Muslim Couple Found An Effective Way To Fight Islamaphobia After San Bernardino

“It was a lot of curiosity and a lot of joy."

When Sebastian Robins decided to convert to Islam, he had little idea about the challenges he'd be facing in a few short years.

In 2012, when he married his wife Mona Haydar, Islamophobia wasn't at nearly the level it is today, he says in a new Vox video. But the couple refused to sit back on their haunches while the problem got worse.

Instead, they decided to face it head on. Robins and Haydar recently set up a makeshift stand with signs that offered free doughnuts and invited people to have a conversation with a Muslim. Their slogan, "ask a Muslim," soon become a popular hashtag on social media. 

"We felt like we had to do something to replace some of that trauma with love and connection," Haydar said. "'How do we get people to talk to us?'" 

After the San Bernardino and Paris shootings, the couple had to brace themselves for what they knew would be a swift and angry backlash. In their Vox video, Haydar tells a story about being pregnant and having a stranger ask loudly enough for her to hear, "I wonder what she is hiding under there, I wish I could rip that fucking thing off her fucking head."

Even Robins, who wears fewer cultural signifiers of Islam, said he notices these things when he goes out. With his son, he said, the world is a "friendly and great place." But with his wife, who often wears traditional Muslim garb, he notices people are not shy about staring. 

Once they opened their stand, they tapped into a lot of love from strangers they had previously felt wary around. 

"The first person, this kid, walked up and said, 'I just wanted to let you know I'm Muslim and I think what you're doing is really cool,'" Robins said. 

During their time meeting strangers, they talked about everything: Islam, changing diapers, their dog, their kids, the Boston Red Sox, and more.

"It was a lot of curiosity and a lot of joy," says Haydar.

Check out the Vox video below:

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