Faced With Fear, A Muslim Woman Makes A Stand — By Setting One Up Amid an atmosphere of mistrust about Islam, Mona Haydar and her husband had an idea: Why not open a dialogue? So, they set up a stand — "Ask a Muslim" — and brought some doughnuts.
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Faced With Fear, A Muslim Woman Makes A Stand — By Setting One Up

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Faced With Fear, A Muslim Woman Makes A Stand — By Setting One Up

Faced With Fear, A Muslim Woman Makes A Stand — By Setting One Up

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CARRIE KAHN, HOST:

Mona Haydar is an American Muslim. And she wants to talk about it, so much so that she set up a stand outside a library in Cambridge, Mass. with a big sign reading, ask a Muslim. Along with the conversation, she offered free coffee and donuts. Mona Haydar joins us on the line. Welcome.

MONA HAYDAR: Thank you.

KAHN: How did you get this idea?

HAYDAR: Well, my husband was inspired one evening. His name is Sebastian. And we were just hanging out, eating dinner. And he was like, what if we did something kind of crazy? And he had seen this segment on This American Life where a young Iraqi man had done Asking An Iraqi. And so he was like, why haven't we thought of this before? Why don't we go out and to talk to people? So we did it.

KAHN: It's definitely different. People came up to you? What were some of the questions that they asked you?

HAYDAR: Honestly, most of the people didn't ask questions. To be totally frank with you, people just wanted to say hey and connect and say, hey, like, I really love what you're doing, and thank you for doing this. And a lot of folks were apologizing for things that are happening in the world right now, for all the discrimination that Muslims are facing in the world, especially in America.

KAHN: Did anyone just come take the coffee and donuts and then leave?

HAYDAR: Oh, absolutely. And people who kind of were just eyeing the donuts, I kind of just held them out and was like, hey, come get your donut. It's OK. It was a cold day, so the hot coffee was great.

KAHN: You must have prepped for this. Like, what were some of the questions you were prepared to answer? Like, what do you think is on the minds of people about - thinking about Islam and being a Muslim in America today?

HAYDAR: Initially, I thought I was going to get a lot of negativity. We were going to face a lot of Islamophobia. And I was going into it with that mindset. And then I decided, you know what? I really can't do this if I'm expecting people to be negative because I'm not a negative person. I'm a super bubbly, happy person. I'm really friendly. I'm really nice. I'm really smiley. Why should I expect anything less from other folks? Because that's what's happening to me in the world, basically. People expect me to be some kind of bogeyman. So I was like, I can't go into it with that kind of mindset. So I didn't prepare. I didn't have expectations of what people would bring. And honestly, I was really happily surprised with what happened because I went in with a super open-heart, with a super opened mind and just let happen what was going to happen.

KAHN: Are you going to do it again?

HAYDAR: I really hope so. Yeah, we're planning to do it again soon. And we look forward to it. You know, we just had such great encounters with folks. And specifically, there was this one gay couple who came up. And we ended up just talking about what any two couples talk about. You know, they've been married 20 years. And so me and my husband have only been together four. We've been married four years. And so they just had a lot of advice for us. And I just - I really look forward to more encounters like that. Actually, one of the men ended up being Muslim. And so that was just a really funny and amazing experience. And I want more of that in my life. So yeah, going to do it again.

KAHN: Mona Haydar from Duxbury, Mass., thanks so much for speaking with us.

HAYDAR: Thank you.

KAHN: You can see Mona Haydar's pictures and read more about her experience from the Ask a Muslim project on our Facebook page. Also, you can follow us on Twitter @NPRWeekend and I'm @ckahn. That's C-K-A-H-N.

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