The Muslim on the airplane | Amal Kassir | TEDxMileHighWomen


Translator: Rhonda Jacobs
Reviewer: Peter van de Ven Whenever I travel, I carry a little metal box
of Altoids mints because after a four-hour,
7 AM flight, everyone has bad breath, so almost anyone
is willing to take the mint from the Muslim on the airplane. (Laughter) And I know I’ve been successful
when my neighbor turns and asks, “So, what’s your name?” You see, even if there was
an elephant in the room, I’m still the elephant in the room. (Cheer) Yeah! When an elephant
offers you mints on an airplane, I’m fully aware that
it’s not always easy to accept, so when the courageously curious
do pop the what’s-your-name question, I try to make it worth their while. (Laughter) My name is Amal. It means ‘hope’ in Arabic. Most days my name is waitress
at my family’s Damascus restaurant, full-time university student
and then some, pre-law, world traveler, 11 countries. My name is I’ve performed poetry
in eight of those countries. (Cheers) (Applause) International spoken word poet,
unapologetic Muslim woman. Syrian, American, hijabi,
activist, social justice advocate. My name is writer, teacher,
Colorado-born Mile High baby! (Laughter) (Applause) But at the airport,
my name is random search. (Laughter) And on the street, it’s terrorist, sand nigger, raghead, oppressed, and on the news, it’s ISIS, jihadi, suspect, radical. My name is, “Could your Muslim
neighbor be an extremist?” My mama, who wears the hijab,
the Islamic headdress, is often referred to as
“Go back to you country,” but she’s from Iowa! (Laughter) And her nickname is Lisa Pizza. (Laughter) And it does not take more
than a couple questions to figure out that her country
is the Council Bluffs cornfields. (Laughter) But, how would someone
know this without asking? They say the shortest distance
between two people is a story. Well, I elaborate on that to say
that the greatest distance you can travel in the shortest amount of time,
is by asking someone their name. The way we name ourselves
is a reflection of who we are, our declarations, family histories,
the things we believe, the morals we abide by,
our homes, cultures, transformations. Like a Mohammed turned Mo,
or a Lisa Pizza turned Iman. And how we name others, and how,
if, we allow others to name themselves is a reflection of our own declarations, of our courage, and our fear. The malleability of a person’s story
must be self-determined, coming from the lips of the storyteller, not the anchorman, not the megaphone, not even the scarf on her head
or the melanin in his skin, because no one can speak
the names of billions in one breath, unless it’s in prayer, and oftentimes when we generalize,
it isn’t because we’re praying. And when we don’t ask someone their name,
we’re not asking for their story. In the world of mass media
and rampant misinformation, it is hard for anyone, including myself, to deconstruct all these
terrifying stories that we hear. Sometimes, instead of isolating them,
individualizing them, we tend to paint a group of people
with a broad brush, until suddenly, everyone with a hijab on
is a raghead that needs liberating, or everyone with white skin
is a racist cracker, or everyone with black skin
is a fatherless nigger, or everybody who looks like my father
is going to blow up the airplane, or if the killer had a light complexion,
he’s just a mentally fragile lone wolf. And we come to this point where we feel like we don’t even need
to ask people their names because we already gave it to them. In Europe right now,
a monumental name change is taking place that has completely transformed
a humanitarian responsibility. Countries are deporting refugees, but when you watch news coverage, these refugees
are being referred to as migrants. Because let’s face it, deporting migrants
sounds way more reasonable than deporting individuals
who have been forced to flee their country because of persecution,
war, and violence – the United Nations definition of refugee. (Applause) And in naming these people this way, we’ve attributed to them a choice
instead of a circumstance, some economic gain instead
of a desperation to flee a war zone. These little ones
are refugees, not migrants. I took this photo last year
at a refugee camp on the Syrian-Turkish border,
and contrary to popular belief, they aren’t poisons. They’re not here to steal our democracy
or to take over our neighborhoods. They’re people, families who wish that they could go home but have had to make
that home somewhere else. And we’ve come to this point,
where the word ‘migrant’ essentially means piles of brown,
foreign-speaking people, and we end up forgetting
that there was a point where some people would’ve considered
those who looked like this to be migrants as well. (Applause) Right, though? (Applause) And it is in this forgetfulness
that we assume, monopolize on people’s stories,
attribute their race, social class, religions, clothing to the names
that we chose for them. Terrorism is a fine
modern-day example, unfortunately. In the past few years, so much violence
has just spread across our country, but when you watch the news,
there’s always a specification as to whether or not
terrorism was involved, which I think we all know
