Munjid and Wafa Hinnawi - Part 3, October 7, 2018

Dublin Core


Munjid and Wafa Hinnawi - Part 3, October 7, 2018


Arab Americans-Ohio


Wafa speaks about her identify as a Palestinian-Arab-American. The interview was conducted in Pickerington, Ohio


Interviewers: Alexis Grimm, Hanada Al-Masri
Interviewees: Wafa and Munjid




October 7, 2018


Hannah Bennett, filming
Cheryl A Johnson, online presentation of the digital materials


Arab-American Project by is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.




English and Arabic


Oral History

Oral History Item Type Metadata


Alexis Grimm
Hanada Al-Masri


Wafa Hinnawi


Pickerington, Ohio


Wafa: It's her turn, that's why I didn't ask (laugh)

Alexis Grimm: So, I wanted to go back to something that you mentioned earlier when you were talking about how you identified very strongly as Palestinian-American. You feel a strong connection to the region as well, that's why you identify as Palestinian-American rather than Arab-American.

W: Yes, I do.

A: Can you talk more about that and why you feel such a strong connection to the region?

W: Ah, like I said previously, because of the media here is blocking a lot of stuff about especially Palestine and the Israel conflict that's going on there. Every time or every chance I have to talk to somebody or to answer a question, I like to tell them I'm "Palestinian." And I love for them to ask me questions. And I love to answer questions and show them what "Palestinian" is. What "Jerusalem" is, you know! And why is all this stuff going on around in my country and I show this in my appearance. Like I'm not shy to wear my traditional clothing. If I go out, if I go shopping, I'm fine. I see a lot of people ask me why are you wearing this [gestures to hijab], or sometimes people will see me wearing stuff like this [gestures to embroidery on sleeve of traditional dress], they will ask, you know "Where is this from?" and I will happily answer and explain to them, you know, my country, my origin, everything.

A: You mentioned earlier with your neighbor how you had to educate her about the Palestinian-Israel issue. What would you want us to know about that? Like what misconceptions might we have that you might kind of want to clear up?

