Alaa Basatneh is Muslim and has been wearing a headscarf for the past 12 years. But these days when she goes outside, she switches to a hat.
“It’s no longer safe to walk on the streets with a headscarf,” she told CNN’s Carol Costello on Wednesday.
Basatneh, a Miami-based writer who covers justice for the news and culture site Fusion, said much of this fear stems from Donald Trump. The President-elect said during his campaign that he wants to ban Muslims from traveling to the United States and suggested that profiling would be an effective way to prevent terrorism.
“[Trump] really opened a large wound within the Muslim community,” she said. “And to me, personally, I think he needs to apologize for what he’s been saying. And … reassure the Muslim community that we will be safe.”
In a TV interview that aired Sunday, Trump called on his supporters to stop harassing minorities.
To illustrate her point, Basatneh told Costello that a few days ago an older white man sitting near her in a Miami hospital waiting room took out a pocket knife and placed it on the empty seat between them.
“I felt threatened,” she said. “I was shocked. And I was waiting to be stabbed just for the fact that I was wearing my headscarf.”
Basatneh said that when the man got up, he said “deport them all” as he walked past. Worse, no one else in the room reacted.
“There were about 20 people in that room,” she said. “And everyone just carried on their normal conversations as if nothing happened.”
Many Muslim women wear headscarves, or hijabs, as a sign of their faith and a symbol of modesty.
Basatneh said she has been on the receiving end of negative comments before, but had never seen someone take out a weapon. She also said she isn’t sure when things will get better. But she did share some advice for her fellow Americans.
“Get to know your Muslim neighbors,” she said. “Get to know more about Islam … just get to know us more, because we are extending a hand.”