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My friend and I are planning our first overseas trip together and we're trying to decide on where to go. We're from Malaysia and my friend is a Muslim who wears a hijab. We're considering going to the US because one of our other friends is going to university there. So we would probably like to see California, Las Vegas and Texas.

Given all the news out of the US right now with the new president and potential travel restrictions, is my friend who is going to look very Muslim, going to have any hassles being there?

Like I'm sure America is still a civilised country so I'm not thinking of violent assault or anything but this is intended as a holiday so is it going to be a positive, welcoming experience for her?

Will she likely get stared at or abused on the street?

Will she have lots of trouble going through Customs?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – RoflcoptrException Feb 24 '17 at 23:23
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    Due to many recent and ongoing changes with DHS procedure at airports, this question very badly needs to be separated into two separate parts: 1) "How are tourists (B-1 visa) from a Muslim-majority country currently being treated when entering the US via airport?" and 2) "How are tourists (B-1 visa) from a Muslim-majority country currently being treated when traveling internally within the US?" – smci Feb 27 '17 at 8:35
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Unfortunately, going through customs, there is a risk that Muslims will be asked invasive questions unrelated to legitimate security concerns. Consider the following two recent stories about ordinary Canadian Muslims denied entry to the United States after having their cell phones searched. One of them was asked about her religious practices and what she thought of Trump.

Canadian woman turned away from U.S. border after questions about religion, Trump

Canadian denied entry to U.S. after being questioned on mosque connections

Contrary to another answerer, I don't believe the reason we hear about these cases is because they're rare. The people who have the courage to come forward and tell their stories to the media are just the tip of the iceberg.

In any case, it's strongly advisable to leave your cell phone at home.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – RoflcoptrException Feb 24 '17 at 23:23
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    @reirab: In a small Canadian town, there is likely to be only one mosque, which means that attending the same mosque is not a meaningful connection. And no matter how well they might have known each other, the person who later went to fight for ISIS certainly wasn't doing so back then. – ruakh Feb 26 '17 at 2:03
  • Also, Muhammad Ali, Jr. (son of the famous boxer) and his mother were stopped by customs when returning from Jamaica recently because their names 'sounded Muslim', despite Jr. being an American citizen, born on US soil. – TylerH Feb 27 '17 at 16:03
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    Don’t you think leaving your phone at home will make you look suspicious? – Jonas Schäfer Feb 28 '17 at 11:47
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    "Privacy advocates say travellers who are concerned should leave their phones and laptops at home and buy a cheap phone once they arrive at their destination. The Council on American-Islamic Relations is also advising its members to do the same." Source: thestar.com/news/canada/2017/02/18/… – user49640 Feb 28 '17 at 13:50
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Yes, it is safe.

I have lived in the USA for over 30 years and the Washington, DC area for over 20 years, and I've never seen anyone accosted for being Muslim or wearing Hijab. People are still wearing Hijab on the street. 99.9+% of Americans have no interest in persecuting anyone over religion. It's just not something we do here.

The rare incidents that are reported on the news now and then make it onto the news because such incidents are rare. For each of these, a thousand kindnesses go unreported.

The few people who want to keep Muslims out of the country want you to think that they are powerful and have lots of support. They use fear because it's the only thing they have. Don't let them win.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Mark Mayo Feb 27 '17 at 4:13
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    You need to go to the Dulles arrivals terminal and talk to people there. I'm rather surprised a D.C. resident is unaware of what's been going on there. It's largely safe in the sense that ICE isn't shooting people, but there is a much greater rate of arbitrary detention and interrogation of non-whites by TSA and ICE than there has ever been in my lifetime. People have been and may continue to be denied entry or merely delayed to the point of missing flights. – Todd Wilcox Feb 27 '17 at 13:13
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    I believe your answer "it is safe" to be correct, but Washington, D.C. is hardly a representative sample. Can you say anything about visiting other areas where hijabs and other clothing that it not traditionally American are uncommon? – Readin Feb 28 '17 at 14:34
  • In DC, Cali and Las Vegas maybe. But If I was Muslim (or even Black) I wouldn't want to go with 100 miles of Alabama, or any Southern State. Hell, even as a white guy, I'd steer clear. – SGR Jun 2 '17 at 9:46
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It is almost certainly safe no matter where you go. You may be more likely to get looks and snide remarks in right-leaning areas that voted for Trump, but overall most people in this country aren't like that.

Pretty much any major city in the country is liberal leaning to moderate and would be statistically less likely to have people supporting the immigration ban. Perhaps if you were planning to spend lots of time in very small rural towns I would advise caution, but on the whole you don't have much to worry about.

