2014-2015

The Oral History Project: Interviews Abstracts

Interviews Conducted in 2014-2015

Number of Interview: SJ 6.00
Date: December 25, 2015
Name: Salma Akhtar
Gender: Female
Date of Birth: 10/07/1995
Country of Origin: Pakistan
Year of Immigration: Born in the U.S.

Abstract: Salma is a 20 year old second generation woman studying psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha. Growing up, Salma attended both a public school and a private school. As religion and culture were fundamental parts of her childhood, they continue to both hold importance in her life. Her parents encouraged her and her siblings to speak Urdu at home in order to strengthen their language skills and instill a part of their culture within them. Salma believes that being religious does not only mean following the religious practices, such as praying five times a day, but also holds the responsibility of portraying a positive image about Islam through her daily interactions and volunteerism. She is very involved with the diversity club on her college campus to promote cultural understanding. Salma also stresses the importance of education in family structures, and believes that equality between the genders is contingent upon the education level of the family.

Key Themes: Muslim, culture, tradition, prayer, education, diversity

Number of Interview: SJ 5.00
Date: November 20, 2015
Name: Fayqa Oweisi
Gender: Female
Country of Origin: Palestine
Date of Birth: 05/17/1992
Year of Immigration: Born in the U.S.

Abstract: Fayqa was born in Peoria, Illinois but moved to a number of different cities while growing up because her father found different jobs. They eventually settled in Caledonia, Wisconsin where Fayqa grew up as the oldest of five children. She completed her bachelor’s degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders from UW-Madison and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Speech Therapy at Marquette University. Fayqa got married to her husband, whom she first met at community events, when she was 21 years old. She identifies herself as, first and foremost, Muslim and whenever she faces a conflict between her cultural practices and religious beliefs, she chooses to follow her religious beliefs. Fayqa explained that she identifies as Palestinian, to the extent that her culture does not contradict her religious beliefs.

Key Themes: hijab, Muslim, Palestinian, modesty.

Number of Interview: SJ 4.00
Date: November 14, 2015
Name: Sarah Mustafa
Gender: Female
Country of Origin: Jordan
Date of Birth: 06/05/1994
Year of Immigration: Born in the U.S.

Abstract: Sarah is a second generation woman born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin as the oldest of her five siblings. She identifies herself as a Muslim American Arab. Sarah attended an Islamic school for a majority of her education, and as religion is extremely important to her, she aspires to raise her children with strong religious values. When she was 18 years old Sarah married her husband, whom she met in Jordan during a family vacation. They are currently raising their two-year old daughter while Sarah pursues certification in Dental Hygiene from Milwaukee Area Technical College. As spending quality time with family was important during her childhood, Sarah hopes to continue that notion while raising her family.

Key Themes: Islam, family, hijab, optimism, American, parenting

Number of Interview: GA 3.00
Date: November 1, 2015
Name: Anonymous
Gender: Female
Country of Origin: Palestine
Year of Immigration: Born in U.S.

Abstract: Faiza (name changed for confidentiality reasons) is a second generation Arab American who was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Although both of her parents are immigrants, the American culture has always resonated with her more than the Arab culture. Faiza is the youngest of seven children, and felt she had more freedom than all of her other siblings. Her parents expected her to finish high school and get married, preferably to a Palestinian they already knew. She was told that her future should comprise of being a good mother and wife, but Faiza always wanted more for herself. Acting as her role model, her older brother did not agree with Faiza getting married after high school, and instead, emphasized the importance of education and independence. Faiza is now married to a white convert from the Milwaukee community who she knew prior due to work and school. Initially, her parents did not agree to their marriage due to the immense differences between the two (language, culture, history, etc.). However, after two years, her father felt as if he truly got to know him and gave the couple his blessing.

Key themes: Muslim, American, convert, education, independence

Number of Interview: SJ 3.00
Date: 10/23/2015
Gender: Female
Name: Huda Asad
Country of Origin: Palestine
Year of Immigration: Born in the United States

Abstract: Huda is a second-generation woman who spent most of her life growing up in North Carolina, a town that she described as having very little diversity. She got married at the age of 21 and moved to Milwaukee. She is the oldest of three girls. Prior to moving to Milwaukee, Huda completed her bachelor’s degree in North Carolina in accounting. After moving to Milwaukee she completed her master’s degree at UW-Milwaukee. She prides herself in being a Muslim and a Palestinian. Growing up, she struggled formulating her identity, and feels that the older she gets the more she prides herself in her Muslim and Palestinian identities. Huda feels that her parents’ emphasis on education has allowed her to become goal and career oriented. Establishing her career and independence was very important to her and finding a husband who was supportive of her goals has allowed her to continue her education and establish a career. In Huda’s opinion, marriage is about teamwork, effort, and friendship.

