Muslim journalist in Chicago

By Thouria Mahmoud

 

Before I started my journalism residency in Chicago, I was worried—and it wasn’t because I would be working eight hour days and commuting in the city’s unbearably cold weather. I was concerned because I am a Muslim woman and I didn’t know how Americans would react to me.

 

I arrived in Chicago in early February. I was excited to come to the Windy City because I had never seen snow. My closest interaction with snow came from seeing photos of my family in Jordan. Soon after I landed, the excitement I felt turned into unease: I began to think even more about whether I would be accepted as a Muslim female in post 9/11 America.

 

In the cold, I was forced to take many cabs during my stay. But the chilly weather outside the cabs didn’t compare to the cold shoulder I got from many of the taxi drivers. One snowy Saturday morning, after waiting several minutes in the freezing weather, I managed to get a cab. Once I got in and told the driver where to go, he began asking me several personal questions that made me uncomfortable. I could sense that he, too, was uncomfortable around me: he kept glaring at me through the cab’s rear-view mirror.

 

I had interned in Washington, DC last summer and learned how to handle people who were curious about my religion. But this driver’s curiosity felt more like an invasion of privacy. As a Muslim, I was always taught to answer questions about my religion so I responded to his questions in a lighthearted way and tried to hide my annoyance. He asked me what the weird hat

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