Like an invisibility cloak, Latina Muslims find the hijab hides their ethnicity — from Latinos

Magdalena Al Omari, a Mexican American convert to Islam, slipped on the hijab and braced for whatever may come.

It happened a few months later, in the checkout line of a grocery store in Santa Ana.

“¿No tiene calor en esa cosa?” one woman asked another. Isn’t she hot in that thing?

Al Omari shot back, in perfect Spanish, that yes, it was quite a hot day in general. Aren’t you hot, she asked.

The Garden Grove resident had prepared herself for the suspicious looks and glares that would accompany her hijab — a powerful, conspicuous symbol of the Muslim faith. But Al Omari was surprised by another, unexpected consequence of wearing the headscarf: It had essentially erased her Mexican American identity for other Latinos.

“As time went on, people were not seeing me as being Latina,” the Tijuana-born Al Omari said. “They were seeing me as Arab.”

As a Latina Muslim, she’s among the fastest-growing ethnic group in Islam and at the intersection of three demographics spurned during President Trump’s nascent administration: women, Muslims and Mexicans.

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Chris Alexakis