Young Dearborn native’s path in politics and organizing
A Dearborn native and daughter of Palestinian immigrants, 26-year-old Nada Al-Hanooti is the executive director of Emgage, the only national muslim lobbyist group’s Michigan branch.
“I come from a politically-charged family,” she said. “I went to protests as young as around five years old. Growing up in a Palestinian household, being political active was just kind of a default.”
A graduate of University of Michigan, Dearborn, for her Bachelor of Arts in political science and journalism, and master’s of women’s and gender studies from Eastern Michigan University, Al-Hanooti said her political involvement started before she turned 18, knocking on doors to canvas for Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008.
“I was fortunate enough to know what I wanted to do with my life from a young age,” she said. “I pretty much always knew I wanted to run for office.”
Al-Hanooti said she originally felt “disenchanted” after her experience running her own campaign for Dearborn city council just last year at the age of 25.
“Part of the reason I feel like I didn’t succeed was because I am a woman of color,” she said. “My last name is four syllables long, I realize that’s going to hinder me.”
She said even though people in her muslim community encouraged her to continue her efforts to canvas door-to-door because she’s “white-passing” she still faced discrimination.
“But when I went to the doors they asked member about my identity as a muslim and an Arab, and they even asked me Islamophobic questions,” she said.
Al-Hanooti explained that her “sisters,” fellow muslim women of color, inspired her continued activism.
“I took a step back and I realized it’s not about me, it’s about the bigger picture,” she said “If I’m ‘white-passing’ and I’m going through this much struggle, what about my veiled sisters, my black sisters; what about my black, veiled sisters?”
“I have immense respect for my sisters who are veiled,” she continued,”because they are wearing the religion on them on a daily basis. I know they deal with hardships. I don’t deal with bigotry unless people read my name or I blatantly tell them I’m muslim. They are fighting the struggle ten times harder than I am.”
“It just charged me to fight more,” she said. “I’m continuing the fight through education, political literacy and doing the groundwork.”
“This position was a complete blessing,” she said. “I feel like I’m an organizer, and I’m meant to be on the ground to try to talk to people, to inspire and be inspired by my community.”
“We have to walk with the knowledge that we do belong [in politics,]” she said. “That’s something I fought with growing up thinking, ‘am I too muslim, am I too Arab, am I too much of a woman to be in this space?’ Sometimes having those identities makes it harder to be in that space. But when you do accomplish something it’s so much more rewarding.”