A Muslim woman shares what Americans ask about Islam. Her answers are eye-opening.

Of the 3.3 million Muslims in the United States, 21% are converts to Islam.

And of those approximately 693,000 converts, one of them hopes to be the U.S.’s first Muslim senator.

Deedra Abboud has faced Islamophobic attacks since she first announced her plan to run against Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake in 2017. Abboud says that while people throughout the state have been largely supportive, many questions she receives are about her faith rather than her proposed policies.


Abboud documents these interactions in the hopes of clearing up misconceptions about Muslim Americans.

All images courtesy of Deedra Abboud, used with permission.

Abboud says there are some questions regarding her beliefs that come up regularly.

In many cases, people are asking out of genuine confusion or an eagerness to learn more.

Here are answers to five common questions people ask Muslim Americans. Abboud hopes that speaking to these might help more people understand her faith — and the religion of many Americans — better.

1. “Why Islam?”

“The first thing I was told was that they [Muslims] were all going to hell because they didn’t believe in Jesus,” says Abboud, talking about what she was taught growing up in Arkansas. “Then when I went to university I saw a Middle Eastern exchange student so I was always trying to convert them to Christianity.”

Abboud remembers the Muslim students being patient with her. They explained their beliefs in a way she could understand. This led to her studying Islam extensively and her decision to ultimately convert when she moved to Arizona in 1998.

2. “How did people react to your conversion to Islam?”

“My mother was actually very supportive,” Abboud explains, adding that since she had studying Islam for years before converting, it wasn’t a surprise to most people close to her.

Her transition in the workplace, however, took time.

Abboud says that she would get ready for work in the mornings, remove her hijab (headscarf) in the parking lot when she got to work, then put it back on when she left for the day.

“The reason why I disclosed it was because I heard someone saying, ‘You know, Muslims want to kill all Americans,’” she says.

Islamaphobia is not new in America, and Abboud’s action is just one example of what Muslim Americans are doing every day to avoid persecution.

3. “Do you feel your decision to wear the hijab contradicts your stance as a feminist?”

“If a woman is forced to wear a piece of clothing, it’s oppression,” she explains, “and forcing a woman to wear something or forcing a woman to not wear something are equal on the oppression scale.”

Abboud continues:

“Saying that that this is a symbol of oppression is equivalent to people saying that a woman who wears a miniskirt is asking to be raped. Neither is truth. What I choose to wear in the morning is completely a personal choice.”

4. “But isn’t Islam oppressive to women?”

Abboud is quick to point out that oppression of women happens everywhere, regardless of religion. Her faith is not what mistreats or limits women — it’s other people who use faith as an excuse for their behavior.

“My dad beat my mom, and when she went to the church, they told her to be a better wife,” she says. “When she went to her dad, he told her to be a better wife. When she went to the police, they said be a better wife.”

Abboud explains that while there are some cultures in predominantly Muslim areas that are oppressive to women, many Muslim countries have elected women as their prime minister or president, including Indonesia, Pakistan, and Turkey. (Can you say the same about the U.S.?)

5. “You worked for CAIR — isn’t that a terrorist organization?”

CAIR, or the Council on American-Islam Relations, is a Muslim civil rights and advocacy group that formed in 1994 as a reaction to negative depictions of Muslims in the media. Despite its status as a nonprofit, critics have accused CAIR of being a terrorist organization affiliated with Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.

“I just don’t understand,” Abboud says. “If it’s supposedly a terrorist organization, how it does it continue to have nonprofit status in several states and has survived every administration for the last almost 30 years?”

Abboud started the Arizona chapter of CAIR in 2001, shortly before 9/11.

Traveling for her campaign gives Abboud the chance to clear up misconceptions about Islam, but she’s happy when voters just want to talk about the issues.

“Most people actually do want to talk about things that matter,” she says, “you know, like not dying from poor health care, protecting the internet, basic freedom issues — things [that] actually affect their lives,” she says.

It’s a great shift and is evidence progress is being made, even if slowly.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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