Sarah Abukhdair: Surviving Bigotry

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 to sing.

 

This story is part of “American Muslims”, a photo series created by Carlos Khalil Guzman, a photographer and activist based in NYC. The project is dedicated to capturing the diversity of the Muslim community in the United States. To read more about Sarah and the rest of the faces from “American Muslims” click here.

 

So Sarah, growing up in Florida and then moving to Boston, a pretty “conservative” state, have you experienced more bigotry in Florida or 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.

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.

 Who has been the most important person in your life?

The most important person in my life is my best friend Linda. The story behind our friendship is unrealistic and I believe it was fate. I met Linda on Twitter and we messaged a lot and then one day I decided to invite her to my house. Linda ended up living less than 3 minutes away. Ever since then, she has been the person I vent to about anything and everything. She is the definition of a best friend and she’s family to me. Linda has always had a place in my family and I appreciate her so much for that.

How would you like to be remembered? 

I would like to be remembered in a sense of accomplishment and love. I have put in time and emotions into so many people’s lives that even when they walk away, they leave knowing I was good to them. That’s the image I want to keep until it’s my time to leave this world.

 

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