So much anxiety about “the others” these days, anxiety that is seldom based on knowing even one of those others!
That is why I found this story by Steve Annear in the Boston Globe so charming and important.
He wrote, “Mona Haydar knew that when she set up two signs outside a Cambridge library [in December] with the words ”Ask a Muslim’ and ‘Talk to a Muslim,’ she had to be prepared for strong opinions about her faith.
“But the Duxbury resident said the impromptu experiment led to a meaningful series of conversations about religion, politics, history, and sports. It was an experience that, even in a time of prejudice against Muslims, showed Haydar that ‘the community is loving.’
“ ‘We just wanted to talk to people and we didn’t see any harm in doing that,’ said Haydar. ‘We are just normal people. There is definitely fear [in America], and I want to talk about it, because it’s actually misplaced and misguided — I am really nice!’
“Holding a box of doughnuts and cartons of coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts, and wearing a traditional hijab, Haydar last Friday and Saturday planted herself alongside her husband, Sebastian Robins, outside the library for several hours each day.
“Haydar said that over the two days they spoke with more than 100 strangers. The initiative, she said, was inspired by a similar act, called Talk to an Iraqi, that was featured on ‘This American Life’ in 2008.” More here.
I’d say she gave a gift to the Cambridge populace, which although considered open-minded, is not monolithic. And she seems to have received a gift in return: the satisfaction of initiating an important conversation and of confirming that the majority of people are kind.
Photo: Mona Haydar
Mona Haydar and her husband, Sebastian Robins, stood outside of a library in Cambridge.