Sabiha Basrai (center) talks politics with a man from Egypt during the Hajj pilgrimage. "He was excited that I was from Oakland," Sabiha says. "The Occupy Oakland movement was going strong."

Coming of age as a Muslim woman in post 9/11 America, I have struggled with defining my own faith and explaining it to others in this climate of Islamophobia. I have tried to find my political voice and my spiritual center while dealing with the dual identities of the American Muslim experience.

In November 2011, I went on the Hajj pilgrimage with my parents. I spent 28 days in Saudi Arabia walking through the desert with three million Muslims from around the world. The whole experience made me believe in people’s ability to be incredibly generous and compassionate. We all shared space without distinctions of race, class, or gender. I was kissed by an old Iranian woman, I talked politics with an Egyptian man who was excited about the Occupy Movement, I shared food with a couple from Morocco, and I talked about hijab bans with a woman from Switzerland. I saw Turkish women with incredible facial tattoos, Nigerians with patterns of scars across their cheeks, and Afghan men with their beards died bright red with henna. We all stood on the plains of Arafat together and reflected on our regrets and all our hopes for the future.

I came back to America with a renewed sense of faith and a new understanding of myself as part of a vibrant and diverse global community.

Sabiha Basrai is an activist and graphic designer. She is co-owner of Design Action Collective based in Oakland, CA. www.designaction.org.

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