The Muslim on the airplane | Amal Kassir | TEDxMileHighWomen

Translator: Rhonda Jacobs
Reviewer: Peter van de Ven Whenever I travel, I carry a little metal box
of Altoids mints because after a four-hour,
7 AM flight, everyone has bad breath, so almost anyone
is willing to take the mint from the Muslim on the airplane. (Laughter) And I know I’ve been successful
when my neighbor turns and asks, “So, what’s your name?” You see, even if there was
an elephant in the room, I’m still the elephant in the room. (Cheer) Yeah! When an elephant
offers you mints on an airplane, I’m fully aware that
it’s not always easy to accept, so when the courageously curious
do pop the what’s-your-name question, I try to make it worth their while. (Laughter) My name is Amal. It means ‘hope’ in Arabic. Most days my name is waitress
at my family’s Damascus restaurant, full-time university student
and then some, pre-law, world traveler, 11 countries. My name is I’ve performed poetry
in eight of those countries. (Cheers) (Applause) International spoken word poet,
unapologetic Muslim woman. Syrian, American, hijabi,
activist, social justice advocate. My name is writer, teacher,
Colorado-born Mile High baby! (Laughter) (Applause) But at the airport,
my name is random search. (Laughter) And on the street, it’s terrorist, sand nigger, raghead, oppressed, and on the news, it’s ISIS, jihadi, suspect, radical. My name is, “Could your Muslim
neighbor be an extremist?” My mama, who wears the hijab,
the Islamic headdress, is often referred to as
“Go back to you country,” but she’s from Iowa! (Laughter) And her nickname is Lisa Pizza. (Laughter) And it does not take more
than a couple questions to figure out that her country
is the Council Bluffs cornfields. (Laughter) But, how would someone
know this without asking? They say the shortest distance
between two people is a story. Well, I elaborate on that to say
that the greatest distance you can travel in the shortest amount of time,
is by asking someone their name. The way we name ourselves
is a reflection of who we are, our declarations, family histories,
the things we believe, the morals we abide by,
our homes, cultures, transformations. Like a Mohammed turned Mo,
or a Lisa Pizza turned Iman. And how we name others, and how,
if, we allow others to name themselves is a reflection of our own declarations, of our courage, and our fear. The malleability of a person’s story
must be self-determined, coming from the lips of the storyteller, not the anchorman, not the megaphone, not even the scarf on her head
or the melanin in his skin, because no one can speak
the names of billions in one breath, unless it’s in prayer, and oftentimes when we generalize,
it isn’t because we’re praying. And when we don’t ask someone their name,
we’re not asking for their story. In the world of mass media
and rampant misinformation, it is hard for anyone, including myself, to deconstruct all these
terrifying stories that we hear. Sometimes, instead of isolating them,
individualizing them, we tend to paint a group of people
with a broad brush, until suddenly, everyone with a hijab on
is a raghead that needs liberating, or everyone with white skin
is a racist cracker, or everyone with black skin
is a fatherless nigger, or everybody who looks like my father
is going to blow up the airplane, or if the killer had a light complexion,
he’s just a mentally fragile lone wolf. And we come to this point where we feel like we don’t even need
to ask people their names because we already gave it to them. In Europe right now,
a monumental name change is taking place that has completely transformed
a humanitarian responsibility. Countries are deporting refugees, but when you watch news coverage, these refugees
are being referred to as migrants. Because let’s face it, deporting migrants
sounds way more reasonable than deporting individuals
who have been forced to flee their country because of persecution,
war, and violence – the United Nations definition of refugee. (Applause) And in naming these people this way, we’ve attributed to them a choice
instead of a circumstance, some economic gain instead
of a desperation to flee a war zone. These little ones
are refugees, not migrants. I took this photo last year
at a refugee camp on the Syrian-Turkish border,
and contrary to popular belief, they aren’t poisons. They’re not here to steal our democracy
or to take over our neighborhoods. They’re people, families who wish that they could go home but have had to make
that home somewhere else. And we’ve come to this point,
where the word ‘migrant’ essentially means piles of brown,
foreign-speaking people, and we end up forgetting
that there was a point where some people would’ve considered
those who looked like this to be migrants as well. (Applause) Right, though? (Applause) And it is in this forgetfulness
that we assume, monopolize on people’s stories,
attribute their race, social class, religions, clothing to the names
that we chose for them. Terrorism is a fine
modern-day example, unfortunately. In the past few years, so much violence
has just spread across our country, but when you watch the news,
there’s always a specification as to whether or not
