In her day job, Chicopee, Massachusetts, attorney Tahirah Amatul-Wadud does family law — divorce, custody, child support. But on her own time, she’s filed civil rights lawsuits on behalf of Muslim communities who feel threatened, especially African-American Muslims like herself.
In recent years, as the rhetoric against Muslims has intensified, so has Wadud’s activism. She’s on the board of CAIR — a national Muslim civil liberties organization — and the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women.
Wadud, a mother of seven, said she used to want people to see her as a lawyer first, with her faith and personal identity deep in the background.
Tahirah Amatul-Wadud: I didn’t want to be identified as a Muslim lawyer, as an African-American lawyer, as a woman lawyer. I really just wanted to be a good lawyer.
For a while, I would never even disclose that I was working on some of these cases for the Muslim community, because I felt: one, self-conscious. I felt that people would say, “What are you doing? Why are you associating with people [rumored to be involved] with terror?… Why would you do that to yourself?”
So I’ve evolved from being a little bit more self-conscious about that work, to openly embracing it, because there’s nothing for me to be ashamed of.