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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Truth

Don't test on animals. That's something we can all agree on, right? No one likes to think of defenseless cats, dogs, hamsters, and birds being exposed to a bunch of things that could make them sick (and the animals aren't happy about it, either). It's no wonder so many people and organizations have fought to stop it. But did you ever think that maybe brands are testing products on us too, they're just not telling us they're doing it?

I know, I know, it sounds like a conspiracy theory, but that's exactly what e-cigarette brands like JUUL (which corners the e-cigarette market) are doing in this country right now, and young people are on the frontlines of the fallout. Most people assume that the government would have looked at devices that allow people to inhale unknown chemicals into their lungs BEFORE they hit the market. You would think that someone in the government would have determined that they are safe. But nope, that hasn't happened. And vape companies are fighting to delay the government's ability to evaluate these products.

So no one really knows the long-term health effects of e-cigarette use, not even JUUL's CEO, nor are they informing the public about the potential risks. On top of that, according to the FDA, there's been a 78% increase in e-cigarette usage among high school and middle school-aged children in just the last two years, prompting the U.S. Surgeon General to officially recognize the trend as an epidemic and urge action against it.

These facts have elicited others to take action, as well.

Truth Initiative, the nonprofit best known for dropping the real facts about smoking and vaping since 2000 through its truth campaign. We don't do PSAs. We also need to update so to explain truth – the nonprofit behind the truth youth smoking prevention campaign – you could also say this in a funny way – best known for sharing the facts about smoking and vaping or pull from some old campaigns. Just layer in a description of truth and who the campaign is., is now on a mission to confront e-cigarette brands like JUUL about the lack of care they've taken to inform consumers of the potential adverse side effects of their products. And they're doing it with the help of animal protesters who are tired of seeing humans treated like test subjects.

The March Against JUUL | Tested On Humans | truth www.youtube.com

"No one knows the long-term effects of JUULing so any human who uses one is being used as a lab rat," says, appropriately, Mario the Sewer Rat.

"I will never stop fighting JUUL. Or the mailman," notes Doug the Pug, the Instagram-famous dog star.

Truth, the national counter-marketing campaign for youth smoking prevention, hopes this fuzzy, squeaky, snorty animal movement arms humans with the facts about vaping and inspires them to demand transparency from JUUL and other e-cigarette companies. You can get your own fur babies involved too by sharing photos of them wearing protest gear with the hashtag #DontTestOnHumans. Here's some adorable inspo for you:

The dangerous stuff is already out there, but with knowledge on their side, young people will hopefully make the right choices and fight companies making the wrong ones. If you need more convincing, here are the serious facts.

Over the last decade, 127 e-cigarette-related seizures were reported, which prompted the FDA to launch an official investigation in April 2019. Since then, over 215 cases of a new, severe lung illness have sprung up all over the country, with six deaths to date. While scientists aren't yet sure of the root cause, the majority of victims were young adults who regularly vaped and used e-cigarettes. As such, the CDC has launched an official investigation into the potential link.

Sixteen-year-old Luka Kinard, a former frequent e-cigarette-user, is one of the many teens who experienced severe side effects. "Vaping was my biggest addiction," he told NowThis. "It lasted for about 15 months of my high school career." In 2018, Kinard was hospitalized after having a seizure. He also had severe nausea, chest pains, and difficulty breathing.

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Teens are 16 times more likely to use e-cigarettes than adults, and four times more likely to take up traditional smoking as a result, according to truth, and yet the e-cigarette market remains virtually unregulated and untested. In fact, companies like JUUL continue to block and prevent FDA regulations, investing more than $1 million in lawyers and lobbying efforts in the last quarter alone.

Photo by Lindsay Fox/Pixabay

Consumers have a right to know what they're putting in their bodies. If everyone (and their pets) speaks up, the e-cigarette industry will have to make a change. Young people are already taking action across the country. They're hosting rallies nationwide and on October 9 as part of a National Day of Action, young people are urging their friends and classmates to "Ditch JUUL." Will you join them?

For help with quitting e-cigarettes, visit thetruth.com/quit or text DITCHJUUL to 88709 for free, anonymous resources.

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