The Stereotypical Wall: Being a Conservative, Muslim Woman in Corpus Christi
The Southside Light
Nadirah Hassan is a native of Tehran who now calls Corpus Christi and South Texas her home. She came here to Texas as a child when her father, an engineering executive took a job in the oil and gas business. She is successful in her own right as an industrial engineer, developing solutions for oil and gas companies on a global scale and while she is a proud Texan, she is also a very devout Muslim.
“People back home think we are sort of taboo,” says Hassan, standing in a market in Bahrain on a recent business trip. “In Texas, I choose to be a little more jeans and boots, but here I know what is expected and I’m totally ok with that.”
What she means is that in Bahrain, she observes local laws, ordinances and customs per the Islamic faith—something that she understands perfectly well.
Hassan is not only a Muslim woman living in Texas, raising a family and excelling in her career. She is also a conservative republican.
“I don’t come here to Bahrain forcing my Islamic-American culture that I’ve adapted to on them,” she says. “They wouldn’t accept it and I’d be in jail. So, that’s how I think it should be.”
She admits that she voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and fully plans on voting for him again in 2020. She points to his tough foreign policy and his hardline attitude on immigration as being key factors for her support.
“Look what they have right here in Bahrain. They have one set of borders, one language and one central culture,” Hassan points out as she samples the local fare in the market. “We can all come from where we come from, but we must all exist where we exist and often that means abiding by the laws of where that is.”
Nadirah grew up in a strictly religious household where religious ordinances were keenly observed.
“We ate traditional foods, spoke our native language at home and even read news and books that were readily available from back home,” she says. “But what we also did was learn about Texas and about America.”
Hassan says that she learned to embrace the culture of Texas, even learning to like Bar-B-Que and sweet tea. But she also notes that her family endured proper teaching at home and prided themselves on not imposing their beliefs on those around them.
“People act shocked when they find out that I’m Muslim,” Hassan jokes. “Before I became married guys would all think that I was Hispanic.”
In fact, Nadirah’s husband, Rogelio is from Mexico and they make their home together on the south side.
“You know, she’s Muslim and I am Catholic,” Rogelio smiles. “You focus more on what you have in common than on your differences.”
But those differences are what brings them together, says Nadirah.
“I often must travel back to places like Bahrain and Qatar for work and because I am familiar with my culture I feel safe,” she says.
Nadirah says that being a conservative and Muslim in Texas is very difficult, largely because of stereotypes.
The 35 year old mother of 2 wishes that she could become more politically active, but the problem she notices is exclusion.
“People believe what people believe and sadly, the people who are of my political mindset often still look at me as some sort of terrorist,” says Hassan. “It’s almost like they feel like I’m some sort of terrorist trying to gather intelligence about them.”
Though she admits that she has never been attacked or verbally abused, she is all too aware of the mindset.
“The GOP at the grassroots level is very exclusive but then again, they almost have to be,” Hassan points out. “The media is attacking anybody and everybody who is pro-life, pro-family and pro-America.”
She says that she feels that is part of the problem.
“Open up the news and it’s dominated by the left wing progressives who are trying to further a cause,” Hassan says. “When you see somebody leave the newspaper to go to work for an advocacy group, it really causes you to question their motives to begin with.”
But it doesn’t stop there. Hassan says that the problem is with the Republican Party. In her life, she says that she has noticed people within her own party becoming more and more hostile towards things that they don’t understand.
“If you are white, middle aged and loud then they love you more,” Hassan says. “Then if you’re an attractive woman with guns, they are really accepting of you. But don’t dare to be different or something that they don’t understand.”
While walking through the market in Hassan points to a bank and several hotels, noting how modern the post oil economy has become here.
“You see changes for the good all around this region, but the people in control hold it back,” she says. “Doesn’t it sound very familiar?”
Nadirah Hassan will travel back home to Corpus Christi this week with new contracts in hand. Starting on the 5th of May she will begin observing Ramadan and doing what she has done for her entire life—working to close the stereotypical gap within her own backyard.
Matt Briscoe contributed from Corpus Christi.