Fatina Abdrabboh – Fit to Print?

In case you missed it, the NY Times ran the most ridiculous op-ed piece I think I have ever seen last week; a woman named Fatina Abdrabboh (apparently a student at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, naturally) wrote, from Cambridge, Mass., about how

[T]he Muslim headscarf, or hijab, that I wear makes me feel as if I am under a microscope. I try to go to the gym just about every morning. Because I work out with my scarf on, people stare – just as they do on the streets of Cambridge.

Then she described how upset she got watching the news in the gym:

Every television in the gym highlighted some aspect of America’s conflict with the Muslim world: the war in Iraq, allegations that American soldiers had desecrated the Koran, prisoner abuse at Guantánamo Bay, President Bush urging support of the Patriot Act. The stares just intensified my alienation as an Arab Muslim in what is supposed to be my country. I was not sure if the blood rushing to my head was caused by the elliptical trainer or by the news coverage.
Frustrated and angry, I moved to another part of the gym. I got on a treadmill and started running as hard as I could. As sweat dripped down my face, I reached for my towel, accidentally dropping my keys in the process. It was a small thing, I know, but as they slid down the rolling belt and fell to the carpet, my faith in the United States seemed to fall with them. I did not care to pick them up. I wanted to keep running.

But wait! Her faith in the nation was restored by an act of staggering heroism:

Suddenly a man, out of breath, but still smiling and friendly, tapped me on my shoulder and said, “Ma’am, here are your keys.” It was Al Gore, former vice president of the United States. Mr. Gore had gotten off his machine behind me, picked up my keys, handed them to me and then resumed his workout.
It was nothing more than a kind gesture, but at that moment Mr. Gore’s act represented all that I yearned for – acceptance and acknowledgment.
There in front of me, he stood for a part of America that has not made itself well known to 10 million Arab and Muslim-Americans, many of whom are becoming increasingly withdrawn and reclusive because of the everyday hostility they feel.
It is up to us as Americans to change how the rest of the world views us by changing how we view some of our own citizens. Mr. Gore’s act reminded me that rather than running away on my treadmill, I needed to keep my feet on the soil in this country. I left the gym with a renewed sense of spirit, reassured that I belong to America and that America belongs to me.

You should read the whole thing, although I’ve excerpted almost all of it as is; there’s so little there it’s amazing that a reputable college newspaper would find room for this piffle, let alone the New York Times (one staggers to think of all the worthwhile things written in the blogosphere last week that NYT readers would never learn about while they publish the likes of this). Chris Lynch and Jonah Goldberg make appropriate mockery of various aspects of the column (links via Lyford). Ankle Biting Pundits had some more serious background on the numerous times that Fatina Abdrabboh – presumably the same one – had been quoted in the media complaining about perceived ill-treatment in the U.S., particularly on account of her headscarf; it’s a must-read.
I had a few thoughts of my own:
1. Isn’t it, um, kind of dangerous to bend down on a treadmill while wearing a headscarf? Am I the only one who thought this was a tort case waiting to happen? (A scene at the end of “The Incredibles” comes to mind, if you’ve seen it).
2. In most Muslim countries, wouldn’t a woman working out on a treadmill in gym full of men (well, one man, at least) attract quite a lot more than some unusual stares? Like, say, rocks?
3. On the other hand, back in Al Gore’s home state of Tennessee, most women would not consider a man performing a simple act of courtesy like picking up a set of keys to be sufficiently newsworthy to justify writing to the New York Times about it. Whether that’s a comment on men in Cambridge or the men Ms. Abdrabboh grew up around, I leave to you.
4. As my wife pointed out, if people in Cambridge stare at her, it’s probably just because she doesn’t have green hair and a pin through her nose.

One thought on “Fatina Abdrabboh – Fit to Print?”

  1. This is just such a prejudiced post for so many reasons. I thought you were above such generalizations.

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