Key Themes: Proud, Muslim, Palestinian, Arabic, School, Career

Name of Interview: GA 2.00
Date: October 20, 2015
Name: Anonymous
Gender: Female
Country of Origin: Palestine
Date of Birth: October 23, 1987
Year of Immigration: Born in U.S.

Abstract: Yusra (name changed for confidentiality reasons) identifies herself as a Muslim first, an American second, and a Palestinian third. Being a second generation Arab American, she struggled growing up trying to balance the Arab culture with her American personality. She graduated from MATC with a degree in Clinical Laboratory Technology. Her parents emigrated here from Palestine after they got married, and have always told Yusra marriage, to a Palestinian man, should be her biggest priority. However, Yusra felt a strong connection to a Pakistani man in the community, and after some time, her parents agreed to the marriage. After having her son Yusra made the decision to stop working in order to properly raise him and give him the best possible upbringing. She believes that in order to truly raise a son to be proud of, a woman should take the time to stay at home. Wanting to give her son the best of all the worlds surrounding him, Yusra hopes her son will be trilingual: Arabic through herself, Pashtu through her mother-in-law and husband, and English through the Milwaukee school system. Yusra is enjoying her life as a stay at home mother with the help of her mother-in-law who cooks traditional Pakistani food for the family.

Key themes: Parenting, religion, multicultural, modernity

Number of Interview: SJ 2.00
Date: Oct 10th 2015
Gender: Female
Name: Sabreen Sarsour
Country of Origin: Palestine
Year of Immigration: Born in the United States

Abstract: Sabreen Sarsour is a second generation Muslim, Palestinian American. She is currently 24 years old and in the process of completing her nursing degree at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Sabreen was born in Florida as the second child to a Palestinian couple, throughout her life she has moved to numerous places throughout the U.S. and has also spent a number of years in Palestine. She spent her K-12 schooling between public schools, religious schools, and American schools overseas in Palestine. Sabreen admit facing many difficulties as a Muslim, specifically due to negative images and stereotypes of Muslims post 9/11. She also faced difficulty balancing her religion and Palestinian culture. She moved to Milwaukee after getting married, two years ago. She has a one-year old daughter, and lives in a shared apartment house with her in laws. Throughout her life, Sabreen was always looking for stability, although she did admit that the move to Milwaukee was difficult, she is happy that she finally found a place she knows she will spend the rest of her life.

Key Themes: Stability, Independent, Pride, Muslim, Education, Struggles, Mother, Parenting style

Number of Interview: GA 1.00
Date: October 8, 2015
Name: Anonymous
Gender: Female
Country of Origin: Palestine
Date of Birth: October 23, 1987
Year of Immigration: Born in U.S.

Abstract:Sarah (name changed for confidentiality reasons) identifies herself first and foremost as an American. Although she was born in Chicago, Illinois she was raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Growing up a second generation Arab American, Sarah was raised in a household with parents who held an “old school mentality” which she referred to as the frame of mind of those who were born and raised overseas but have not fully acclimated to the American culture and mindset – whether it dealt with religion, dress, education, and marriage. For example, Sarah’s parents believed that education was not necessary for females and instead, encouraged marriage after finishing high school. Sarah lives and works in Milwaukee, Wisconsin as a nurse, just as her husband who is an American Muslim convert. In her interview, Sarah talks of the struggles she went through in convincing her parents and family to not only meet her now husband, but also agree to the marriage. Because she respects her parents deeply, she would have never married someone who her parents did not approve of and did not bestow their blessings upon. Sarah and her husband have been married for almost two years now and love to travel to new places.

Key themes: Muslim, American, convert, education.

Number of Interview: SJ 1.00
Date: 9/30/2015
Gender: Female
Name: Anonymous
Country of Origin: Palestine
Year of Immigration: Born in the United States

Abstract: Nada (name changed for confidentiality reasons) is a second generation women who has spent most of her life in the Milwaukee area. She identifies herself as a Muslim first, and Palestinian American second. She is currently a student at Marquette University where she majors in Clinical Lab Science. Nada grew up with her parents who have incorporated much of their heritage into their life as she was growing up. She was born in Milwaukee as the youngest of her siblings. Although she has spent most of her life in the United States, she feels a great sense of pride in her Palestinian heritage. Growing up she visited Palestine numerous times during her school vacations. Nada attended Milwaukee Public Schools for all her K-12 schooling. Despite having few Muslim friends outside of her family growing up, she maintained a very strong sense of her religious identity. Nada also pointed that throughout her life, she has very scarcely been ostracized due to her Muslim identity. She hopes to make her parents proud by excelling in her studies and becoming successful.

