Dealing with hate: Muslim women have had to create a crisis safety manual

The World
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Students chant while marching at a rally against Islamophobia at San Diego State University in San Diego, California.

Students chant while marching at a rally against Islamophobia at San Diego State University in San Diego, California.

Sandy Huffaker/Reuters

It's certainly a difficult time to be Muslim in the US.

Those are the feelings expressed at MuslimGirl.net. It's a website geared to help empower Muslim women in the US and abroad.

And the site has recently released a "Crisis Safety Manual for Muslim Women."

"It's really unfortunate that we've had to resort to it," says Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, editor-in-chief of MuslimGirl. "Muslim American women are often the most vulnerable because may of them choose to wear headscarves and are therefore publicly identifiable for their religion."

Al-Khatahtbeh says that's why one of the suggestions is about changing the style of their headscarf. They want it more religiously ambiguous. "We style our headscarves in a turban-style. For many of us, that makes us look trendy and not so obvious that we're wearing a scarf on our head for religious reasons."

But these tips are a last resort. Al-Khatahtbeh says the political rhetoric has reached the point where Muslim women have to conceal their religious identity in order to avoid violence. "It's survival now," she says. "We have Muslim-American women who were born and raised in the United States that feel uncomfortable walking down the street of their hometowns."

Muslim women have responded to the manual with exasperation. Anytime a Muslim commits a crime, they know they'll be impacted. It may be a tweet, a racist comment on a bus, or a direct threat. So far, Al-Khatahtbeh says Muslim women have dealt with it on their own or with their friends.

"These were pointers that we discussed between ourselves or with our girlfriends and things like that. But this is the first time where we've laid them out and outlined them into an online resource that's publicly accessible to anyone who needs it," she adds.

It tells Muslim women why phones are key, why crowds are good, why not to wear headphones while riding public transportation (it distracts you from your surroundings and could make a target.)

The overall goal: How to ignore ignorance, but also to report suspicious activity.

While somewhat saddened by the need for it, Al-Khatahtbeh wishes she had such a manual growing up.

"We want,'' she says, "to make the future brighter."