terrorism was involved, which I think we all know
means the killer looked like this. [Arab dude] Which… (Laughter) He’s a babe! Which must mean… (Laughter) Which must mean that the killer,
of course, pledges his allegiance to this. [ISIS] Right? But correct me if I’m wrong, news coverage
does in fact tend to be a little different when the terrorist looks like this. [Robert Dear, Planned Parenthood Shooter] (Applause) And it ultimately
has us forgetting that terrorism, by definition of terrorism, has always come in all shapes [Ku Klux Klan] and colors. [Timothy McVeigh, Oklahoma City Bomber] (Cheers) (Applause) And what happens when we confine
certain names with certain depictions, wrongfully excluding some
and including others, we end up caging masses of people
under a name that says ‘dangerous,’ even if they’re nowhere near it. Like when we say ‘thug’
instead of 17-year-old black child. [Trayvon Martin] When we say ‘alien’
instead of ‘immigrant.’ When we say ‘lazy poor people’
instead of ‘unequal wealth distribution.’ When we say ‘bomb’ instead of ‘clock.’ [Ahmed Mohammad, clock inventor] (Applause) (Cheers) This man’s name is Craig Hicks. He’s often referred to
as a parking dispute, but his real name is a man who shot
and killed three Americans in their homes, in their heads, execution style
because they were Muslim. His name is hate crime. Their names are Deah, Yusor, and Razan, a 23 year old, 21, and 19. Deah and Yusor were just named
husband and wife, newlyweds, and the three were known
by their loved ones as sons and daughters, brothers,
sisters, students, activists, Instagrammers, tax payers, Americans. But now, their names
are too young to have been taken, their names are rest in peace,
Allah Yerhamo. Hicks did not ask them their name. He assigned it to them
when he assigned them each a bullet, named them a threat to his America,
and as a result, took their lives. This is a photo
on Deah and Yusor’s wedding day. It’s so beautiful. They were killed
before they could even see this. Studies show that during
breaking news coverage, the first story is the one
that sticks, even if it isn’t true. Like during the Paris attacks, when there was talk
that refugees were dangerous because they found a passport, only to later confirm that there were
no Syrians or refugees involved. But when we have such
a huge habit of misnaming people, it’s easy to overlook
these kinds of mistakes. And this is exemplary
of what happens in a culture of fear. In a society that doesn’t ask
one another their names, you end up with the mouth of an anchorman or the mouth of a gun
doing all the talking. On September 11th, 2001, I attended a private K-8 Islamic school, and within the first hours of the tragedy, my school received two bomb threats. The word ‘terrorist’
was not on my spelling list, but all of us kids picked it up
pretty soon after. And in naming us terrorists
amidst this mass tragedy that affected us as Americans too, in the words of Dalia Mogahed, we were not just mourners,
but we were suspects as well. But, a few months ago, me and my very handsome,
white-boy-looking brother named Usama were at the museum
buying planetarium tickets, and an elderly white man
walked up to me and said, “I’m sorry about everything
you must be going through right now. I want you to know that not all Americans
believe what these buffoons are saying.” (Applause) “Yeah, he used the word ‘buffoons!'” (Applause) And he said, “I want you to know
that we stand by you.” Now, had I not been wearing
a little piece of my identity on my head, he wouldn’t have known to tell me this. And even though he didn’t ask me
what my name was, he instead told me his. I have learned from experience
that when someone really wants to know, they will be willing to cross
that threshold of fear and find out that my name means hope. And then, they’ll have the courage
to ask the much more important questions that probably only I can answer, like, “What’s that thing on your head? Were you forced to wear it? Are all Muslims really violent people? Does the Quran
really say to kill all of us? Can you please tell me
what’s up with ISIS?” And these questions,
though seemingly uncomfortable, are how I know that I have been humanized, and are how the courageously curious
know that really, I’m only as scary
as the silence fear festers in. Upon meeting someone new,
we ask their names. We do not assign it to them. And with that name, we are given ancestry, bloodlines and dialects, books and poems, perspectives, wars, struggles,
and survival stories. “What’s your name?”
is such a short distance to cross, but when you ask me, oh, buddy! I will take you from Kuala Lumpur
to Barcelona to Beirut. We’re going to go to Damascus,
to Sydney, to Trinidad and Tobago. I will show you Mecca, my closet with 70-plus
international scarves, the graves of my 31 family members
who’ve been killed in Syria, the coffee shop that I hang out at
and do my homework. But we must have the courage
to claim our curiosity, to go beyond anything we ever knew,
anything we ever feared. But it takes two: the elephant who offers the mint and the one who takes it. (Applause) (Cheers)

