The Top Issue in American Life After 9-11: Head Scarves for Muslim Women

The Times gets its priorities straight, leading off a set of features on 9-11 with a story on a Muslim woman's struggle with her headscarf, under the subhead "Religious Bias.

Thank goodness the New York Times is around to keep Americans from indulging in virulent anti-Muslim bias - though it's good at finding examples of it seemingly everywhere.

The paper marks the upcoming 5th anniversary of 9-11 with five different slice-of-life featurettes compiled in Friday's "Echoes of 9/11 Define Life 5 Years Later."

Neil MacFarquhar leads off the series with "It's a SimpleScarf, but Its Meaning Is Much More Than Faith," which comes under the heading "Religious Bias." That's apparently the central issue for the Times five years after 9-11.

MacFarquhar begins: "Everything seemed to be going well, recalled Dena al-Atassi, a young college student planning a career as a diet consultant, until her prospective boss caught sight of the head scarf she wears as a devout Muslim."

The story is accompanied by a dramatic picture of al-Atassi, and there's another one on the front page, in the Inside Box.

"'She said something like, What the heck is that on your head?' Ms. Atassi said in an interview at a recent Muslim conference in Chicago. 'I don't remember the exact words, but I will always remember the derogatory tone.'"

If poking fun at someone's headwear is the most intolerant example the Times can find of anti-Muslims bias after five years, then America is clearly the most tolerant country that has ever existed.

Here's one sign (not in the Times) that Dena al-Atassi may not be totally impartial on political matters: She endorsed the hard-left anti-war protest group ANSWER's " Call for United Mass Action," a list including leftists lowlights like Rep. Cynthia McKinney and the National Lawyers Guild.

MacFarquhar soldiers on to make something out of very little: "Before Sept. 11, Muslim women who wore head scarves in the United States were often viewed as vaguely exotic. The terrorist attacks abruptly changed that, transforming the head scarf, for many people, into a symbol of something dangerous, and marking the women who wear them as among the most obvious targets for those who deem the faith threatening."

But MacFarquhar is avoiding the issue: What specifically makes Americans feel threatened isn't Islam, but Islamic terrorism.

"The head scarf stayed off for eight months. But she said she felt like a hypocrite as, bareheaded, she waged a campaign against anti-Muslim stereotypes at the University of Central Florida, where she is chairwoman of the Florida chapter of the Muslim Students Association. After she began wearing a head scarf again, she said, death threats and other offensive telephone calls salted with expletives started the very next weekend."