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Worried Utah Muslim asks: 'Do I remove my headscarf?'

Published December 17, 2015 5:38 pm

Faith • Amid anti-Islamic backlash, she and others repeat the refrain: These terrorists do not represent my religion.
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Noor Ul-Hasan first donned a hijab — a Muslim woman's head covering — in December 2001, just months after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

Now, 14 years later, she can't help but wonder if that's a wise move.

The Sept. 11 act committed by Middle Eastern men who claimed they were doing it in the name of God thrust the Utah wife and mother into the state's public eye.

She and her husband, Masood, who was then the head of the Islamic Society of Greater Salt Lake, found themselves crisscrossing the metropolitan area, explaining their Islamic faith to those who found the belief system so foreign.

Wearing a headscarf gave her an immediate feeling of respect, as well as a sense of privacy and distance from strangers who felt compelled to stroke her lovely long locks.

Since then, Ul-Hasan has worn a hijab every time she has gone out in public — whether to run an errand, pick up a child at school, attend services at the mosque or participate in interfaith gatherings.

For her, the scarf was a point of pride and an act of faith. But given the horrific murders in San Bernardino, Calif., and Paris — and the anti-Islamic backlash in some quarters — she is considering removing it.

"I feel so lost, troubled for Muslims and for everyone," Ul-Hasan wrote Monday on her Facebook page. "Am I to live in fear [or] do I remove my headscarf so I don't have to stick up for my faith continually? Should I remove my identifiers and blend in?"

It is not a hypothetical question for the longtime advocate of interfaith relations.

As a Muslim woman, Ul-Hasan feels somewhat hopeless about convincing outsiders that mass murderers "do not represent the several million Muslims who live in the United States."

She serves on Cottonwood Heights' Board of Adjustment, Utah's Civil and Compassionate Communities committee, the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable, and other diversity and school councils.

Through all of her activism, she writes in an email, Ul-Hasan wants to persuade Utahns "not to be afraid of us Muslims. ... What else can I do except deny these [terrorists] as members of my faith or any faith because we all know there is no God or Allah that condones these horrible acts."

Imam Muhammed Mehtar of Khadeeja Islamic Center in West Valley City shares that view.

"Islam does not favor such violence. Islam condemns all acts of terror. Killing people is just wrong," Mehtar writes in a news release. "As an imam, I find these actions reprehensible and unacceptable."

He hopes Muslim communities around the nation "will not be implicated for this barbaric act committed by these people."

The imam offers condolences to the people of San Bernardino, but also to those in Colorado Springs who were affected by the recent mass shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic.

"Our heart goes out to each man, woman and child who lost a loved one. People must realize, as they study the Christian faith, that Christianity does not preach violence," Mehtar writes. "We hope that Christians are not being similarly stigmatized due to the actions of one individual."

President Barack Obama has echoed Mehtar's concerns about blaming all Muslims.

"We cannot turn against one another by letting this fight be defined as a war between America and Islam," the president said in his televised speech Sunday night. "ISIL does not speak for Islam. They are thugs and killers, part of a cult of death, and they account for a tiny fraction of more than a billion Muslims around the world — including millions of patriotic Muslim Americans who reject their hateful ideology."

For her part, Ul-Hasan believes the best solution is to get assault weapons and stockpiles of ammunition out of the hands of citizens, not just Muslims.

"We Americans must take action. We must not allow anyone except government, police, SWAT [teams], etc., to have assault weapons, which are truly the 'mass weapons of destruction' in our country," the Muslim activist writes in an email. "Preserve the Second Amendment right to protect yourself with a handgun. ... We need to force our government to not allow any weapons or ammunition to be purchased online."

For now, Ul-Hasan has decided to continue wearing her head covering.

As a leader in Utah's Muslim community, she says, "it would be a big thing if I take it off," and it would make it that much harder for others to choose to "keep it on."


Twitter: @religiongal






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