That said, it is entirely possible someone will do something rude or upsetting, so be prepared for that possibility, but I would not call it unsafe. However this is something best answered by a Muslim who has been living in this country. I can't speak for them.

Regarding the local politics of the places you mentioned:

  • California cities are extremely liberal/tolerant, especially San Francisco.
  • Las Vegas, being Vegas, is accepting of all sorts of things, fairly liberal
  • Texas cities will be more varied. Austin is fairly liberal, Dallas is more moderate, but still voted for Clinton last year. But a smaller city like Midland or Amarillo will be very conservative

All that said, obviously a person can be conservative and fully embrace Muslim visitors and immigrants, and a liberal can be islamaphobic.

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    "Pretty much any major city in the country is liberal leaning to moderate and would be statistically less likely to have people supporting the immigration ban." You mean less likely to have a majority of people supporting the immigration ban. Pretty much any major city is statistically pretty much certain to have at least some people supporting pretty much anything. – David Richerby Feb 24 '17 at 9:34
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – RoflcoptrException Feb 27 '17 at 6:47
  • This answer could greatly benefit by dropping the political bias. It makes me wonder what the person providing the answer is basing it on because it seems to reflect common caricatures that liberals paint of conservative rather than any statistics or personal experience. – Readin Feb 28 '17 at 14:37
  • @Readin, Thanks for your input. I tried to remain non-partisan. It is statistically more probable a given individual will be a problem in an area where a lot of people voted for a candidate supporting a ban on immigration from Muslim countries, which was my intention. Obviously there are countless other reasons one might vote for Trump, and obviously only a very small %age of those voters would react outwardly rude or hostile upon seeing a Muslim . I tried to emphasize that with the final statement. I suppose I could have made that more clear. – Brian C Mar 4 '17 at 7:10
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Yes it is perfectly OK to travel to States during these times. I'm not a muslim but I have muslim friends who are devout and have traveled in the States from other countries during the past couple of months. I can just tell you that jerks will be jerks no matter where you go and you encounter such people sometimes, but it is rare, very rare. Depends on luck too. But as far as airports are concerned I asked my friends and you will be fine (I hope). If you are asked an extra question or two then just answer it like a normal person.

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    "just answer it like a normal person" What does that mean? – Brian Feb 24 '17 at 18:32
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    This is highly anecdotal – user48037 Feb 24 '17 at 20:58
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    @Brian What does that mean? it means you answer the question without, as we said back in the day, "making a Federal case out of it." – RonJohn Feb 24 '17 at 21:21
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Immigration/Customs is where you'll have the most problems. And potential checkpoints that are borderline illegal, especially if you're around certain places in Texas/New Mexico.

If you happen to go through an inland checkpoint, you can ask if you're being detained at least if you're interested in that, because in the US we require probable cause. Of course that's a white guy who isn't wearing a hijab. This guy had a different experience.

Aside from those, being a Muslim in the US should be pretty safe from most kinds of harassment. No doubt there will be looks and snide remarks, but for the most part people are at least tolerant, and many people are friendly. And there are loads of neat things to see in California, Las Vegas, and Texas (though right now California is going through a surprising amount of flooding - you should research and factor that into your travel plans)

  • Customs? Do you mean immigration? – David Richerby Feb 25 '17 at 18:49
  • @DavidRicherby quite. Though at least in the US I'm pretty sure the ICE officers change between customs and immigration fairly fluidly. – Wayne Werner Feb 25 '17 at 19:48
  • @WayneWerner quite false. ICE and CBP are two separate components of DHS. Officers cant simply switch between the two. Not saying it cant happen but it's not as fluid as you state. – djKianoosh Feb 27 '17 at 6:07
  • At internal checkpoints there's no requirement to have probable cause to detain someone for the purpose of determining immigration status. Once the immigration status has been determined, probable cause is required to prolong the detention. Rules surrounding the permissible length of detention vary from one appeals circuit to another; in particular the fifth circuit has looser rules than the ninth. – phoog Apr 6 '17 at 16:46
  • I've never hit what I was sure was a checkpoint, but a few years back they directed all traffic through a setup with a bunch of cameras and stopped some vehicles. Despite having 4 ethnic-Chinese passengers we were not stopped. It was dark enough I couldn't see which law enforcement agency was doing it. – Loren Pechtel Mar 23 '18 at 1:28
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If you want to look at it by numbers, absolutely you are statistically safer 'being visibly Muslim' than, say, riding in a motorized vehicle.

The number of incidents we hear about in the media are just that - an incident out of 318 million people. Obviously something could happen, but it is as likely in the United States as anywhere else.

