On Being a Muslim Woman in America

Photographs by Lynsey Addario

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Muslim Women Share Their Experiences in the Trump Era

Following the election of Donald Trump, who as a candidate promised a ban on Muslim immigration, Reportage photographer Lynsey Addario spent a week following the daily lives of Muslim women in Maryland and Washington, D.C. Most women spoke of a heightened sense of insecurity, but the images also show how differently each woman expresses her faith, and the diversity of their backgrounds. “We’re not a monolith,” says Zainab Chaudry, one of Lynsey’s subjects and a spokesperson for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “We all have unique experiences that define who we are.”

Among the women Lynsey met were a 16-year-old Syrian refugee; a mother of four from Turkey who immigrated in 2000; and several American-born Muslim women, two of whom were converts. A common trait is that all choose to wear hijab, their most public, visible sign of their faith. It also can be a lightning rod for misunderstanding and uncomfortable scrutiny from non-Muslims.

“Since the election I’ve had many women ask me if they should take off their hijab,” said Ms. Chaudry. “I’ve met women who have taken off their head scarves. Personally, I don’t feel afraid. I feel angry that anyone should feel afraid because of how they’re dressed.”

Kevser Ozer, the mother originally from Turkey, said she’s “never been targeted for a hate crime or because of my religion. But I feel less safe nowadays. I feel stressed, like I’m waiting for something.” 

There have been increasing reports of anti-Muslim violence since the election, and that sense of unease has inspired some women to take self-defense courses. Lynsey visited one such class at the Islamic Center of Maryland. “I think learning how to protect yourself can build confidence and self-esteem and push back anxiety and fear you might otherwise feel walking down the street as a visible Muslim woman,” adds Ms. Chaudry.

Other women find support in groups connected with their mosques and cultural centers. Ms. Ozer, the mother from Turkey, is part of the Diyanet Center of America’s Women’s Committee, which organizes programs for families and children. “We have a meet-the-author series. We have feed-the-homeless programs. We arrange movie nights for the community. We have a cooking club. We are doing a lot.”

The public conversation about what it means to be Muslim and American often presupposes that these are identities in inherent conflict. The stories Lynsey depicts here suggest otherwise. But even Holly Gobelez, an actress and mother from upstate New York who converted to Islam in college, admits to feeling this way. “At first a convert will go through this identity crisis: What can I keep from my American identity? What do I get rid of? Then I realized: I’m American. I’m just American and I happen to be Muslim.”

See more photos from this story on the Getty Images website.