100 thoughts on “The Muslim on the airplane | Amal Kassir | TEDxMileHighWomen

  1. When I travel with my husband (with a German surname), my name is "Welcome Mrs. A." When I travel with my mother and her vaguely Muslim (though widely used by Hindus, Muslims, and some Christians too), my name is "Excuse me, can you step over here? We're gonna need a look in that bag."

  2. Very animated and very aggressive- not feminine.. The way she laughed about her 'white boy looking brother' – very creepy. I feel sorry for him and i can only imagine the stigmas forced on him.
    One minute she has a intercity hip-hop rap, the next an arabic slur, too chirpy then choked up ? My definition of no originality; not 'genuine' or authentic.
    I can imagine where her forced exaggerated false ideologies stem from and her self imposed need to compare names to racial identity.. She's very proud… i wonder if her moozl'chem bruthuh's warned her that in islamic nations she would be jailed, stoned, lashed or shot for wearing an american flag on her head.

  3. Hope she never loses sweet laugh in the face of all odds. Amal….hope

  4. Why don't you mention why that stigma was attached to muslims? Troublemakers and haters of the world.

  5. I am a christian born in Pakistan and I am not treated very well on Airports and I am treated even worst in my coutry because I am a minority who speaks out for me and my rights. The only way we can live decently is when we learn to respect each other.

  6. All people are just people. You can’t stereotype an entire religion, just think of them as a normal person with a personality and a life. Don’t focus on the religion, focus on the person. Their personality, their attributes. When will people understand this??

  7. I call you out as being disingenuous
    you might think it's funny … or that we are in the wrong here
    but please try to accept and understand that people have legitimate concerns about islam and have good reason to have reservations about it
    and the more you know about muhammad, sharia and the history of jihad, the scarier it is and ignorance is not the answer
    You might want to think about what you can do about that
    … like dumping the religion and the head scarf
    Nobody needs to be a muslim

  8. I wish more people would center their comments on the beautiful speakers of each Ted Talk like this brilliant woman

  9. But that is what Muslims try to do when they reach a country they take refuge in…. they try to take over the neighborhood and the democracy. Canada's becoming a live example. Not trying to be rude but trying to bring out the fact. Amal Kasir, muslims have worked hard and laid down their lives to get that name, kindly do no belittle their efforts that have gone in to bring humiliation to an entire community, that also includes my Muslim friends. Why can they not create a world where the mind is without fear and the head is held high.

  10. great i really loved it now the real question is yo Americans are sure you wanna call us those name anymore

  11. Sisters plz wear proper hijab. Hijab is not only for covering heads. Meaning of hijab is to cover whole body. Clothes should not be worn tht u r wearing

  12. Sister, you can get a platform only in Christian's countries so you should be thankful . Women should not expect any opportunity in muslim's countries.