There are mosques in almost any city in the United States - Not saying you would attend, I say this only as an indication that even in the small town I went to high school in conservative Texas had a mosque and nobody had a problem with it.

What you can do:

  • A number of Muslim and non-Muslim religious institutions have resources for Muslims. Look up a local mosque or, as of 2016, an ELCA Lutheran Church (among many others) for resources and information. This also includes notes on safety.
  • Occasionally, if you're not sure, ask questions: you're at the entrance to a restaurant and you don't know the vibe, simply ask: "I'm in a hijab, do you think it is safe to come into this restaurant?" I worked in Abu Dhabi for a decade, and my friends who were girls have said anecdotally that this was failproof: they even got extra accommodation - free appetizer, etc. and knew from the attitude of the host whether they would be safe: they always felt welcome.
  • Do what you'd do in any travel situation; stay safe, don't walk alone at night, watch your wallet, and avoid bad areas of town.
  • If someone asks, innocently and not aggressively, about the hijab, be kind and generous with information to help them in their ignorance. It goes a long way.

Your greatest dangers are those that you'll experience traveling anywhere.

The first country to recognize the US was Muslim. There is a Quar'an in the White House. There just happens to be a few people among the hundreds of millions who are given a voice to promote their hateful agenda.

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I am an American, living in a part of the country (New York City) whose liberalism rivals Europe's. There are TONS of people with hijabs here and someone who wears one wouldn't even need to take special precautions in NYC. Although customs is subject to executive orders, not a lot has changed since the election about the way people with hijabs are treated once they arrive in NYC.

America is a very diverse country, and people are also diverse in their political views and regional identities. Currently, the greatest political divide in the United States is between the cities (which tend to be more comfortable with diversity) and rural areas (which tend to be uncomfortable with outsiders). Donald (Trump) is very unpopular in NYC and other major cities, and the vast majority of urban Americans did not support him. In fact, many openly protested him. However, Donald won many counties in my state, especially rural counties.

If your friend does leave the cities and suburbs she might turn a few heads, but people will tend to be friendly and welcoming—possibly friendlier and more welcoming than they are in urban centers. They're generally more afraid of people who stay and threaten their accustomed way of life than of people who pass through. One of my friends, who is from a quiet part of South India, has told me how much he loves rural Virginia.

Having said this, I can understand the perspective of one comment that you might want to boycott the U.S. right now. After unleashing this monster on the world, we really deserve it.

  • "If your friend does leave the cities and suburbs she might turn a few heads" I suggest you change that to "she will definitely turn a few heads". Outside of the major immigration areas, hijabs are pretty rare. At the very least she will find small children openly staring at her. A few older children and adults will likely stare too but will try not to be obvious about it. That said, a hijab in the heartland will likely draw less sneering and dirty looks than a cowboy hat and overalls in Washington D.C.. – Readin Feb 28 '17 at 14:33
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I can only speak from my own experience, but I live in Idaho, one of the most conservative states. As such, I also personally know a fair number of people with anti-Muslim sentiments. That being said, my experience is that most people who dislike the idea of Muslims are more curious and welcoming in practice. This is anecdotally supported by my association and friendship with Muslim colleagues at my workplace, which is international and has hundreds of Malaysians who live here on site, many of whom are visibly Muslim. Despite living in an area with reportedly high anti-Muslim sentiments, they have all expressed how much they love it here and claim the people here are very nice.

Will you be heckled or harassed? Who knows? Probably not, though. I doubt you have any higher chance of being harassed than any other Christian country. For what it's worth, I, and most people I know, would immediately jump to your aid if some bozo decided to make an issue out of your presence here.

TL;DR You're not going to find any useful empirical data on your safety in traveling here. Anecdotes are a poor substitute for data, but that's all anyone is going to be able to offer. I say go for it.

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Given all the news out of the US right now with the new president and potential travel restrictions, is my friend who is going to look very Muslim, going to have any hassles being there?

Not really, there are muslims everywhere. If you stay in urban areas you are less like to have any hassles.

Like I'm sure America is still a civilised country so I'm not thinking of violent assault or anything but this is intended as a holiday so is it going to be a positive, welcoming experience for her?

It should be. No one can speak for all people you might pass by, but you should be good in all cities/states you mentioned.

Will she likely get stared at or abused on the street?

Stared - yes. Abused - I'd say there is a chance, but it's less than 1%. Just ignore stares and enjoy your time.

Will she have lots of trouble going through Customs?

Can be. Just answer politely, don't get nervous and be honest. You should be fine.

I see muslims praying during a lunch break in Midtown, Manhattan with 100s people walking around. No problem at all. No one is bothering them. I can speak up for other parts of the country.

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