Women Lead Pendidikan Seks
August 28, 2015

How to Deal with Islamophobia While Traveling Abroad

This traveler wants to know how to deal with people overseas who treat her differently because of her hijab.

by R.L.

Hi, my lovely Magdalene!
I'm so glad I discovered your website.
I really like to travel abroad, I have visited several places in East Asia, SEA, Middle East, and my last trip was USA. And obviously I plan to discover many more countries. I just decided to wear hijab lately, and I’ve found a major difference in how people treat me in different places before and after I wear hijab.
I wear quite modern hijab, but people still liked to stare, and some kids were even afraid to look at me, though some people were still nice and lovely, like the shopkeepers, etc. I understand some people's brains have been polluted by the media about people who cover their head. My question is not why people do that, Mag, but what should my attitude be? I am a nice person, I promise.
Thaaaaanks. Love you x

Dear B,
Islamophobia is alive and well, and growing. Last year's Pew Research showed that Americans view Muslims as the least liked people, below atheists.
But don't let this restrict your travel plans. If anything, you can show the world that painting 1.5 billion people with the same brush is, frankly, silly at best. Unfortunately, like it or not, you would have to be an ambassador for other Muslims and this means you have to be constantly at your best behavior.
When people look at you suspiciously or with scorn, smile at them warmly (but don't be too smiley to strangers, see local customs). Crack a joke or two to break the ice. Be open for discussion, as your hijab or faith would almost always come up in a conversation, once people warm up to you.
Be ready to stand your ground, politely of course, as people sometimes are just looking for justification and not answers. Talk about other things than religion, your passion for traveling or photography, for example, to show people that Muslims also have hobbies that don't involve killing infidels. Show people pictures of your family, your friends, pets. Food is always a good subject. Bring a bunch of postcards of Indonesia to give out to people.
Remember, even after you exhaust your charm, some people would still be bigots. It's their problem, not yours. But by being constantly paranoid and retreating into your own shell, there's such a thing called self-fulfilling prophecy. You don't want this.
Happy travels!
Follow R.L.’s adventures through her Instagram account @stelivena. 
Send your travel-related questions -- in English or Bahasa Indonesia -- to [email protected] with the subject 'The Ahasuerus Files' or tweet us @the_magdalene