Editor’s note: The following is a first person account of a sad but commonplace misconception in our troubled world. The incident took place the day before the 17th Anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. The victim was wearing a hijab.
Police called on a woman wearing her hijab
By Esma Ali
I am writing to inform you that I was humiliated today [Monday], while walking eastward on Foothill Boulevard at the crossing of Violet Avenue around noon today. After getting my cardiovascular workout, I stopped to visit my mother-in-law staying in one of the apartments on Foothill. I knocked on the wrong door. Residents saw me wearing my hijab, which is a Muslim headscarf, and therefore assumed that I am a suspicious person. Next thing I knew, I was detained by a Monrovia Police officer claiming that they got an anonymous caller stating that I am breaking into cars.
The officer said that I could not continue walking since I had been detained. Then a second Police SUV pulled up, stating that a caller said I was stealing mail in the neighborhood. After demanding my name and date of birth, the officers expressed apologies considering that I was carrying only a bottle of water and had no stolen goods in my possession. Basically, it was my head-scarf that aroused suspicion among the neighbors. We each need to take responsibility for the level of ignorance in our society. Today it is me, tomorrow it could be you targeted for some other reason resulting from unawareness.
Let me introduce myself to you. My name is Esma Ali and I have lived in the area for over 25 years with my family. Although, we currently reside in Arcadia, we have lived in Monrovia as well. My husband, Dr. Ali, is a cardiologist who has saved lives of many community members by healing their hearts at the Monrovia Hospital as well as Arcadia Methodist. Many locals have enjoyed good health, first thanks to God, then to my hard-working husband who tucks patients in bed as if they were his own parents.
Many community members have derived much benefit from me as well from my volunteer activities. There is a saying that “No good deed goes unpunished.”
Let me take you back a few years when we lived in Monrovia on Sunset Place near Foothill. I had a tea party and invited some neighbors over. I knocked on a door in front of my house to extend the invitation and the lady said, “Off my property lady.” That hurt me so badly; after all she was my own neighbor and no stranger. Then a few doors down, a couple would extend a mean look to me every time they saw me walk around the block. In fact, after moving to Arcadia, I would run into them occasionally in grocery stores and say hi upon seeing familiar faces, their mean looks continued.
Donald Trump cannot be blamed since he was not in power then. However, considering the degradation that I have faced today, Trump gets credited to some degree. Nevertheless, there is no excuse. One cannot live in bliss while his/her neighbor faces humiliation. We all need to brainstorm for solutions on how we can improve our society which promotes dignity for all. I think education is best. I speak at churches and schools and I encourage you all to attend. Bring a neighbor. Perhaps, you’ll end up bringing some of my old neighbors. See the Islam Q/A tab on my website, esmaali.com. I answered questions that people have on their minds, including why I wear the hijab, the head-scarf that caused so much havoc today.