, though she does have a non-Muslim friend who didn't tell her parents she was coming to Washington this week for fear they would panic.

"Since I was a kid my parents were always taking us to protests, various justice causes," said Ktiri, who also plans to attend the Women's March on Washington Saturday.

Just the other day her mother encouraged her and her friends to go to a protest organized by filmmaker Michael Moore.

"He's from Michigan too," her mother told her. "Go tell him you're from Michigan!"

Comments

  1. “and took counsel from people who called Islam a ‘cancer’?”

    Hey, anyone out there got proof of this?? Linked article says “Islamism”, not “Islam”, though asserts sans links that he’s made the statements against Islam as a whole in the past. I think Flynn’s a fool, specifically one who doesn’t understand that you can’t legislate away “Sharia” in America because when actually used in America it is based in contractual law (which you cannot eliminate for obvious reasons), but I’m not going to just believe this statement unless I can get some evidence of it happening.

    Thanks in advance if anyone has a link.

  2. “Ktiri, a Pakistani-American raised in a Detroit suburb, said that while disappointed that no one engaged her on Inauguration Day, neither was anyone mean to her…She said she understands, though, why nobody seemed to notice her. Many people who came to the inauguration may never have met a Muslim before, and talking to her would have put them out of their comfort zones.”

    Lady?? Why are you “disappointed” at this. No one cared that you were Muslim. That’s actually a ~good~ thing.

    “‘There are lots of good Muslims,’ she said. ‘I don’t have nothing against Muslims in America as long as they’re not terrorists.’… Told of Smith’s comments after the inauguration, Ktiri … said even well-meaning people can hold stereotypical views. For those who have been prejudiced for a long time, she added, it could take some time to change their minds.”

    Ktiri I’m genuinely confused by you. When told that there was a woman who had no prejudices against Islam you say “Even well meaning people can hold stereotypical views”?? Did she mishear the reporter??

    “One conversation is not going to do it.”

    Again, just confusing. Why go to try to prompt conversations with people if you thought conversation a futile method??

    “where Trump drew cheers after he promised to eradicate ‘radical Islamic terrorism.'”

    Why is this framed as a bad thing, exactly. If accomplished, this would be great!! Fellow people who believe in Muhammad’s revelation like me would no longer have to be associated with terrorists, if all terrorists were eliminated.

    Granted, I think this comment is stupid because Trump ~can’t~ accomplish this. Bush and Obama have spent one and a half decades at war pretty much conclusively proving that the US has no clue how to stop terrorism anywhere.

    But the way it’s being thrown around by RNS today… seems like it’s being presented as if it should be offensive to Muslims somehow??

    What, do you think everyone who believes in the Quran should be offended at a statement directed against ~terrorists~??

    Do you think we hold sympathies with ~terrorists~ RNS?? That’s pretty offensive if you think that that statement should offend us.

  3. Had I met Ms. Ktiri at the event, I would have not hesitated to engage her in convivial conversation, an opportunity missed.

  4. The expression when Trump moves the US embassy to Jerusalem? Priceless…

  5. Of course this Muslim woman wanted wanted to be broadly seen by the media, to drive home her in-your-face gesture toward President Donald Trump!

  6. Her simply being there was an “in-your-face gesture toward President Donald Trump”? Why do you say that? She was just present, no signs or stickers, and being courteous and friendly. What’s “in-your-face” about that? I think you’re reading into this something that’s not there.

  7. Eddie, I’m guessing she has much more experience than you do at being the lone hijab wearer in a crowd and on conversing with people who may be suspicious of her. She likely elaborated on these topics, but this is not an interview and not everything she said is included.

    In my opinion, the problem with saying “radical Islamic terrorism” is that it can easily be interpreted to mean that all Muslims are terrorists. I know it includes the word “radical,” but that’s easily and often overlooked. In America we must be vigilant in protecting the innocent and one of the ways we do that is through the language we use.

  8. “I’m guessing she has much more experience than you do at being the lone hijab wearer in a crowd”

    Yeah, probably. The most prominent woman in my denomination was notable for being the exact opposite, so…

    “on conversing with people who may be suspicious of her.”

    I can’t tell from this interview who may be more versed in doing that (as she spoke to no one suspicious of her according to her account at the event), and I don’t think you can tell either.

    “In my opinion, the problem with saying…”

    Well, personally I’m fairly certain I have more experience in being “Islamic” than you, so maybe here I am a better authority if we’re measuring by experience now.

    Here’s how I see it. When people say “radical Islam” or whatever most people seem to be understanding that “not all Islam” is that thing.

    When people like you try to, on my supposed behalf, use different language, I see a lot of crazies jumping out of the woodwork complaining that you won’t use the terminology they want to use because you’re trying to cover up Islam being violent, or nonsense like that.

    I see a LOT more people blaming all Muslims or all Islam when you use your terminology then I see when other people use “radical Islam” or the like. It seems like a “dog-whistle”, when you use alternate terms that dance around the terms Muslim or Islam, to crazy right-wingers that you think Islam IS violent, but refuse to admit it out loud.

    I think the clear word denoting the extremist elements and separating them from everyone else is a good idea. And ultimately I’d prefer the word “Wahhabi”, but Americans are afraid of offending Saudi Arabia with that one. But right now the words you use seem to draw out the crazies in droves, so maybe consider that in your vigilance.

  9. Do you really think this woman attended because she voted for Trump, and was there to pray for the success of his presidency? If not, then it must have been to make a statement by wearing her hijab!

  10. I think “Wahhabi” is an excellent choice and I see your point about government relations with Saudi Arabia. I also doubt that most people know that Wahhabism exists, maybe not even Shiites and Sunnis. Americans need a great deal of education about Islam.

  11. Behind every con man is a real whack job But if the black panthers had a pair, they would play with them all day. Hillary is so mean, she would lop off Bill’s pair, Mount
    them on a wall, and laugh her thighs off Only wearing Bill’s full metal helmet head.
    In the spacious confines of her slacks, Hillary eats black baby liver and onions for breakfast and femme Nazi brains covered with commie cagine in a cast iron burka for dinner. Bill found Hillary by dragging a dollar across Lakeside Trailer Park.Hillary will do anything for money.

  12. Hahahahahahaha! That’s the silliest, funniest most bizarre rant I may have ever read! ROTFLMAO! (And I haven’t said that in a really long time.) ??? Thank you.

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