W: Yeah, like I said previously, I would love for you guys to do more research. Get on Youtube, on Facebook. Get connected with the Middle Eastern region and see exactly what's going on, and hear. Hear and see what's going on from both sides, you know what I mean. Because there is like a big community of Israeli people who are real Jewish, and they don't like the killing and all this stuff. Because my neighbor's mom, her mom is Jewish. And she specifically told me, she said, "I am Jewish, and I believe in Moses, but I don't believe in killing. I don't believe in somebody coming and take my land or my home or my, you know! So I would love for American people to be more open and educate themselves more. Because, like for us, when we come here, we learn, we try to learn everything you know about American life, about culture, about schools, about everything. And I'm one of the people that I like to get involved in everything. Like I get involved in my son's school, I participate with PTA, with my daughter's school, same thing. Even in Arabic school, I participate with PTA to have a lot of connection with the kids, with the parents. So, I would like - I would love for American people to do the same thing. Like get involved with more Arab people, or with more Muslim people. We do have um a lot of Christian people that live in Palestine and we lived all our lives with, especially like in Ramallah or Bethlehem, we lived like family. We were so close, there is no difference between me and my Christian neighbor. We go to them for their holidays, for their feasts, they go to us. We had a Christian neighbor that they used to fast with us, in Ramallah. I swear, they used to fast with us in Ramadan. Or even if they're not fasting they will never eat or drink in front of us. When they come to visit us, they'll be like "Oh, we're fasting like you guys." They will celebrate our holiday, they will make cookies and stuff for our holiday like it's their holiday. Same thing with us, when it's like Christmas, we'll go to them, we'll bake them cookies, and I do the same thing with my neighbors. Like if it's Christmas, I'll make some something and I'll send it to them. I'll send them gifts, and they'll do the same thing on my holiday. They'll come, they'll bring me cookies, they'll bring me flowers or something to congratulate us for our holiday. So I've tried to keep like in contact with them and let them know, you know "Here we are." That's how Muslims are. Muslims are not terrorists. They don't like killing. They like to live in peace. Why do you think we moved and left our countries and moved here? We moved here to live in peace. And practice peace. It doesn't mean that there is no bad Muslims, there is a lot of bad people in every religion. There is bad Christian people, there is bad Muslim people, there is bad Jewish people, there is bad people everywhere. But you cannot judge all Muslims because one bad Muslim did something wrong, and that's what's happening, unfortunately, here. When they announced on September 11th, that "OK, Osama Bin Laden did this." You think all Muslims agree with that? you think all Muslims liked that? No. There was, I think, I don't remember the number, but there was a lot of Muslim people that got killed that day too, that they worked there and they got killed. Does this mean that you know they are also bad? No. So we want American people and the whole world to identify Muslim as a Muslim, as a person of a religion, as a person of peace. We do not believe in killing. Our prophet, there is a lot of verses in our Holy Book, a lot of verses from our prophet, that says do not kill, do not do this, do not do this. So we don't believe in that. So if somebody, if one bad guy does something, it doesn't mean that you know all Muslims are bad. And same thing, there is a lot of American people that killed tons of Muslim people in their stores, in their places. Like a couple of weeks ago, two people got killed. In Akron, last year, a Muslim guy, 26 years old, in his pizza shop, somebody walked in, stole the money, and killed him. He died. Does this mean all of the - does this give me the right to say, "Oh, all American people are bad because this American guy killed a Muslim man?" No. I can't judge everybody. And that's the biggest thing that's going on here that faces all Muslims. You know they just think Muslims are terrorists. A lot of people, like nowadays, especially after Trump took over, it's it's really horrible. Because now they just say it in front of you, they don't care, they don't care. Like Tuttle Crossing Mall, now. It's not like before [addressing Hanada], it's totally different. If you walk in, you will see all those people looking at you different. The other day, one of my friends said she was at Walmart, and a guy approached her and he said "Oh, What are you doing here? What are you doing here, why are you not going back to your country? That's not your country." All this because she was wearing her hijab and she was shopping. He was like, "Go back to your country, you are Muslim, you're not supposed to be here. You are terrorist." I swear, wallah (والله) she told me yesterday at the mosque. She was like, this is what happened with me. And I was like "What did you say?" And she was like,"I didn't say anything." And I was like, no, if I was you, I would stop by and say, "Ok, did I do something bad to you? What did you see from me? Did I approach you, did I cuss on you, did I do anything bad to you, did I misbehave?" If I did something of that, you can approach me and say something to me. But as long as I'm behaving myself and I know my rights and I know what to do and I'm following the law, there is nothing you can do to me. You know I'm a human being, you're a human being. And everybody makes mistakes, nobody's perfect You know. So that's one of the things that I would love to see all American people look at it in a different way. Not just what the media is putting in their minds. Because I watch American news everyday. I watch Fox News, I watch Channel 10, I watch CNN and everything I see its, shows that Israeli people are the most innocent people in the world. And Palestinian people, Muslim people are the worst people in the world. They're doing this and they're doing that. That's one of the main things that I would love to see American people more open minded, doing more research, and talk about it. And it's not only me. I'm sure that if you approach any Muslim person, and talk to him and ask him any question, he'd be more than happy to introduce himself and talk to you and give you any information that you want. And they will tell you that we are all against killing and You know the killing of all innocent people, that they don't deserve to be dead.

A: So when you come into contact with these negative perceptions in the news, or people and their ignorance, in things like Walmart or shopping centers, things like that, how do you, how do you combat that? If they approach you by yourself or if they approach you with your family.

W: I will stand up for my family, for my beliefs, and I will talk back to them in a nice way. I'm not gonna be rude. If they're rude to me, I'm not gonna be rude too because that's not my religion. Even my religion, even my holy book tells me if somebody is being bad or misbehaves to you have to treat them with dignity and respect. So, I will approach him, I will explain to him that you know I did not do anything bad you and, here you go. But if he's one of the people that you cannot even talk to him, I'll probably, maybe call 911 for him, but I know that are not gonna do anything. But that's what I will do. I will stand up for my family. I'll protect myself, my family in any way I can.

A: I know you mentioned like you'll wear your traditional clothing and things like that and that's how you stay strong and preserve your culture and the way that you identify. Is there anything else that you do ...

W: Like in my house, um, as you've seen it's most traditional. I teach my kids since, I taught them since they were in KG, I taught them the language, I'm teaching them the religion, I'm teaching them the holy book. I'm still making all our traditional food, I hardly make American food, we always eat, you know, Arabic, Palestinian food. So, yeah, we pray five times a day. Um, What else? Everything that we do is based on our culture and the stuff that we, that I was raised of, same thing I'm teaching my kids.

A: So, has it been hard, um, coming to America trying to preserve your culture or has it been easy to teach [inaudible] ...?

