Every day we meet people who inspire us. Real people. People who are living their lives, raising their children and quietly making a difference in the most humblest ways possible. These are people that you might not look across the room at a party and think, “this person could be my friend,” or “I want to know this person.” But, we guarantee you that you would be missing out on so much by not taking those steps to walk across that room and extending the hand of friendship, because real people and real inspiration is around every corner if you look for it. Saadia Farqui is one of those real people who is inspiring in so many ways as she is tearing down Brick Walls as an author, public speaker, teacher and #JustVibing Interfaith Activist. You want to know her.
We met Saadia Faruqi at Starbuck’s and she is astounding. From Pakistan, her background is fascinating, because she didn’t grow up in the traditional Pakistani culture. Her parents are educated by weren’t well off financially and English was the language that was spoken in her home. She went to a convent school where English was spoken and was based on the British learning and exam system. At the age of 22 she was matched with her husband, who lived in the United States, and although her parents weren’t happy about her choice, Saadia believed that God was always there to guide her to the right thing for her, and she wasn’t wrong.
Transitioning to the United States wasn’t a struggle for Saadia. Because she spoke English in the home and because in Pakistan that set her apart from her peers, she feels as if that that helped her and she is very grateful for that. She feels her parents inadvertently helped her integrate into the customs of the United States because moving from Pakistan to the United States is almost unheard of unless it for a scholarship to college. Saadia and her husband went through rough times, where they moved often, and through those moves, Saadia had to seek out friends and instead of seeking out Muslims, she sought out friends from all cultures to expand her own horizons.
After settling in Houston and having her children, Saadia Faruqi, who was always in the non-profit world as a grant writer, started her own business writing grants for non-profits all over the country. As she found her niche within the community, she became involved in her Mosque and began to implement Interfaith events. Because of the success of these events, she eventually became the go-to person for organizing Interfaith events and programs to teach about Islam.
Saadia told us a story about the Houston Police Department. A Muslim woman had been arrested for protesting and when she was asked to take off her Hijab, or head wrap, she refused and the police forced her to take it off and she sued them. The police department didn’t understand the Muslim culture and asked Saadia to train the entire Police Department for a year and half every single week on the culture of Islam and the Muslim traditions so they could better understand and respect their ideals.
Saadia’s growth as an Interfaith activist took its own course and she found a niche that desperately needed to be filled. She teaches adult classes at Lone Star College, she gives seminars and conducts programs, all with one end goal.
Just to know someone to have the courtesy to respect them and their ideals was the goal. You need to know people outside of your own community, to broaden your perspective and horizons.
As Saadia Faruqi became more involved in her Mosque and her community, she became more traditional in her everyday life. She started to wear the traditional Muslim dress of modesty and the Hijab to cover her hair. She realizes there is a big bias to it, and she has run across women that won’t go out in fear of what will be said to them, but Saadia has no fear of that. She also knows that some Muslims think that only fanatics wear traditional dress or their husbands force the women to be covered up. That is not so.
Her daughter has asked her to not pick her up from school wearing her traditional dress and her husband has asked her to take it off and her family thinks she is crazy, but Saadia stands firm in her belief.
Sometimes you have to do something you believe in and be strong. You can’t judge people by what they are wearing.
Saadia Faruqi is a writer. Whether it is grants or blog posts for the many publications she writes for, she loves to write. One common theme she noticed was that people were always asking her about Pakistan and she was getting annoyed and thought that it wasn’t relevant. She is a Muslim and she is from Pakistan, but they aren’t interchangeable. She has worked hard to fit into her life in the United States and is very proud to be a part of Houston community, but she realized that a lot of the questions came because Pakistan was in the media so much because of the unrest there, so she decided to write a book.
Brick Walls is Saadia Faruqi’s first novel. It is a series of seven short stories that are based on the real Pakistan and it is fiction. Each story presents some challenge or issue that is relevant in Pakistan. The common theme is how the Brick Wall is torn down by each character in each short story. Her book is filled with empathy and a touch of human kindness.
Saadia is also tearing down Brick Walls for the Muslim community, because after she published her book, she realized that there wasn’t a place where Muslim’s were being published, so she started a website, called Blue Minaret, a forum where Muslims can publish their poetry, art and writing. Her goal with this site is to change the narrative of Muslim’s online.
Real People. Real Inspiration. Real Houston.
Saadia Faruqi is real people, real inspiration and real Houston. She is as warm, friendly and has an easy smile. Her brown eyes are expressive and she draws you in with her words and her sense of self. She is a woman who knows who she is, where she is from and where she is going. She laughs about herself and she listens. Our conversation with Saadia was real and she was inspiring. We found Saadia Faruqi to be the Real Houston, the Houston that we want to get to know and the message that she wants to share is one we hope you find as inspiring as we did.
I want people to accept and understand other ways of doing and thinking as equally valuable as the way they do and think. Whether it is religion, culture or just life. Sometimes we say things, but we don’t actually believe them. We need to start believing what we are saying and embrace people as having and being on the same level as we are in every way.