“Although at times immensely challenging, being a mother has been integral to my identity and academic accomplishments. Even on long tiring nights that I have had to nurse a sick child whilst studying for exams or writing papers, I have never felt like my being a mother has dampened my dedication or hindered my success. If anything, motherhood has grounded me as a scholar and enhanced my learning and teaching. And as a reward for my devotion to both, with each child I have reached a new echelon of education and honour.”
Sabreena is a soon-to-be mother of four as well as a PhD candidate and researcher at McMaster University (Hamilton). Her fieldwork is in areas of migration, race/ethnicity and identity and Sabreena is frequently called upon as an expert regarding these issues by academic publications and the media. On top of this, she also sits on the Board of Canadian Council of Muslim Women (Toronto) and is the co-leader of “Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom”– a female-led, interfaith, social justice initiative that combats anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim discrimination. Until recently, Sabreena was also a makeup artist. The different facets to her led me to ask how she feels she’s perceived. Sabreena told me, “In the academic universe, women who are fashion forward are often seen as incapable of also being intelligent and driven. Especially in the earlier part of my career, I felt this was yet another reason for me to have to work harder to prove myself to those who doubted my abilities. And, for many years I hid my weekend job [as a makeup artist] from my department for fear of being branded. Because I like to dress well and look polished I am often perceived by other academics as not the intellectual type, that's until I open my mouth or they see my writing, that is, then all doubts are cast away.”
Where is your favourite place to find yourself?
"I have this inherent fear of large bodies of water but I am strangely drawn to the ocean- to the sound of overwhelming crashing waves and the peaceful silence of the moments in between. I find the ocean frightening and comforting all at once. The ocean appears to be a perfect amalgamation of the might and mercy of Allah and the trials and comforts of life, when overwhelming challenges are followed by relief – reminding me of a verse from the Quran “And, indeed, with hardship comes ease” - Quran 94:5"
What is your favourite quality about yourself?
"I have deep compassion for others. I am always drawn to those who are oppressed, marginalized or broken in some way. Although it often weighs heavy on my soul, listening to the stories of, and writing about those who are less advantaged in society is a cathartic experience."
What is a fun fact about you that you haven’t told me yet?
"I used to teach semi-classical Indian dance and we would put on community performances. Dance is still my saviour. When it all feels like too much I just put on my music and dance."