“When I started grade 9, I was the only Muslim girl in the entire school. I did as much research as I could going as far back as the 90’s to see if there had ever been a graduate out of that school in a hijab. There wasn’t. As far as I could tell, I was the first one to even attend the school…Obviously, me being there was a new thing for so many of my classmates, so it was really hard those first two years. Especially in grade 9, a lot of the guys were super intimidated/annoyed of me. I’d heard a terrorist remark going around about me, I’d had guys trying to touch my hijab, I’d heard a couple “Allahu Akbar!”’s in the hallways, etc.”
Hanan is 20 and a 3rd year statistics student at the University of Victoria. She is passionate about public speaking and comedy, and loves anything that will improve those skills, whether it be watching movies, seeing shows, watching stand-up comedy, or listening to slam poetry. Her favourite quality about herself is her humour, she mentioned, “it’s one of the things I work the hardest to improve upon and expand. I love making people laugh.” Hanan told me, “I really do try to pick up new ways of expressing myself. Things like tone, pitch, speed, and volume can all change the meaning of a sentence. It’s fun trying to figure out how/why each actor made the decisions they did delivering their lines. I think I just really like dialogue. Something witty, or clever, or heartbreaking. I love it. Words are so powerful! After all, it’s not about what you say- it’s about what you mean!”Hanan’s proudest achievement was her nomination speech when she was running for Valedictorian. She told me, “Being valedictorian was something I had wanted since I was 12 years old [when] I won a school-wide speech-a-thon.” She told me considering how she felt in the early years of high school, to see people voting for her to represent them as valedictorian was a win. Hanan continued, “A win for both me and the future (female) Muslim graduates of that school. I was the first, which was enough on it’s own to potentially ease any young girl’s mind about not being accepted in school. But now I got to be valedictorian? And all these parents and teachers and students get to see how it’s not a bad thing to be Muslim and it’s okay to give Muslims the benefit of the doubt and how religion doesn’t get in the way of success? Oh, honey that’s a W I N. It was amazing to see that my identity as a Muslim didn’t take away from what I had to say, and further, it didn’t overshadow or erase my individuality.”
How do you want to be perceived?
“Honest and trustworthy. I try to be as supportive and helpful to the people in my life as I possibly can, so I hope that they feel they can trust me, and know that I’m always here for them.”
What is a fun fact about you that you haven’t told me yet?
“I can juggle! It’s very minimal and depends highly on wind direction, but under the right conditions… I could probably join a circus. Not to brag, though.”