Key Themes: Islam, Hijab, Palestinian identity, education, heritage, pride.

Number of Interview: RA and RJ
Date: September 16, 2015
Name: Monaal Barakat
Gender: Female
Country of Origin: Palestine
Date of Birth: November 22, 1982
Year of Immigration: Born in U.S.

Abstract: As a second generation Muslim Arab woman who has lived in the United States as well as Palestine, Monaal discusses the journey she went through consciously in order to find her place between culture and religion. As a working mother of two children she highlights the importance of setting a good example for her children in order to influence a sense of strong religious identity within them. Through cultural clothing and her decision to wear the hijab, Monaal hopes her children will learn to be proud of who they are and where they come from. Her daughter encourages her to continue to wear traditional clothing in order to keep a sense of culture. In her interview Monaal’s connection with her homeland shines through as she talks about a common feeling of togetherness within the Palestinian community as each individual empathizes with the oppression Palestinians have endured throughout the years. Monaal has a degree in biology and although Monaal had no intention in getting married while in college, Monaal married an American Palestinian a couple of years before completing her undergraduate degree. She also resides in the greater Milwaukee area with her husband and two children.

Number of Interview: RJ 4.00
Date: August 30th, 2015
Name: Anonymous
Gender: Female
Country of Origin: Palestine
Date of Birth: 01/04/1996
Year of Immigration: Born in U.S.

Abstract: The interviewee identifies herself as a Muslim Palestinian American. Sarah (name changed for confidentiality reasons) was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Sarah attended a private Islamic school in the greater Milwaukee area throughout her elementary, middle, and high school years and believes her family and community have a big influence in her daily life. The two most important factors that shape her life are religion and culture as well, and she identifies greatly with the two, but emphasizes the importance of religion more in living a successful life. In terms of culture, Sarah sticks to some cultural aspects such as: speaking the Arabic language at home and wearing traditional cultural clothing at cultural events and special occasions, which helps her connect with her homeland and the values instilled in her while growing up as a child. Sarah is currently an undergraduate student majoring in biology. She plans to further her education and continue on the path of medicine. Sarah is currently not married and would like to finish her studies before considering marriage.

Key Terms: Religion, School, Family, Culture

Number of Interview: RJ 2.00
Date: August 5, 2015
Name: Anonymous
Gender: Female
Country of Origin: Palestine
Date of Birth: Unknown
Year of Immigration: Born in U.S.

Abstract: Amani (name changed for confidentiality reasons) identifies herself as a second generation Muslim American of Palestinian descent. Amani remembers spending most of her childhood with her cousins and seven siblings. She graduated from Marquette University in 2007 with a degree in Clinical Laboratory Science and currently works at a hospital. As a child, Amani knew being Muslim meant there were restrictions on things she could and could not do, and as she became older she understood the importance of religion in her daily life. Religion is an important part of her daily life and she hopes to instill this within her daughter as well. Growing up, Amani found that culture sometimes use to override religion, and found that to be a result of being raised by first generation parents. Amani resides in Milwaukee and is married to a Moroccan Muslim and has a daughter.

Key themes: Muslim, Religion, Culture

Number of Interview: RJ 1.00
Date: July 28, 2015
Name: Anonymous
Gender: Male
Country of Origin: Palestine
Date of Birth: 08/22/1969
Year of Immigration: Born in U.S.

Abstract: The interviewee identifies himself first and foremost as an American-Muslim. Ahmad (name changed for confidentiality reasons) was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois and later moved to Palestine during his late childhood years and returned to the U.S. during his early adulthood years. Ahmad is an entrepreneur and was not able to complete college due to financial hardship. Religion is the most important factor to Ahmad and he believes it is an essential component throughout his daily life. Life has posed many challenges after 9/11 for him as an American-Muslim. He has strongly felt the pressure to educate his fellow peers and believes that education is a strong asset in portraying the real image of Islam. In addition to religion, Ahmad emphasized the importance of family and visiting his homeland Palestine to visit his parents and relatives. Ahmad resides in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and is married to a Palestinian Muslim and has four children.

Key Themes: Religion, American-Muslim, Family.