W: It is, it is. Because I see, I do see a lot of people, it's really tough on them to keep their, you know, Muslim identity, or Arabic tradition, along with the American life. But I think it's not hard. If you try and you keep trying you can do it. You can do it. Because if you move to live in Jordan, or maybe - you tried it, and I think you had chance to keep your American style, or your American life. But on the other hand, you got involved with life there. So same thing here. It doesn't mean, like my kids won't eat American food, that doesn't mean, you know, I'm not going to let them try American food, or eat American food. They will. We go to American restaurants, we go to Italian restaurants. But the main thing they know, okay, we know we are Arabs, we're Muslim, that's our culture, that's the stuff that we do, that's the stuff we eat, and all this stuff.

Hanada Al-Masri: So obviously, you are maintaining a lot of Arabic tradition within your family and life and I assume you also integrate within the American culture, so if we can ask you to identify some of the contributions that you have for your community, local community her in Columbus, and Arab-American community and American community in general, what would you say?

ونفس السؤال: شو المساهمات اللي ساهمتوها للمجتمع الأميركي. يعني انتو عرب أمريكيين الآن فبتساهموا في المجتمع. يعني محلك او المطعم هو مساهمة منك لخدمة المجتمع. فممكن تحكيلنا عن الموضوع هذا لو سمحت؟

W: Okay, for us as, um, as Arab, as an Arabic community here, first of all we encourage people especially through the Noor Islamic Center and ICC that we have, it's like one of the main Islamic centers here in Columbus, Ohio, we got involved there. We do a lot of meetings with senators, with people from government, we invite them to the mosque, they get to meet us, we do encourage people around voting, we do put it post it on websites and even in the mosques we post flyers. Encourage people to vote, teach people about you know the political here in the United States, and teach them how to get their choice, you know how to pick their choice. Okay, what has this person been doing, what this person is doing, and it's up to you. Like for now, we are waiting for November 6 election, and we are like listening and teaching ourselves about the DeWine-Cordray issue, you know, for our governor, and so we like showing the Muslim community what this person wants to the community, what this person wants to the community, we get a lot of people come in and talk to us in the, especially on Fridays, Friday night they come and they talk, Saturdays. We do have what's called Islam one-on-one on Saturday at NICC, which we have people come from like, schools, churches, um um colleges, they come and it's like about two hour session, they sit down and they have all kinds of questions answered. Whatever question they have about Islam, about Arabic, about religion, about the Muslim community. They're free to come and they are welcome. And I wanna tell you one incident that it was on, actually it was on Facebook over last year around, you know, the voting and all this Trump thing. We had a protester, she was from Lancaster, [addressing Hanada-do you remember Hanada?] She was from Lancaster, and she was one of those like, excuse my language, but she was so ignorant. She hated us so bad, and she stood for about like three hours, holding that sign, you remember in front of the Masjid, and she was like everybody will pass by her and she will cuss him. She was so bad. We do have an American Muslim lady, and she's very active with the Muslim community, and she wears the hijab too, so what she did: she approached that lady, and the first thing she told her, she said: Can I have a hug? Can I give you a hug? That lady gave her that like weird look, like what are you talking about, I'm cussing you and I'm cussing your people, and you want me to give you a hug? So that lady was like, she hesitated for a minute, and then she hugged her and she said, may I welcome to you to our center? why don't you come in for a cup of coffee and some treat? And she was like no, I'm not. And then she finally got in, she sat down for about two more hours, and she had all kind of questions to ask there. She was asking about Muslim people, about Islam, about Arab, all those kinds of questions. She ended up leaving the mosque in tears. She apologized to everybody, and she said "I am so sorry, and I am so sorry for all my behavior, and I did not know how kind and peaceful you are". And that was something that we were so proud of because if we left her there standing and did not approach her, she could have probably had more people come in and you know. And at one point, when all those problems started we had people come and have signs saying "you are our neighbors, we are with you". And that was really heart-warming, you know, when all those things started and they started targeting Islamic centers and stuff. They stood around the NICC holding those signs and that was something deep to us, we did appreciate that, we did love those people. Because we live with them, you know, we live. I live, my whole neighborhood, I have no Muslim people here. All my neighborhood they're American, all my neighbors, they're American. None of them's Arab, none of them's Muslim, but I have perfect communication, perfect relationship with all of them. Like on Halloween, they'd have a party, and they invite me and I take my kids and go, even though they know I don't celebrate Halloween, we don't do anything for Halloween, but because I appreciate my neighbors, I just go and join them for an hour, you know, or so. Just to let them feel, you know, you're my neighbors, I appreciate you, I appreciate your holiday, I appreciate what you're doing, you know. I will go, I won't reject it and say "oh, they're American and I don't wanna go, I don't wanna get involved, I don't celebrate Halloween." Well my kids know we don't celebrate Halloween, we do not believe in Halloween because it's not in our religion, it's not in our beliefs, but I can't prevent my children to participate with their neighbors or with their friends. They know we're not celebrating the holiday, but we're just going out for fun with our neighbors, you know, with our friends. Some people, they don't, some people they say "No, I'm not, I don't believe in it, I'm not sending my kids." That's fine, it's up to you. You can do that. But I wanna maintain good relationships with my neighbors, same thing what we do in Noor Islamic Center, we're trying to maintain perfect and good relationships with all the neighbors around. As I said, we educate Muslim children about Islam, about peace, about the beliefs of us. My son had only like one or two kids in the whole school that were Muslims. He was like the president of the Muslim holiday in school. He picked that, he told his teacher, "okay, we're Muslim, I'm gonna be in charge of Muslim holidays to teach friends about Muslim holidays." Like, last year, he did a project; his social studies teacher, because they learn about Judaism, about Islam, and about like all the old days, and he gave them options for project. Like several options. One of the options was about our Holy Book, which it the Quran, so he did that. He chose to do that, I did not force him, I did not ask him to do that. I was like, well okay here's your option what do you wanna do, and he said I wanna do this, I wanna do this project about Quran. So he did it. So this way they keep, you know, they're proud, alhamdulillah, they're proud to be Muslims. They're not shy to say we're Muslim-Americans, because no one would recognize my daughter as Muslim because she's not wearing the hijab yet. But she's proud to say in school, and tell friends "I'm Muslim.", you know, because she's learned, she's been taught and she was raised to be proud of her identity. Even though, okay, she's American, we're proud to be American, we're proud to be, you know, holding the American passport, we live here, we do our living, we cannot deny that, it's a fact. If we didn't live here, God knows how you know, we established life, we established business, we're living a good life. So we do appreciate that, but on the other hand, we appreciate our religion and our culture. So like all her friends know she's Muslim, she tells them like, when it's lunch, okay, if it's like pizza with pork, "okay, I don't eat that." She goes and plays with my neighbors and sometimes they do you know the fire, and do s'mores. You know what she does? Right away, she comes running home because we don't eat more, and marshmallows have . . . It's made of pork. So she runs, she runs home and picks up a bag of halal marshmallows and takes it back and participates with him. She's having fun, but on the other hand she's not, you know this woman not doing something against her religion even though she's only ten years old. Because she's raised that way. She knows what goes with our religion and what does not go with our religion. She knows what goes with our culture, and what does not go with our culture. And I'm trying, you know we're trying our best to do that (laughs) and keep them educated and up to date and up to time and up to everything, with everything.

