Basic Hijabi: We Talk to the Instagram Sensation About Her 40,000 Followers, Islamophobia and Being Muslim and American
We talked to Instagram wunderkind Touria Mrani-Talbi, the 17-year-old girl behind the popular Instagram account, @basichijabi.
Toria talks Islamophobic DMs, why she wears hijab, and the shock of having 40,000 followers before going to college.
Q: Let me just start by saying that I’ve been obsessed with your account, for a good long time. I just think it’s such a weird and brave thing that you’re doing.
BH: I’m 17, so I’m still in high school.
Q: Are you kidding me, you’re 17? That is incredible. Why did you start the account?
BH: I started as a political account, like an activist account. I’m still really into it, but like two years ago, I was a big activist. I wanted to go to rallies so bad. But then, I don’t know why, it turned into a meme account. It just kind of happened. I never post on the old account and I feel so guilty.
Q: I don’t think you should feel bad. It’s a cool thing that you’re doing. Did it start to pick up immediately once you switched?
BH: Maybe 6-7 months. I just wanted to post something that I thought was funny. Or that would make somebody smile.
Q: So, was it shocking when it started picking up?
BH: I was honestly so surprised. I did not expect that at all.
Q: So what was your parents’ reaction? You have 40,000 people who pay attention to what you write everyday. If I had a 17-year-old daughter, I’d be like, a little worried.
BH: Yes, my mom is so annoyed by it.
Q: (laughs) You should tell your parents to be less upset about it, because it’ll probably get you into college.
BH: (laughs) Hear that, Mom?
Q: Why’d you end up calling it @basichijabi?
BH: That was the first thing that popped into my head.
Q: Are you super basic?
BH: Yeah. I like Starbucks. Pumpkin spice, to be specific.
Q: Basic is a very cool way to say—I exist, I’m American, and I’m also covered.
BH: Even though I’m different, I’m also the same.
Q: Have you had a lot of harassment?
BH: There’s this app, Sarahah, where you can send anonymous messages. This person was telling me on there they were going to report my account, and I’m like, why would you tell me?
Q: Are they old-school Murica types, or Arabs who think you’re sacrilegious?
BH: Just a troll.
Q: Do you find that there’s any kind of trend with the posts that get reported? Are they more offended from the Muslim standpoint, or more, Islamophobia? Who do you get more flack from?
BH: The most crap that I get is from white supremacists. If you go on my story, there’s this one guy who told me I didn’t belong in this country. First of all, I was born here, so that makes me a citizen. Then he came out with the argument of the naturalization act of 1790, which only gave citizenship to white people.
Q: So, why are you on the anonymous app? (Sarahah). Seems like that would invite a lot of, well, what it has invited.
BH: It doesn’t get to me. I want to use my platform to address these kinds of things. To shed light on things. Maybe it’s a funny meme or maybe it’s something that’s happening in the world, or a Gofundme. Anything that can help.
Q: Amazing. Do you get a lot of support too?
BH: I get a lot. People apologize for islamophobic stuff other people say, people tell me they like the account. Even if I don’t respond, I actually do read all of my DMs. It lights up my day.
Q: Being covered for like 2-3 years, it’s kind of a weird time, considering the political climate in the States.
BH: At school, they won’t say it to your face, but in their groups they will talk about terrorists and stuff like that. They will say it behind your back. And I’m like, come on man, say it to my face, square up. (Laughs)
Q: Did things change for you, when you covered? Dating, social life, or just, anything—the way people talk to you?
BH: (laughs) When you said dating, my mom opened her eyes. Some people assume that we don’t speak English. This one guy started doing that thing, where you go—MY NAME IS…