means the killer looked like this. [Arab dude] Which… (Laughter) He’s a babe! Which must mean… (Laughter) Which must mean that the killer,
of course, pledges his allegiance to this. [ISIS] Right? But correct me if I’m wrong, news coverage
does in fact tend to be a little different when the terrorist looks like this. [Robert Dear, Planned Parenthood Shooter] (Applause) And it ultimately
has us forgetting that terrorism, by definition of terrorism, has always come in all shapes [Ku Klux Klan] and colors. [Timothy McVeigh, Oklahoma City Bomber] (Cheers) (Applause) And what happens when we confine
certain names with certain depictions, wrongfully excluding some
and including others, we end up caging masses of people
under a name that says ‘dangerous,’ even if they’re nowhere near it. Like when we say ‘thug’
instead of 17-year-old black child. [Trayvon Martin] When we say ‘alien’
instead of ‘immigrant.’ When we say ‘lazy poor people’
instead of ‘unequal wealth distribution.’ When we say ‘bomb’ instead of ‘clock.’ [Ahmed Mohammad, clock inventor] (Applause) (Cheers) This man’s name is Craig Hicks. He’s often referred to
as a parking dispute, but his real name is a man who shot
and killed three Americans in their homes, in their heads, execution style
because they were Muslim. His name is hate crime. Their names are Deah, Yusor, and Razan, a 23 year old, 21, and 19. Deah and Yusor were just named
husband and wife, newlyweds, and the three were known
by their loved ones as sons and daughters, brothers,
sisters, students, activists, Instagrammers, tax payers, Americans. But now, their names
are too young to have been taken, their names are rest in peace,
Allah Yerhamo. Hicks did not ask them their name. He assigned it to them
when he assigned them each a bullet, named them a threat to his America,
and as a result, took their lives. This is a photo
on Deah and Yusor’s wedding day. It’s so beautiful. They were killed
before they could even see this. Studies show that during
breaking news coverage, the first story is the one
that sticks, even if it isn’t true. Like during the Paris attacks, when there was talk
that refugees were dangerous because they found a passport, only to later confirm that there were
no Syrians or refugees involved. But when we have such
a huge habit of misnaming people, it’s easy to overlook
these kinds of mistakes. And this is exemplary
of what happens in a culture of fear. In a society that doesn’t ask
one another their names, you end up with the mouth of an anchorman or the mouth of a gun
doing all the talking. On September 11th, 2001, I attended a private K-8 Islamic school, and within the first hours of the tragedy, my school received two bomb threats. The word ‘terrorist’
was not on my spelling list, but all of us kids picked it up
pretty soon after. And in naming us terrorists
amidst this mass tragedy that affected us as Americans too, in the words of Dalia Mogahed, we were not just mourners,
but we were suspects as well. But, a few months ago, me and my very handsome,
white-boy-looking brother named Usama were at the museum
buying planetarium tickets, and an elderly white man
walked up to me and said, “I’m sorry about everything
you must be going through right now. I want you to know that not all Americans
believe what these buffoons are saying.” (Applause) “Yeah, he used the word ‘buffoons!'” (Applause) And he said, “I want you to know
that we stand by you.” Now, had I not been wearing
a little piece of my identity on my head, he wouldn’t have known to tell me this. And even though he didn’t ask me
what my name was, he instead told me his. I have learned from experience
that when someone really wants to know, they will be willing to cross
that threshold of fear and find out that my name means hope. And then, they’ll have the courage
to ask the much more important questions that probably only I can answer, like, “What’s that thing on your head? Were you forced to wear it? Are all Muslims really violent people? Does the Quran
really say to kill all of us? Can you please tell me
what’s up with ISIS?” And these questions,
though seemingly uncomfortable, are how I know that I have been humanized, and are how the courageously curious
know that really, I’m only as scary
as the silence fear festers in. Upon meeting someone new,
we ask their names. We do not assign it to them. And with that name, we are given ancestry, bloodlines and dialects, books and poems, perspectives, wars, struggles,
and survival stories. “What’s your name?”
is such a short distance to cross, but when you ask me, oh, buddy! I will take you from Kuala Lumpur
to Barcelona to Beirut. We’re going to go to Damascus,
to Sydney, to Trinidad and Tobago. I will show you Mecca, my closet with 70-plus
international scarves, the graves of my 31 family members
who’ve been killed in Syria, the coffee shop that I hang out at
and do my homework. But we must have the courage
to claim our curiosity, to go beyond anything we ever knew,
anything we ever feared. But it takes two: the elephant who offers the mint and the one who takes it. (Applause) (Cheers)


97 Responses

  1. Jai Hind

    September 17, 2019 10:00 pm

    She is a non Muslim by thought but a Muslim by custom and rituals, these people are real hurdle to solve terrorism.. they confuse everyone… these people need to leave Islam.

