Politics in the United States have taken a turn since President Donald Trump came into power, causing a stir of controversies and a sense of uneasiness for minorities in the country.
Deedra Abboud, 45, is one Muslim-American who decided to take matters into her own hands and run for a US senate seat in the upcoming 2018 elections and said it was an “extraordinary” opportunity to bring Arizonans together to discuss real issues they face in their state.
“In 2016, I became so disappointed in how elected leaders were deliberately attacking and marginalizing my fellow Americans, and worse that their colleagues were not defending their own constituents against those attacks,” Abboud told Al Arabiya English.
Abboud said she was interested in politics from an early age, such as women’s rights, social justice, and civil rights, while her expertise has always been in holding elected leaders accountable.
The Phoenix-based attorney for over 15 years and founder of the leadership consulting firm, the Global Institute of Solution Oriented Leadership, said she has personally experienced only a few incidents of Islamophobia.
“Other than an avalanche of online attacks and one white supremacist protest at an event (totally peaceful but with lots of anti-Muslim comments), I have had zero negative experiences since announcing my campaign,” she said.
Prior to her candidacy, Abboud recalled a memory of an incident that took place ten years ago when she was presenting at a diversity training at a Sky Harbor airport transportation company, where people threw chair across the room in protest of her presence.
“One lady sat directly in front of me, staring intently and hatefully at me, and made comments about knowing I was really a devil and that my scarf was hiding horns. I ignored her and continued with the presentation. About a year later, the lady contacted me. She apologized for her behavior and said she had come to realized how much she had misunderstood,” Abboud recalled.
‘People want change’
“Hate is not what is dividing us. Not knowing each other, not actually talking to each other, is the real divider. But that’s something we each have the power to change. The ball’s in our court. And I’m doing my part,” she told Al Arabiya English.
According to the Democratic senate hopeful, people have been very supportive and excited about her candidacy.
“People want a change, they want progress, they want progressive platforms that bring us all together and create opportunities for all of us,” she said.
It is true that Muslims in America are facing a tidal wave of discrimination, flowing forth from the policies of the current administration and affecting every corner of American society. Clearly, it is more important than ever that we confront the insidiousness that is Islamophobia.Deedra Abboud
One of Abboud’s main focus in her campaign is to unite the citizens and make Americans voters a priority again.
“A strong United States is not just about defense but about every dimension of our strength: our effectiveness in the world, our economy, our educational system, our health care system, our families, our communities, and our environments,” Abboud said.
“We must also sever the unholy marriage between religion and state that has taken root. A strong separation between religion and state ensures all people have freedom of religion.”
Change for Muslim-Americans
Abboud, however, believes that while one person winning an election could increase social connections for minorities, it will not drastically overhaul the bigger picture.
In order for real change to happen in America, she calls out on Muslims to stop letting others take the lead. She said: “We have to stop looking around for the perfect leader, and start standing up and being leaders”.
She believes an upturn will occur when Muslims begin supporting local causes outside the Muslim communities by propping up others being marginalized in today’s America. “Because while Muslims are the flavor of the month, we aren’t the only flavor on the menu”.
“It is true that Muslims in America are facing a tidal wave of discrimination, flowing forth from the policies of the current administration and affecting every corner of American society. Clearly, it is more important than ever that we confront the insidiousness that is Islamophobia,” Abboud told Al Arabiya English.
“While Muslims pride themselves on being up-to-date on national politics, as well as being well-versed in global events, they are mostly absent when it comes to domestic politics. Many Muslims only vote in the presidential elections, if they vote at all,” she added.
Abboud believes that volunteering, running for city councils, for school boards, and for state assemblies, can help Muslim-Americans rise above the hate.
“It may seem like Islamophobia is everywhere, but the solution is local. That’s where we need to focus,” she said.