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Trending: Muslim Woman Discovers Friendly New World When a Winter Scarf Covers Her Hijab

Chicago's bitter cold temps led to an impromptu social experiment when Leena Suleiman bundled up in a knit scarf and cap.

Leena Suleiman | Source: leenamielus.blogspot.com
Leena Suleiman | Source: leenamielus.blogspot.com
By Dennis Robaugh

Oak Lawn, Ill. – A woman who hid her hijab beneath a fluffy knit hat and scarf found an entirely different world around her when others couldn't see the traditional Muslim garb.

"I didn't understand what was happening at first. People started talking to me more. Women would speak to me like I knew them since forever. Men looked at me like I was actually approachable," Leena Suleiman wrote of her experience on her blog, Facetruth. "And I was made to feel like I was actually from this planet."

But with the hijab hidden, Suleiman also learned the familiar place she inhabited comfortably for so many years, the world of American Muslims, no longer was warm and friendly.

"The Muslim taxi drivers who would almost always say "Assalamu Alaikum," ask me where I'm from or if I'm single, or not allow me to pay for the fare became cold and dry. I would simply give the address, and the only dialog thereafter was at time of payment. It was puzzling," she wrote.

But the wrap around her head made all the difference. And so she decided to conduct her own social experiment, much like skinny people who don fat suits or white people who darken their skin to see how others react to their new "body."

"I started paying more attention to the difference in the way people treated me. It was fun feeling like everyone around me believed I belonged in their culture by default, and not as part of the begrudgingly adopted diversity piece of the pie. It was a good feeling. I secretly started looking forward to venturing out into the cold to further explore what it meant to be 'normal.'

"I became even more confident walking in my city. My city. All the stares were not racially related anymore. I was addressed as 'lady' and 'little lady,' something I had never heard before. Men would hold doors for me. Women would crack jokes with me. I became respectable, lovable, and accepted."

Suleiman, a 25-year-old architectural designer in Chicago who graduated from Illinois Institute of Technology, was born in Oak Lawn and lives in Chicago Ridge. A large population of Muslims, many with roots in Palestine, is concentrated in the south suburbs.

Her blog, posted on Feb. 7 and titled "I Took Off My Hijab," has more than 200 comments as of Feb. 13. Suleiman goes on to write that the realization, only made possible by this winter's record-setting cold temperatures and windchill in Chicago, saddened her.

"I immediately began to despise the inequality, and it dawned on me that I acted like someone who was bullied for years, and finally was accepted by the mean girls ..."

Commenters on her blog found the experiment thought-provoking, however.

"Sounds quite adventurous! Perhaps the fact that the 'hijabis' ignored you because you were not visibly Muslim may indicate both sides of the problem .Too often insularity is what keeps people from being treated as 'normal,'" said one.

Adds another: "Honestly, I think many non-Muslims in America aren't quite sure how to approach someone in a hijab. It's not that you're Muslim. It's that you simply dress in a way that is different and it's a bit intimidating."

What do you think? Share your views in the comments.

