As a kid in Florida, people thought violence was encoded in Hadia Mubarak’s genes

Mubarak, Hadia - NYU Abu Dhabi
Dr. Hadia Mubarak

Editor’s note: Dr. Hadia Mubarak, assistant professor of religion and philosophy, will discuss “Muslim Women: Moving Beyond the Headlines” at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 18. Send an email to belkchapel@queens.edu for login information.”

The tragedy that took place on 9/11 changed American life forever, and it took a huge toll on the life of Hadia Mubarak, then a young Muslim woman at Florida State University.


Today, Dr. Mubarak is new to Queens, having joined this fall as an assistant professor of religion.

“Muslim Americans are grieving like everyone else,” Dr. Mubarak said in a recent interview. Author of the article “Young and Muslim in Post 9/11 America,” a piece for The Review of Faith & International Affairs, Dr. Mubarak said Muslims are placed on the defense now more than
ever. She has experienced this firsthand.

Dr. Mubarak grew up in Panama City, Fla., but was born in Trenton, N.J. She was raised in a white conservative Christian city where she was the only one of 2,000 students at her school who wore a hijab. The experience provided her with a sense of religious identity at a young age
that helped her navigate in a place where she looked so different.

She remembers being called “terrorist” and “raghead” in grade school. It baffled her that many people truly believed violence was encoded into her genes. Once, a friend she had known for many years asked her to remember not to bomb people when she grew up. Despite these negative attacks, she is grateful because she learned how to stand up for herself, which led her to become so active during her time at Florida State.

She became involved in the student newspaper and the Model UN team and received more forms of discrimination after 9/11. When the local mosque in Tallahassee, Fla., was attacked, Mubarak knew it was time to share her story.

Work With Islamic Reform and Gender Equality

In addition to her work with Islamic reform, Dr. Mubarak has done a substantial amount of study in international affairs, the modern Muslim world, and women’s and gender studies.


According to Dr. Mubarak, the United States has created a stereotype, reinforced in the media, of Muslim women who have no personality and are seen as oppressed.

“When we see the image of a nun, we don’t think she is oppressed,” Dr. Mubarak said. “We think of her as pure and holy, not as an oppressed woman.” Issues related to women and gender are “a lot more complex than we are able to understand,” she said.

She plans to bring more diversity to the curriculum at Queens. Dr. Mubarak earned a Ph.D. in Islamic studies and a master’s degree in contemporary Arab studies — with a concentration in women and gender — from Georgetown University. She hopes to expose students to Islamic
culture through different lenses.

Before coming to Queens, she lectured at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and at Davidson College. Mubarak has also worked at the Gallup Organization’s Center for Muslim Studies and contributed to the Gallup Organization’s book, “Who Speaks for Islam: What a Billion Muslims Really Think in 2008.”

Important Women in the News

Dr. Mubarak said women like “the Squad” — congressional representatives Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley — are the start of change. Omar is the first Somali-American woman legislator. Ocasio-Cortez is the youngest U.S. congressional representative of Puerto Rican descent. Tlaib is the first Palestinian-American woman in Congress, and Pressley is the first African American woman elected to U.S. congress
from Massachusetts.

Dr. Mubarak said there is a great deal about these women that causes them to be threatening to some Americans and to the President of the United States. She compared them to President Barack Obama and his term in the White House. People are not comfortable with change in
society, she said, and when minority women obtain this type of power, it is maddening to some.

“When people don’t look like the dominant culture, sometimes they feel either threatened or scared that our society is changing,” Dr. Mubarak said.

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