  13. The majority of you negative people didnt even wtach this whole video i bet. Stop being so scared of people.

  14. Undoubtedly, one of the most amazing speeches I have ever watched.

  15. Amal you are the hope for humanity – bridging the divide, building an alliance of goodness and joining human hearts with clarity and wit . Continue spreading your message and your life will be blessed beyond measure

  16. @14:53 "I will show you Mecca" – If her religion weren't so backward then maybe we'd be able to visit Mecca ourselves instead of just being told about it!

  17. Because of Islamic terrorism, I cannot even take a toothpaste or water on a plane. That is the reality. There is no ifs and buts.

  18. I think she is from the future. That's deep…… Wooooooooo 😮😮😮😮😮

  19. Incredible, Impeccable, Imploding narrative, standing still all the while. Thank you……….

  20. I believe when someone follow religious beliefs blindly, it is easy to misguide them. Use common sense to follow your beliefs. Religious beliefs across the world have divided human. This is time to forget religion. I am really impressed by South Korea where 56% population is not affiliated with any religion. If you compare religion in East vs West, you will identify a big difference. First definition of religion derived from Judaism.

  21. I feel sorry about all children who are made to leave their homes with or without their parents, it is very difficult for them, but I would ask one question: why do all refugees from troubled countries in the Middle East or Africa go to the European countries? Why don't they go the the Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Egypt or other countries in their continents? Why do they go only to the European countries, or Europe? Is Europe the only sanctuary? That is why I don't agree with this politics because even Europe can not cope with all this impact of refugees.

  22. I really feel sorry about children refugees because they are forcefully made to leave their homes and to head to totally different countries with different customs and cultures. But also I would ask everybody WHY do all refugees, who originate from other continents from various reasons, mainly wars, come to Europe? WHY don't they go to countries of their own continents? When some country from Europe have some political problems, they do not go to Asia, or Africa, or America like refugees, they go to other countries in Europe. So, are there countries in Asia, Middle East and Africa which are rich? OFF COURSE YES. Then ask help from them because Europe cannot cope any more with so many refugees.

  23. I would also highly recommend this video: What does the Quran really say about a Muslim woman's hijab.

  24. SA

    Love your speech!

    If only all people knew this and the government acted normal. The world would be a better place!

  25. i have no words for such sweet and out standing speech really great may ALLAH bless yours life with happy es

  26. LOL. Airport random search reminds me doctor. Dao on United Airline. I have several friends who are Eastern Europeans told me that when their parents moved to USA, they had to change their last names to something like Smith to sound British for their job application. Hahahaha.

  27. I'm not American, but I'm sorry I have to ask this question. Why are you giving this speech in the USA? I believe most Americans already understand what you're saying. But do "most" Muslims in the Arab countries understand what you're saying? Do they accept Christianity or the Western cultures with open arms? Do you discuss cultural diversity in Arab countries? Do you think an American can give this kind of speech to Muslims in Arab countries? Educate Muslims in the Arab countries, not Americans who have already embraced cultural diversity wholeheartedly. Yeah, you say those terrorists are a few compared to the majority of Muslims. I think it's the same in America, a few racists compared to the majority of Americans.

  28. Press tv channel is banned(and others) so we can’t hear the other side of the story and form our own opinion.
    We are fed a story and an opinion by CNN, FOX NEWS, and THE BBC

  29. When showing the American terrorists, some people chose not to clap, I wonder why.

  30. Does this girl know that her voice is aorra? I don’t think so, she thinks she’s a Muslim but she doesn’t know that she presents sin. Her dress is revealing; sin. Her voice is a sin. Go learn your Quran before you preach how people should act. I am an ex Muslim and I know that your hijab isn’t Islamic!

  31. how many other ethnicities are blowing up buildings, openly cite there desire to murder all 'non believers'..

  32. Señorita esperanza Amal Kassir ¿Por qué matan los musulmanes a los cristianos? Orando en sus iglesias a Dios, el Dios en quien ellos creen? Me vas a matar solo porque yo le oro a mi Dios? Ustedes los musulmanes no son las mansas palomas que tú veniste a describir con tu risita tonta. Dí las dos caras de la verdad.