  2. basic core

    September 17, 2019 10:52 pm

    …// .. List of Killings in the Name of Islam:
    Last 30 Days (August- September 2019)

    During this time period, there were 104 Islamic attacks in 19 countries, in which 494 people were killed and 685 injured.
    The religion of "peace": Muslim on Muslim


    An average of 74 men, women and children were killed every day in Afghanistan throughout the month of August (2019), the BBC has found.

    The deadliest day for civilians was 18 August, when 112 people lost their lives. Most died in a single incident when a suicide bomber killed 92 people and injured 142 at a wedding in Kabul.

    The Afghan security force casualties: .. 45,000 members of the security forces had been killed fighting the terrorists since late 2014.


    The Hiuties in Yemen, representing the “true Islam” were established in 1990’s . the Houthis' slogan "God is great, death to the US, death to Israel, curse the Jews, and victory for Islam", became the group's trademark.

    The UN report on Yemen: At least 7,290 civilians have died and 80% of the population – 24 million people – need humanitarian assistance or protection, including 10 million who rely on food aid to survive.

  3. toyba worku

    September 18, 2019 5:37 am

    I’m watching you Many times like water. I’m Drink water Every day. And I will see you again you made me cry a lot you are so beautiful and beautiful thank you so much!!!we need you we need more your video
    May Allah bless you and your family.

  4. Phoenix Lord

    September 19, 2019 10:52 am

    I may not be Muslim, but as an Asian who is going through so much

    I understand her words and I will take those words as inspiration.

  5. basic core

    September 21, 2019 1:47 am

    …// .. TED should ask Asia Bibi from Pakistan to stage and her horrific ordeal dealing with peaceful Muslims.

  6. Kilocharlie33

    September 21, 2019 2:16 am

    Would be better to return Muslims to the land of their DNA origins, the western world is something they only want to loot and enslave the population under a brutal regime, this is clearly seen when looked at worldwide view.

  7. basic core

    September 21, 2019 2:25 am

    …// .. And if only the …. ISIS, Al-Quida, Taliban, Hamas, Hizbullah, Boko-Haram, Al-Nusra,, Abu Sayyef, Al-Badr. Muslim Brotherhood, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Palestine liberation Front, Jemaah Islamiyah, Abdullah Azzam Brigades .. would wear the "red-white and blue",.. Ahh,.. problem solved as far as TED is concerned.

  8. Gunther Vincent

    September 21, 2019 9:10 am

    Please beware. A hijab is a religious choice ONLY where there is RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, meaning here and a few other places on Earth (of which NONE is Muslim as far as I know)…

  9. J

    September 21, 2019 10:56 pm

    An example of cowardice.. she doesn't want to talk about Muslim Women because in doing so she must critique Islam and Muslim Men. She's wants to talk about islamophobia and general sexism instead because this requires no introspection of her religion/culture and she gets to criticise western society instead.

  10. Hope Stropoli

    September 23, 2019 3:04 am

    She’s amazing I love her. My name is Hope so that’s even cooler. I love her message and her personality and her speech was sublime.

  11. stephen raj

    September 23, 2019 10:58 am

    i asking one question …….why muslim refugees didnt go to rich saudi arabia or uae or oil wealth muslim countries ? why they want to go to europe and america or canada? ….then why they want to attack their shelters? …..i dont understand.

  12. stephen raj

    September 23, 2019 11:05 am

    i asking one question …….why muslim refugees didnt go to rich saudi arabia or uae or oil wealth muslim countries ? why they want to go to europe and america or canada? ….then why they want to attack their shelters? …..i dont understand.

  13. Мika Mika

    September 23, 2019 4:22 pm

    It’s my third time of watching this video! I am so in love with Amal’s performance! She is soo cute and I totally agree with everything she said about Muslims. She is the best speaker in Ted Talks !!!!

  14. Gizmologist1

    September 24, 2019 4:42 am

    Started off on the wrong foot with me by desecrating the American flag. I freely admit I wuill NEVER ever trust ANY muslim. They did that to themselves. The imbeciles listening to her do not even realize that she is insulting them and the USA right in front of them.

    All you need to remember about islam is the word taquiyya. It is the islamic practice of lying about ANYTHING to anyone with the sole purpose of promoting islam.

  15. Teri Lynn Varner

    September 24, 2019 11:03 pm

    Outstanding TedTalk Amal Kassir. It takes two. I will be sharing your wealth of life experiences and wisdom in my classes this semester. Thank you for Being YOU.

