Covering the Election While Muslim: NPR’s Asma Khalid, in Her Own Words

"Donald Trump did not create the fear of Muslims; he merely tapped into it."

NPR campaign reporter Asma Khalid‘s account of her time on the campaign trail begins with a language warning. The warning isn’t for language Khalid uses, but for the quotes she includes in her piece, including in her opening:

Sometime in early 2016 between a Trump rally in New Hampshire, where a burly man shouted something at me about being Muslim, and a series of particularly vitriolic tweets that included some combination of “raghead,” “terrorist,” “bitch” and “jihadi,” I went into my editor’s office and wept.

Khalid wears a headscarf, making her “visibly, identifiably Muslim,” which led some of her interview subjects to respond with open hostility, to the point where Khalid would occasionally do interviews without her headscarf. Not all voters were hostile; some would invite Khalid into their homes or on outings. “Maybe it was cathartic for them, I don’t know,” she writes.

Khalid’s reporting mandate was to cover, as she describes it, the “the intersection of demographics and politics,” a job that led her to speak to voters all across the country, and not specific to any one candidate. Khalid noted that some of her strange interactions with interviewees pre-dated Trump’s entry into the race. “Donald Trump did not create the fear of Muslims; he merely tapped into it,” she writes.

For reporters who have discussed their experiences covering the campaign, a common refrain has been that they did not want to become part of the story. For women and journalists of color covering the campaign, that has often meant staying silent when being addressed or singled out on the basis of their gender, ethnicity, race and religion. So it was for Khalid. To effectively report, her identity as a journalist had to supersede her identity as a Muslim, even when, in the eyes of many of her subjects, her identity as a Muslim superseded her identity as a journalist, or “Hoosier, tennis fiend, fashion-obsessed journo,” any of the things she is beside her religion.

Read the entire piece here.