The sun shining on that warm California day, Iman Hamze set out to the mosque for Friday prayers. Passing down the street full of her fellow American neighbors, she saw herself not so different from the rest. Upon receiving roses from the mosque, Iman proceeded to share the beauty of nature with those around her. Despite Iman being in Berkeley, one of the most racially and ethnically diverse cities in the nation, she found people hesitant to receive her generosity. The generosity that her Muslim parents raised her with. She realized the hesitation of people towards her was not because of who Iman was, an average fair-skinned, green-eyed, young woman, but because of what she wore: a Muslim hijab, or headscarf.
How could people receive her so angrily and rudely? It is because they had dehumanized her. They had stripped Iman of all her humanity and replaced her with a label they had read on the news. This dehumanization made it easier for them to judge a girl who just wanted to be generous.
This is her story:
“I saw a couple a little ways ahead of me. I pulled out the most stunning rose of the bunch and walked towards them. As I got closer the man grabbed his wife and pulled her toward him. I wondered why they walked off the sidewalk at a hurried pace. I reached out, rose in hand, and greeted them with a “Good Afternoon” and a warm smile. What I was given in return was a smirk that made my heart cringe, followed by a sharp, “NO! Please leave us alone.” As I watched them race away, leaving me stranded, I wondered what I’d done wrong, or what I should have done differently. I looked to my peers for help and was met with faces covered in disbelief upon witnessing what just happened. I tried to brush it off and told them to keep moving on, and that the next one would be better. Feeling a little discouraged I handed my unaccepted rose to a close friend and told her to give it a try. She walked towards a man and, with a gentle smile, uttered ‘Happy Friday’ and put her hand out. The man stopped in his tracks, and after a long pause, unsure of what to do, he reluctantly took the proffered rose. He immediately offered it to a woman passing, who happily accepted it without hesitation. After witnessing this, another one of my classmates decided that she’d like to try her luck as well. We saw a woman at a parking meter slightly ahead of us and agreed that we’d try to make her day. I handed a rose to my friend, and as she reached towards the woman, the same way we all did, rose in hand, with a smile and a friendly greeting, the woman became outraged, immediately locked her car by pressing multiple times on the door lock, and angrily yelling at us to get away.
I put my hand up to my head and held the problem in my hands. As I held the problem, I realized that the people passing by didn’t see a few college students who wanted to brighten their day; they didn’t see a few proud Americans spreading peace and love, and most of all they didn’t see people. All they saw were the veils draped around our heads and the negative connotations that go along with it due to its portrayal in the media.”