Sarah Abukhdair is a 16 year-old Palestinian-American High School senior, born and raised in Orlando. Growing up she moved around a lot and went to about 8 different schools in the same town. She lives in Boston and loves singing.
So Sarah, growing up in Florida and then moving to Boston, a pretty “conservative” state, have you experienced more islamophobia in Florida or in Boston?
Growing up in Florida most people are welcoming and laid back, moving to Boston made me realized that not all people are sweet. Since I moved to Boston, I have experienced the worst of the worst. I’ve had a brick thrown at me in the city, and I’ve had my own peers at school call me a terrorist. I definitely feel like Boston has a higher level of racism than down south in Florida; I find the people up here more judgmental.
How difficult is it for young Muslims like yourself to stay true to their faith especially if you attend public school?
Attending public school has put me in uncomfortable situations where students would ask dumb questions like “do Arabs bomb themselves” or “you did 9/11” but honestly staying true to ourselves and our faith only makes us stronger and more wiser than those who are racist and islamophobic.
Was there a specific incident of islamophobia or racism that made you consider taking your hijab off? What made you want to keep it?
One time I had a brick thrown at me in the city, If I would’ve kept on walking, it would’ve landed on my head and I would’ve most likely ended up in the hospital with a concussion or worse. At school I was pushed once by another student and even called names more times than I can remember. I’ve also been denied admission into a 2-year Cosmetology Program because they claimed that my hijab was “a hazard.” All of these things made me consider taking my hijab off at one point, but the more I thought about it the more I realized the reasons why I put it on in the first place. That gave me the courage to keep it on and be proud to be Muslim.
Islamophobia is at an all time high in the country, How safe do you feel walking the streets on a regular basis when we are constantly hearing of Muslims being physically harassed and killed?
Islamaphobia is intense in the country right now. As a teenager I shouldn’t have to be afraid to go out of have to hear my mother tell me to be extra careful. It’s come to a point where my own mother thinks it’s not a good idea to be out after a certain time.
Finally your hadith (“You do not do evil to those who do evil to you, but you deal with them with forgiveness and kindness,” – Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) is about showing compassion and being the better person in any situation, how can all of us Muslims and non-Muslims apply this concept to combat islamophobia and racism in the country?
My Hadith shows forgiveness, something that anyone can relate to. Islam teaches kindness to everyone. Black or White, Christian or Jewish. We all share the same world and we should all feel safe and comfortable in it. No one should live in fear.