Islamophobes attack Muslim women for driving cars

This June 2015 video from the USA says about itself:

CAIR Wants Houston Road Rage Shooting Probed as Possible Anti-Muslim Hate Crime

CAIR-Texas Seeks Probe of Bias Motive After Houston Road Rage Shooter Shouts ‘Go Back to Islam

In Saudi Arabia until very recently, the autocracy banned women from driving cars. Women who protested by driving were flogged, jailed or both.

A year ago, the women activists won a victory as the ban was lifted. However, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman had the women who had made that possible jailed and threatens them with beheading.

Unfortunately, the Saudi absolute monarchy is not the only enemy of (Muslim) women driving cars.

By Nick Baumann and Samantha Storey in the USA today:

HuffPost’s Rowaida Abdelaziz interviewed 30 female hijab-wearing Muslim drivers who were the target of Islamophobic road rage. Many of the stories came in as tips submitted to HuffPost’s Documenting Hate project, a database that tracks incidents of hate and bias. We asked Abdelaziz about her story.

This story partly came as a result of tips to HuffPost’s Documenting Hate database. Can you tell us a bit more about that project, and how it has informed your reporting?

America does not do a good job of tracking incidents of hate and bias, so HuffPost partnered with ProPublica in order to document and report on the increasing number of bigoted incidents skyrocketing nationwide. Every day, new tips of all kinds — from racist verbal harassment in grocery stores to workplace discrimination — are submitted to the database.

Each day, I comb through our database and investigate all the anti-Muslim incidents that came through. I discovered a number of incidents that each detailed a similar issue: Muslim women targeted on the road. I looked deeper into each tip, called each victim and verified their story. Once I noticed a pattern inside the database, I decided to research the issue further and began asking other hijab-wearing Muslim women if they experienced the same thing. The response was overwhelming. I knew immediately I was onto something.

What was the hardest part about reporting this story?

There were two main challenges I faced when reporting this story. The first was verifying each and every incident. I interviewed 30 women in total, spending a lot of time on the details of who, what, where and when of their experiences on the road. A lot of these Muslim women had more than one experience to share. To complicate things even more, the police were rarely involved, which meant these stories had to be corroborated by friends or family. It was a time-consuming task.

The second challenge was the lack of statistics. The most recent data set about road rage is 4 years old. And neither federal agencies nor police stations track the various types of road rage that occur.

This story features powerful photos. How did you work with the photographer?

The HuffPost photo team was excellent to work with. Muslim woman are often portrayed as a monolith, but Damon Scheleur did a fantastic job working with each unique woman and getting the perfect shot. When Damon was unable to travel for one photo shoot, the photo team found the perfect freelancer to finish the task.

What struck you most during your reporting?

Just how common and widespread the issue is. The Muslim women I spoke to kept reiterating how “normal” this was. It had become so embedded in their routine for years now. The idea of being targeted on the road was something most of them “just dealt with” because driving is essential to getting around and going about their daily lives. It shocked almost no one. And when the story published, I heard from so many more women telling me how they have gone through the same thing.

What do you want readers to take away?

I want readers to understand there are so many mundane things people take for granted. Many drivers don’t think twice about getting into their car and hitting the road. But for people of color and particularly Muslim women who wear hijab, it can be a traumatizing experience. One Muslim woman, who is both Muslim and black, expressed this so poignantly when she told me, “I don’t know what I’ll get attacked for today.” That struck me and I hope it strikes other readers as well.

There’s so much to cover on your beat. How do you pick what stories to pursue?

It is extraordinarily difficult to pick and choose what to cover when it comes to reporting on Islamophobia in America. There is just so much, all the time! What makes Islamophobia unique, is that Islam is a religion, which means anti-Muslim rhetoric intersects with issues of race, politics, gender and almost everything you can think of.

I try to pick stories that will have the most impact on policy and the national discourse. Multiple studies have pointed to a disturbingly large number of politicians and everyday people who have severe misconceptions about their Muslim neighbors, which has lead to a terrifying spike in hate crimes and situations like those in my road rage story. My hope is to pursue stories that will bring back some of the nuance and complexity and showcase the impact anti-Muslim rhetoric has on people.

MAN PULLS GUN ON MUSLIM TEENS Police are investigating an incident at a Minnesota McDonald’s in which a man reportedly pulled a gun on a group of Muslim teenagers. [HuffPost]

7 thoughts on “Islamophobes attack Muslim women for driving cars

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