  16. Türk Kahvesi

    September 26, 2019 5:59 pm

    Islam is not terrorism,our religion never commands us to kill people.Terrorist organizations are not muslim.

  17. Bob Haughey

    September 28, 2019 7:43 am

    Ah, wrapping one's head in a dishcloth. dressing oneself in a potato sack is the beginning, of that wondrous reverting process. A process that takes the empty but levelhead individual out of this modern world of ours all the way back to the 7th century, to becoming a camel riding, tent dwelling, sword wielding, throat slitting desert crossing Arabian want tobe! Oh, to dream of such Arabian knights, their called a thousand and one nightmares! May His Camels Peace Be Upon Your Tent.

  18. dante dante

    September 29, 2019 2:52 am

    So much beautiful words. And before anything else, I'd like to say that I fully agree with her. The problem comes with Orientals not being so "open-mind". You would never hear things like that coming from them. I mean, it's always Muslims raised in occidental countries who give speeches like this.
    You will never see a Pakistani applauding another Pakistani speaking like she does in this video.

  19. Michael Quirk

    September 29, 2019 9:53 am

    What's wrong with islamophobia (an aversion to Islam, a man-made ideology) ? It's similar to anti-communism, that's all…..

    But at least communism doesn't dictate how to enter a toilet…… what clothes to wear or what to eat/drink etc.

    If criticising, condemning and rejecting an ideology isn't allowed it's fascism………
    Believers who cannot tolerate criticism and rejection are weak…. hence the recourse to violence instead of argument….

  20. Michael Quirk

    September 29, 2019 9:53 am

    What's wrong with islamophobia (an aversion to Islam, a man-made ideology) ? It's similar to anti-communism, that's all…..

    But at least communism doesn't dictate how to enter a toilet…… what clothes to wear or what to eat/drink etc.

    If criticising, condemning and rejecting an ideology isn't allowed it's fascism………
    Believers who cannot tolerate criticism and rejection are weak…. hence the recourse to violence instead of argument….

  21. Shukri Siri

    September 29, 2019 3:30 pm

    This girl is so full of energy n lights up the stage with her captivating presence..we all could sit for hours listening to her talk n talk..

  22. Mustybone666

    September 30, 2019 11:35 am

    Amal provided 15 minutes of finger pointing to a largely American audience (clapping like Pavlovian lap dogs every time an overused cliché Liberal talking point was uttered)
    without the slightest criticism of Islam or Arab politics.

  23. Michael Jefferson

    October 2, 2019 6:51 am

    Let's face the facts, if a Muslim in a hijab shouts "Akbar Allah" on plane you're half expecting an explosion to follow.

  24. big b

    October 4, 2019 1:49 pm

    Whatever but you are follower of Islam. Which advocate hate and violence. And your defination is Muhammad prophet is your perfect man and you have to follow it. So stop your Islamic propaganda behind your fancy expression and bubbly girl mascot. Stop fooling people by using taqiya. Instead of taunting others do little introspection. You guys killed millions of people on name of Allah and crying victims? That's really outrageous.

  25. mikail karli

    October 5, 2019 2:46 pm

    Bu tür üst düzey konuşmaların yapıldığı platformlarda konu İslam olunca lütfen ama lütfen kılık kıyafetinize dikkat ediniz. Çünkü İslam her şekilde en güzeli ile temsil edilmelidir.

  26. climbeverest

    October 6, 2019 11:25 am

    Because you do dress like an elephant, she is crazy, please make your place look like Arabia, please do not think, Quran has thought of everything for you 1700 years ago

  27. Steven Zombie

    October 7, 2019 8:07 am

    Why do "They" always play the victim role in Western countries.. In your native land, you have no voice, you will be forbidden to speak to anyone… In Western countries, you are free to do whatever you want without someone telling you the "Do's" & "Don't s". …

  28. Saad Alamri

    October 7, 2019 8:20 pm

    Such young lady is a shining example of real Muslim who can express themselves very well so others can comprehend that we’re all alike “Human Begins “

  29. Ranfer

    October 8, 2019 4:33 am

    What a lie, what a comedy show. Always Tedx Talks promotes cult of Islam. Who wants learn Islam?
    YT Channel – The Arabian Prophet/message of love/sheikh yourbooty
    Skype – debateTV

  30. Gunther Vincent

    October 8, 2019 1:34 pm

    Could a Christan girl do this finger-pointing TED talk in a Muslim country ? Could Amal herself do this same finger-pointing TED talk in a Muslim country ?

  31. Dee pak

    October 12, 2019 5:09 am









Leave a Reply