To discuss whats happening in the Muslim world and what can we do about it.
Monday, 5 September 2011
Hispanic woman who converted to Islam experiences prejudice from fellow East Harlem residents
Julissa Fikrigrew up inEast Harlem- and never thought she'd hear hateful words in her own neighborhood about converting to Islam.
"As soon as I started wearing [the hijab] I got a lot of stares," said Fikri, 27, who was raised as a Christian in East Harlem'sThomas JeffersonHouses and became a Muslim seven years ago.
"Even my own Latino people feel like I betrayed them," she siad. "They see me veiled and they think 'she's under \[her husband's\] grasp' and that's not the case. "This is not a bad thing. I'm not oppressed. I'm very comfortable. I just want people to know that I'm the same person."
Now, Fikri, who isPuerto Ricanand Dominican, is on a mission to educate those around her - including her own mother - becoming one of many Muslim women who have started to share her story onYouTubeto educate the public.
"It's something very foreign to the Hispanic community," Fikri says of the hijab in one video. "They immediately associate the religion with the culture of being Arab, and that's something now that I want to educate people, especially in this community. It is two different things - culture and religion."
Fikri said she started exploring Islam in 2004 after a personal crisis made her start looking into religion for guidance and she read a Spanish language Quran.
She later met her Egyptian husband, who she married in 2010 and who is also a Muslim.
But it wasn't until earlier this year, in February, when Fikri started wearing the hijab - the traditional head scarf worn by Muslim women - that she noticed the resistance from some in her community.
At one point, Fikri said she was walking near E. 117th St. and Pleasant Ave. to pick up her daughter from school when a Latino man said in Spanish: "Oh, so she changed her race. Now, she's Arab."
In another incident, a woman at a bodega looked at her and called her a terrorist, she recalled.
"It hurt a lot," she said, noting she was being snickered at by people who've known her since she was a child. "I live here. I grew up here."
Even Fikri's own mother, who is Dominican, had some reservations about her chosen religion.
"Take that thing off, you're Spanish. We don't wear that," Fikri recalled her mother telling her in Spanish.