OWU Young Alumna Discusses Muslim American Heritage
Kadra Ahmed began wearing a hijab, a Muslim head covering, in the fourth grade. The garment took some getting used to, she says, but has since become an integral part of her identity.
“It is like a second skin to me,” says Ahmed, a 2017 Ohio Wesleyan University graduate now working as the OWU Library System’s weekend circulation supervisor. “It doesn’t make me more religious than anyone else. I wear it for modesty. I just see it as part of my identity.”
Ahmed, who grew up in Westerville, discussed her heritage – and the Islamophobia she often faces – as a featured speaker at this fall’s YWCA Columbus “Woman to Woman” Luncheon. The event celebrated diversity and shared the importance of social justice.
At Ohio Wesleyan, Ahmed was a psychology major and a double minor in sociology-anthropology and in women’s and gender studies. She says it was difficult at times to be the only OWU student wearing a hijab, but she wouldn’t trade her experience as a Bishop.
“Ohio Wesleyan, and the people I met here, stimulated me to do more in social justice,” says Ahmed, whose campus involvement included serving as vice president of the Tauheed Muslim student association and membership in the VIVA Latinx student organization.
As an OWU undergraduate, Ahmed helped to make care kits for Syrian refugees, participated in Global Issues Awareness Week, and communicated with LGBTQIA prisoners. She gave a reflection at the 2017 Baccalaureate ceremony on the ways interfaith tolerance and social justice work together.
“I like to stretch myself out for any social issues,” she says.
Also as a student, Ahmed traveled to Brazil – with assistance from OWU’s Small Grant Program – to explore the history of Afro-Brazilian slavery. In addition, she traveled to Chicago for an “American Muslims for Palestine” event and again for an interfaith conference. This year in January, she traveled with an Ohio Wesleyan contingent to Washington, D.C., to participate in the Women’s March.
All of these opportunities helped to solidify Ahmed’s decision to begin graduate school next fall to pursue a master’s degree in social work. As a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), she wants to focus on aiding refugees with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“It’s something I’ve always been passionate about,” says Ahmed, whose parents left civil-war-torn Somalia as teenagers. “Too many (who suffer PTSD) are silent. They don’t trust the resources.”
Long-term, Ahmed would like to work with the International Rescue Committee (IRC), founded in 1933 to respond to “the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic well-being, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster.”
What advice would Ahmed give to other current and future Ohio Wesleyan students of Muslim heritage?
“We all have our privileges and disadvantages, and we all have to come together for progress,” Ahmed says. “Give any opportunity a chance. It might be scary, but let it help change you for the better.”
“Don’t get too comfortable in your own bubble,” she concludes. “You have one lifetime to explore. Always continue wanting to learn. Just be open.”