Arabs and Islam in America: Wearing a Hijab

Arabs and Islam in America: Wearing a Hijab
Alexandra Duma
Psychology 221
John Jay College


or the stare of a stranger in the subway. I wore the hijab for a full day. Most of the responses I got were subtle or nonexistent. I suddenly felt like I was standing out. especially in the United States. to stay true to the modesty standards of the Muslim religion. during which I went grocery shopping. I wanted to gain a better understanding of a culture that is often misperceived. 2001. I believe that there is a lot of prejudice and religious discrimination against Muslims. The day went on without any major incidents. I chose to cover my head with a black pashmina scarf and wear a long dress. This is a privilege that I was not aware of before this role-play. and then there were moments when I felt that my hijab made me stand out. particularly after the terrorist attacks of September 11. PART III Two key concepts that apply to people of different religions (in this case. Muslims) are the outgroup homogeneity effect and the illusiory correlations.Arabs and Islam in America: Wearing a Hijab 2 Arabs and Islam in America: Wearing the Hijab PART I I chose to step into the life of a Muslim woman for a day. The goal of this role-play was to experience the standard life for so many Muslim women around the world that choose to wear a head covering. At the beginning of my preparation. PART II Once I was outside. I was surprised to notice that my feelings of excitement disappeared. As a result of how we perceive people that we . which in the end is just a symbol. I met some friends for lunch and I went to school. I was very excited to learn how to wrap a hijab around my head and to really take on my role as a Muslim woman. even though I was trying my best not to. I believe that Muslim women are struggling to prove that there is more to them than their religious identity. in public. Every now and then I would catch a curious glance while walking on the street. I was excited to interact with people and see their reactions. I feel like this is something a woman who chooses to cover her head faces everyday: the struggle of getting people to know the person behind the veil. called a hijab. There were moments when I forgot I was wearing it.

rather than having an extroverted or friendly approach. where everyone shares the same beliefs and acts in a similar manner. If people don't usually interact with women who wear a hijab. For example. Of course. or don't have personal contact with them often. . One example of illusory correlation comes from the tragic attack of September 11th. situations or to all individuals. reserved manner. there is a higher chance that they will be perceived as individuals looking and acting alike. This means that people have a tendency to overestimate the link between two variables that are not strongly correlated. I constantly felt that people were expecting me to behave in a modest. a phenomenon called “outgroup homogeneity effect” takes place. These mass perceptions result in a greater stereotype.Arabs and Islam in America: Wearing a Hijab 3 identify with (ingroups) and people that we categorize as belonging to different groups (called outgroups). they have certain expectations of how that person is likely to act in certain situations. I believe that my experience is consistent with this theory. When people see a woman who wears a veil. An illusory correlation is “an overestimate of the association between variables that are only slightly or not at all correlated” (Kassin 184). I believe this is mainly because this theory is hard to observe with the naked eye. plays a vital role in whether this phenomenon is likely to occur or not. Most people tend to perceive women who wear a hijab as part of a large bloc. during my role-play. I didn't find my role-play experience to be particularly consistent with this concept. leading to stereotyping and discriminating of a specific group. this theory doesn't apply under all conditions. greater outgroup homogeneity and a generally more biased behavior towards Muslims. The more familiar people are with Muslim women. Outgroup homogeneity effect is defined as “the tendency to assume that there is a greater similarity among members of outgroups than among members of ingroups”(Kassin 172). Another key concept mentioned above that plays an important role in stereotyping and discriminating Muslims is the illusory correlation. women who are identified as Muslims. Personal contact and familiarity of an individual with someone who is part of a different group. the less likely they are to expect them to behave in a certain way and less likely to perceive their religious group as homogeneous. in this case.

but in the end. I realized that a veil represents a powerful symbol. a symbol of modesty and chastity.Arabs and Islam in America: Wearing a Hijab 4 that has given the belief that the attack was grounded in Islamic fundamentalism as part of a Holy war. with hate crimes rising more than ever before. According to a research study conducted by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. Soon after the September 11th . the members of the Congress signed the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001. It has also led to backlash against Arabs and Muslims. based in part on the illusory correlation between a belief in Islam and violent behavior. the most negatively affected by this law are Muslims and Arab Americans. most people in the United States had little information and few strong beliefs about Islam. Prior to the attack. “ambiguities in interpreting the law have led to misapplication of the law by government officials as well as abuses by enforcement officers”. it is just a symbol and should never be seen as a mirror to one's personality. One policy that is unjust to Muslims and Arabs and must be changed. after the attacks there was a rise in anti-Muslim bias and discrimination. I did and I also ended up learning more about myself. Even though this law is threatening the civil liberties of people from all social categories. One of my pre-conceived ideas about Muslim women who wear a head cover was that they were less approachable than other social groups. After wearing the hijab for a day. in order to strengthen security controls. Incidents include airport profiling. If a person interacts with Muslims often. this concept relies on the lack of knowledge of the culture and lack of personal contact with Muslim people. verbal harassment and physical assaults. . PART IV The purpose of wearing a hijab for a day was to gain a better understanding of what it's like to be a Muslim woman who wears a head cover in America. Again. 2001 terrorist attacks. Unfortunately. in order to protect the civil rights of these groups is the PATRIOT ACT. it is less likely for such false correlations to take place. a law that is still in full force and effect today.

S.Arabs and Islam in America: Wearing a Hijab 5 References Ahmed.S. New York: Houghton Mifflin. H. Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. Social Psychology. .(2004). & A.aspx Kassin. The US Patriot Act: Impact on the Arab and Muslim community.(2013). Retrieved from: http://www. & Markus.