Fatima Hye says she can understand why WorldFest founder Hunter Todd asked to search her — and only her — backpack after a fire alarm went off during a film production seminar on Saturday.
“I do know that, you know, the attacks at the [Boston] Marathon had happened recently and stuff, and you know, I’m just not a very insensitive person. I know that people are going to react that way.”
Hye wears a hijab — a scarf covering her hair — and a niqab, which covers her face except for her eyes.
She says she was surprised by Todd’s actions and doesn’t think they were appropriate for an international film festival in a diverse city like Houston.
The incident was reported by several Houston news outlets after another student contacted the media.
Hye says she can’t remember the last time she felt discriminated against because of her Muslim appearance but that it must have been years ago.
Mustafaa Carroll is with the Houston chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. He says the terrorist attacks in Boston contributed to a heightened level of Islamophobia.
“We’ve had stereotyping of Muslims, it’s been going on. It hasn’t died out. But when you have a major incident like this one, it ramps up the fear again.”
Todd has issued a statement, in which he says, “WorldFest apologizes for responding in a way that may have seemed insulting but ultimately, everyone’s safety was the primary concern.”