  33. when people only reflect the part of the picture that suits them then they actually perpetuate the whole problem. Is she saying that there are no terrorists and that there are no terrorist acts and that we should not be concerned – that is called burying your head in the sand. She is putting you under her judgement for you being judgemental , but what does she actually think of the terrorists directly and their Sharia agenda and remember there have been casualties. I am not saying that we should look on all Muslims as bad but one size does not fit all. Our job would be so much simpler if the good Muslims came out and distanced themselves from the ideologies of the bad – but the silence is deafening. With every action there will be a counter action of opposite force and a chasm will create the divide between two views and such words will pale in significance compared to terrorist actions.

  34. Through out all the 15:58 ….. i was remembering the history that i saw and that i learned….. a second by second scenario of all the history that happened since 1990 till now …. I finnaly understood everything…….

  35. The first thing I noticed about you was that you are desecrating my country’s flag and identity. I kept listening to your voice but could not take anything you were saying seriously. I couldn’t get past the idea that you insult my country. I leave with the knowledge that I am looking at my adversary.

  36. 🤗 Fantastic speech my dear daughter in Islam!
    I’d like to also stand there one day & read my “ Freedom” poem InshaAllah/ God willing .💫🙏🏻

  37. After this, i can say i still have faith in humanity… WE NEED PEOPLE LIKE HER TO START ENLIGHTENING OTHERS

  38. I get sick and tired of Islam and victimhood. Muhammad would not have liked it and I do not like it.



  41. Nobody like haters of any religion and if anybody insults others without reasonable issue then they pay for it. The Earth is mother for all of us and I know Muslims never insult others.

  42. Excuse me sister, but this is not a hidjab that you wear, hidjab does not show your chest details

  43. Not going to lie. This is some smug liberal rubbish. No.. there not going to take your mint because it looks like a drug pill. No , your not the elephant in the room. Your presence is insignificant and I think your just making it up now aren't you. Playing the victim for nothing.

    Show me your n word pass please. I doubt you have 1

  44. Wow mash Allah sister! Your presentation, words, voice, your pretty face and absolutely adorable lough hit me right in the ❤️ and I’m tearing out of joy! May Allah protect you and bless you and your family dear Hope 🌷

  45. 😂, my wife is from Beebee Town Iowa, population 100 farmers. They always ask her where you from? She says Iowa, they say No, where you come from? Beebee Town Iowa. They look so confused. I think she enjoys that a bit too much LOL.

  46. First you bomb them out then call them terrorist. People behave according to their own character.  So give them a middle finger if they deserve it, and tell them where they can go for help.

  47. Alle Amerikaner sind krank und isis und terror und Diktatur und gegen Islam
    Ich hasse alle Amerikaner

    Afghanistan Islam sind kaputt gemacht
    Afghanistan Islam ❤️

  48. Sister is presenting islam, but making a sister that is haram for a woman who is a muslim, and also how you are attracted to fear Allah

  49. This is a really powerful message. This really made my night. Thanks for sharing.

  50. برافوا برافوا امل
    جميله ومثقفه ووراقيه
    والله انا متأكده ان معظم الناس في ابعالم تعلم حقيقه الاعلام الكاذب
    الا المنافقون اللذين في قلوبهم مرض
    سواء من الشرق او الغرب
    ربي يثبتنا جميعا

  51. Amazing video. Perfectly said with such a beautiful tone. May Allahs swt bless you always and I pray you open many more hearts aameen. x

  52. Spoke well. Intelligently. I believe that she is peace loving fantastic person who is also religious. Let peace be upon her. But fear inside me is so profound that it prevents me from trusting people who look like this rather than those who look like that…

  53. Hmmm.. Arabs have a dry sense of humour and only the liberal white understand it… wish they don’t keep hashing the same old terrorist line.. it’s as if they have nothing else on their mind… 😖😖🧐🤨

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