A Muslim woman offered Cambridge passersby a chance to ‘Talk to a Muslim’

She came equipped with Dunkin’ Donuts, of course.

–Mona Haydar

If you walked past a booth advertising “Talk to a Muslim,’’ what snippets of conversation would you expect to hear? Considering the turmoil in the U.S., accusatory sentiments or even vitriol would not seem out of line.

But when Mona Haydar and her husband, Sebastian Robins (also Muslim), stood outside a Cambridge library recently advertising just that—a chance to “Talk to a Muslim’’—passersby talked to them about “the Red Sox, climate change, swimming—whatever,’’ Haydar told The Boston Globe.

Haydar came equipped with cartons of coffee and boxes of sweets from Dunkin’ Donuts, and wore a traditional hijab while she stood outside the library for several hours. In that time, she and her husband told the Globe that they spoke to more than 100 people.

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Though there were some tense conversations (Haydar said she knows people are curious about her experiences as a Muslim woman in the U.S.) and some people who walked by and avoided eye contact (she said she knows they have places to be during the holiday season), most of the interactions were just small talk, Haydar told the Globe.

Haydar said she was inspired by a similar act called “Talk to an Iraqi’’ that was featured in a 2008 episode of This American Life. After creating a Facebook post detailing her experience, Haydar wrote another post about how she heard from people who have wanted to start their own “Talk to a Muslim’’ booths.

In that post, she gave some tips, from “Choose a very public and well trafficked area,’’ to “above all else….SMILE!!!!’’

I've heard from a lot of folks that they want to try the "Talk to a Muslim" booth idea or that they already have! I'm so...

Posted by Mona Haydar on Sunday, December 20, 2015

Haydar’s original post, with pictures of herself and Robins, outside the library has since been shared more than 8,000 times on Facebook. Through the experience, she wrote, the takeaway was clear:

“The world is a good and beautiful place with small pockets of hatred here and there. There is an overwhelming amount of love and so remember this post when you are faced with bigotry and hatred towards you or your faith. Remember that you have supporters too. When you are faced with difficulty, remember that ease is right around the corner. Remember that you are as American as apple pie.

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“And I ask you now, since we did this in Cambridge right near the cafe where in Good Will Hunting Matt Damon asks, ‘How bout them apples?’ How about em?’’

Today I stepped out of my comfort zone and stood out in a public space holding a box of donuts in front of signs that my...

Posted by Mona Haydar on Friday, December 18, 2015

Read the full story in the Globehere.

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