Leave RI February 18, 2014 at 02:46 PM
It would be nice to be able to nuke these things from space. Expensive but nice.
roger hawrylicz February 18, 2014 at 02:48 PM
Claire and Msbach..you forgot the horrors of 911 and the boston marathon bombing so fast? You break all the bread you want with whomever you want to but you 2 are part of the problem of whats wrong with this country..you 2 are living in a little dream bubble..lol!
Leave RI February 18, 2014 at 02:51 PM
If you've never deployed to one of these toilet countries, and you are spouting feel good talibtard crap about holding hands, not only is what you're saying irrelevant but it's invalid. I had only less than a mild respect for my interpreter for a year and that was only because he was putting himself in danger from the others for being with us.
K. Scott February 18, 2014 at 06:54 PM
Hey, I got an idea.Rodger and leave can go bowling together and talk about how great 'murica is and drink some beer! God Dang it!
roger hawrylicz February 18, 2014 at 07:37 PM
I agree with Leave..I was a combat Marine in Nam and I'm sick of all these touchy feely aholes who think we should kiss our enemies a** and make them feel at home here. I never felt comfortable around most of these muslims and probably never will either.
Dan Seidel February 18, 2014 at 07:42 PM
al-wala' w'al-bara'. Ask her what that means. In fact, google it yourselves! There is a reason Americans who love Liberty shun Muslims, islam and sharia law. just plain evil. End the oppression of muslims - eradicate islam. here's a goody site: http://www.citizenwarrior.com/2011/04/tools-for-our-educational-mission.html
Dan Seidel February 18, 2014 at 07:46 PM
Here Claire, one of the best sites I've seen for delving into Islam - scholarly tome and analysis - irrefutable. http://www.prophetofdoom.net/
roger hawrylicz February 18, 2014 at 07:54 PM
I have to wonder about people like Claire who are always defending these muslims.
Leave RI February 18, 2014 at 08:46 PM
@K. Scott and @roger hawrylicz....exactly!!! Beer 'n bacon on me anytime and I'd pay it in 'Murican money.
Becky February 19, 2014 at 01:38 AM
I think some immigrants have many conflicting feelings about leaving their homeland and they transfer those painful feelings onto disappointment with the US. Many have such problems in their home country that can't be fixed in their lifetime. I wish they'd be a little more keen on embracing our liberties here. And our protections and laws, like not wearing a burka into a security area.
Alan Light February 19, 2014 at 12:11 PM
For non-muslims, the hijab basically says "leave me alone" - so we leave them alone. Why so surprised when we respect their wishes?
TVOR February 19, 2014 at 12:52 PM
I think many Americans avoid contact with those who are dressed like muslims not out of hate but simply because it is impossible to tell the difference between the terrorists and their sympathisers, and simply people who follow the muslim faith. If muslims are intent on wearing the clothing then they need to accept what that may bring.
Bill February 19, 2014 at 01:32 PM
Hi Amara S. Mahmood - yes, it is the American way to shake hands. Getting drunk and eating pork, is OK in America. Having coitus between consenting adults is OK too, in America. And yes, wearing comfortable, airy clothing is American. But your statements make it sound as if the majority of Americans are drunk, sexually active, bacon eaters. America is a Christian based, reasonably open country with a wide diversity of people and traditions. It appears as if you are offended by our society, which is rather hypocritical especially since you’re obviously enjoying the freedoms afforded you, by living here.
roger hawrylicz February 19, 2014 at 03:17 PM
To Amara mahmood, Go back to whatever the hell part of the world you came from,You don't like us? We sure as hell don't like you
Becky February 19, 2014 at 03:54 PM
Amara S. Mahmood, I'll kiss your a** as soon as you get your head out of it.
Claire Felong February 19, 2014 at 04:50 PM
Calling people names does not in any way encourage them to value your ideas. Our country was founded on freedom of religion. We accept it when Jews wear yarmulkes & Stars of David, Christians wear a cross, Roman collar or sister's habit, Sikh's dress in white and wear turbans. We don't threaten to kill our daughters or movie stars when they dress & act like prostitutes, why should we take offense when Muslim women wear a hijab?
roger hawrylicz February 19, 2014 at 05:13 PM
Damn Becky..good one!!
K. Scott February 19, 2014 at 05:20 PM
Oh, I get it roger hawrylicz is such an all american name, NOT!
roger hawrylicz February 19, 2014 at 05:55 PM
K SCOTT Want to explain that last comment about my name?
TVOR February 19, 2014 at 06:01 PM
If foreigners base their opinion of Americans on what is posted on forums like this, it is no wonder if they think we are a bunch of bigoted buffoons, just sayin.
MsBach February 19, 2014 at 09:09 PM
By staying silent, most of you proved my previous statements concerning the correlation between intelligence and narrow-minded viewpoints. You are true 'Murican heroes. It was kinda fun reading your comments. It reminded me of my junior high years when the 12 year old boys would offer some great zingers and slap eachother five. I laughed at their immaturity then as I do now in regards to you. Do a little research (real research on real fact based and objective websites and journals) and see where most of the terrorism on US soil comes from. You won't but I'm giving it the good college try. That's a place where you receive education - you're probably not very familiar with the concept.
roger hawrylicz February 19, 2014 at 10:20 PM
Lol, you are such a little twit! Did I offend your sensitive feelings with my displeasure concerning terrorists in this country? I am a war veteran and I have been voicing my opinions that I believe in. You can take your Murican slang and shove it up your silly fat behind. You don't insult just me but every other veteran who served their country with your bullshit defense of people who would harm this country.
MsBach February 20, 2014 at 09:25 AM
Again, do I seem offended? Not even close. I laugh at you. I laugh at your attempts at proving your statements with opinion and not fact. I laugh at you. No insult that you can slang my way can change the fact that you do not know how to support your argument. None. If I put off that you "offended my sensitive feelings" you are sorely mistaken. I do not get offended by idiots.
James Davidson February 20, 2014 at 09:43 AM
We don't need to wear different cloths to hate each other. We can wear words differently and hate each other between posts without even knowing or seeing our listeners. Funny though that I have never met someone face-to-face that made me sick, so it must be the new freedom of blogging ideas that has yet to mature.
roger hawrylicz February 20, 2014 at 10:39 AM
Lol..seems like some people have pretty thin skins .
MsBach February 20, 2014 at 12:58 PM
I will devote no more time to this conversation knowing that I have said what I intended to and feel no need to continue this back and forth (simply, you are not on my level intellectually). For the record though, you not once offended or upset me. My skin remains thick and fully intact. Have a nice rest of your day - ignorance usually is pretty blissful (so you shouldn't have a problem).
roger hawrylicz February 20, 2014 at 03:14 PM
Lol!! yeah.you sound pretty typical with thick skin along with a thick skull..you are whats wrong with our country today..you should join the muslims you love to defend and go somewhere else..bye!
Dan Seidel February 24, 2014 at 09:00 PM
http://www.prophetofdoom.net/ and http://www.citizenwarrior.com/2011/04/tools-for-our-educational-mission.html or why the hijab is a sign of battle for the West.
Dan Seidel February 24, 2014 at 09:01 PM
Ms. Bach: most terrorism comes from muslims. sorry to burst your bubble. http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/index.html#Attacks the daily tally sheet.
Stones February 25, 2014 at 09:11 AM
MsBach, " No insult that you can slang my way" and you want to talk about education and act as if you're on a higher level than the other commenters here. You're a joke! BTW, there are many places and ways to get an education. College is a great way, but many can't afford it and some just prefer not to go. That doesn't make them any less intelligent than you. It all depends on what type of education you are after.

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