A Conversation with Civil Rights Attorney Rabia Chaudry
The story that works. You know I've had thousands of people over the years reach out. It's not just me not saying we read this book or we listen to this. We Watch this. And we didn't even realize some of the assumptions we held or the prejudices. We had about Muslims until we heard your story and was like Oh my God. You're just you're just like any of us and and you know it made it much more self aware I think storytelling is one of the most powerful aspects. Storytelling is what changes people's hearts and minds really. Nothing else works. What were some of the stories that I made you feel that like even growing up. You're always like a writer at heart. What were the stories that I took hold in you? Where did you get them? You know the stories growing up as an American Muslim when before nine eleven honestly a lot of people had no or maybe before the Iran hostage crisis. I'm trying to think of what international event made me realize that I'm a Muslim probably the first the first Gulf War. I remember the Gulf War. I was in middle school and the war began in the middle of the day and teacher came over to me and said hey tell your uncle Saddam Hussein to back off or something and I said who is it. Almost saying I'm not era. I don't even know what's happening and I was a kid. But you know a lot of the stories really just came from like my parents handing down stories like stories out of our religious traditions cultural tradition as an adult. I realize what's problematic with a lot of the stories? They're wonderful stories of very heroic stories but they also set up this false like idealism. That didn't allow us to feel like if you're a Muslim you can also have false. You can make mistakes. You can screw up because all the stories were told. Were about people who are just incredibly honorable. Did the most amazing things. And that's what you aspire to And that's what you're supposed to be What's an example? Gosh I mean one example is like my name so I'm named after medieval century like Muslim female saint one of the only Muslim female saints I best known I think she lived in the twelfth century. I don't even know Rubio other. We and you know the story I was told about her growing up. Was that you know she was incredibly right. Just and pious and she spent her days worshiping God in the evening she would go out and teach people and she had so much faith in God that she she just kind of stayed cloistered in this little space that she told people. Don't bring me any food. Because will deliver me. Sustenance and food would appear out of nowhere so for a little kid to be like okay I got like visas does incredible role model and And she says she was an amazing saint from what we know. But of course over the years you don't know what's been added to the tradition and it was just kind of this this really high expectation of piety and religious righteousness. That is really almost impossible to meet. Because you tell us a little bit about where you grew up your born in Pakistan and ended up in Maryland right. Yeah so I thought this was only like six or seven I was. I was under one when my parents came over here. Fundraising United States and my dad worked for the US Department of Agriculture. He was a veterinarian. And a lot of people don't know there's like this huge Boccassini veterinary like a whole gang of them in the US Department of Agriculture. They all came over in the seventies what we grew up in very small agricultural towns because of that. Because my dad had to work where you know where there was agricultural business oh Kansas Delaware Lancaster County Pennsylvania just very remote places where we were often the only people of color not just the only Muslim but really there were there. Were places where there were no other black people know. They're black families so very small town America. Then when I got about high school is when we kind of moved to a slightly bigger town with with diversity in it so but most of my formative years in adult life. I've grown up around the beltway. Northern Virginia or Maryland. And that's where I am. Now you've written on your blog that your parents know how to be quote critical of where we've been and where we are without throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Yeah I guess I just wanted to know how your parents raised you and how that shaped you my parents you know. They left boxes on one thousand nine hundred seventy nine hundred seventy s block. Assad never left them so as time moved on their idea of what's culturally appropriate for us was forever one thousand nine hundred seventy something bucks on. Meaning you know my dad would be like. Why don't you have your hair? Your hair should be in two braids and it should be well oiled and dress a certain way and you should at home. We always wore a boxing enclosing home. You know we only eight bucks any food at home but the funny thing is we would visit Baucus on like in the eighty s and ninety s people over there would be like all the women have their care cut and permed and look really cute and they'd be like what is wrong with you people. Why do you look like like? You're from a blast from the past. But you know my my parents are. My Dad is a very spiritual person. He's not like a a religious person. Like ritualistic my mom is much more religious. My mom raised us with some really strong values. And look the one thing that we heard and over and over again is the whole purpose of your life is how you're going to serve other people like what are you. GonNa do with all the education. The time the health the wealth the youth everything you have is basically like a test like we're being tested for. What are you GonNa do with it? That's the whole point of being here and so you know I. I always appreciate that because I think that's the one thing that's driven me to always feel like there's more there's more to do. There's a lot more to do.