Fort Worth- During the 2014 Republican State Convention in Fort Worth, an aspiring journalist from the University of Texas in Arlington had a very chilling experience when covering the story.
Heba Said, 22, is a senior at her university and opinion editor of her school paper, The Shorthorn. After applying for her media credentials, she attended the Texas GOP convention to cover panel discussions with delegates.
As a follower of Islam, Said attended the convention wearing a hijab, which got her a number of stares and reactions the young journalist was not expecting and deemed quite disturbing.
“I cannot believe how a piece of cloth made from cotton and polyester can instill so many misconceptions in people,” wrote Said in a Shorthorn article recounting her experiences.
During her two-day experience covering the event, Said claimed the people she encountered used terms like “you people,” and “y’all Muslims” numerous times and she referred to their general reaction as almost a “cult-like hatred.”
After discussing with one candidate whether there were Muslim outreach plans, I almost didn’t feel like I was allowed to be American, as if what he said stripped me from my American identity. He asked me where I was from. When I responded, “Texas,” he asked me where I was really from, as if there were no way it could possibly be from Texas.
Said also mentioned seeing Senator Ted Cruz and approaching him for a picture and possibly a statement.
As I waited for [Senator Cruz] to return from a phone call so that I could grab some photos to tweet out, a police officer nearby came up to me and said hello. I responded hello. A normal interaction, I guess. Shortly after, I found five police officers behind me, hands on holsters watching me intently. Armed with a press badge and an iPhone, I turned to them held up my media credentials and asked if I could help them with something, as my heart tried to escape my chest. They did not respond but broke up into groups of two and continued watching me.
In spite of the icy experience, Said remains optimistic and plans to continue with her aspirations. In an interview with Yahoo News, she said “because this happened, it means that there’s not enough diversity out there. …it’s encouraged me.”
When Said graduates next year, she will have a bachelor’s degree in political science with a minor in Arabic. Afterward, she hopes to either attend law school or graduate school, ultimately becoming a political correspondent.