H: Thank you very much, this is amazing. Is there anything that you wanted us to ask and we haven't asked you?

W: I guess you did ask me everything. I think I answered more than you asked me! (laughs)

H: Okay, thank you very much. Thank you, thank you

W: (Arabic response to shukran). Same thing, thank you so much. Do you have any questions? (laughs)

A: I have another question.

W: تفضلي. Yeah, that's fine, go ahead.

A: I know some people identify as Arab-American and that you identify as Palestinian-American. What for you is the difference between being Palestinian-American and being Arab-American?

W: Like I said previously, I'm proud to be Arab, but I try my best to say Palestinian because I want everybody to know "what is Palestine" or "where is Palestine." Because if we stop saying Palestine, we will look at the map one day and find no Palestine, that's why. That's why. To be an Arab, and I'm proud to be Arab. And I'm from the Middle East. But on the other hand I would love to tell people Palestine because I want everybody to know what is Palestine and where is Palestine.

A: Did you ever get frustrated or overwhelmed because you feel like you have to be a representative for Palestine and a representative for the Muslim community? Do you ever get frustrated?

W: Actually, no. I'm fine. I get frustrated sometimes when people ask me and say "where are you from?" and I say "Palestine" or "Jerusalem" and they will be like, "Where is that?" That gets me really frustrated, because I agree when I say Palestine maybe they don't know what Palestine is, but I think everybody in the world should know what Jerusalem is. What Jerusalem is. You know Jerusalem, it's written in all the holy books.

M: And Jesus was born there.

W: Yeah, it's written in all...

Original Format

MP4 - 720p HD



Time Summary

00:00:00 - Identity Formation (Why does Wafa identify as a Palestinian-Arab-American?)
00:01:43 - Clearing up misconceptions
00:11:35 - Wafa speaks about how she preserves her culture
00:14:01 - Wafa speaks about her contributions to the Arab-American community
00:19:54 - Wafa speaks about her good relationships with her American neighbors.
00:24:45 - Conversation/Thanks
00:25:10 - Wafa on Palestinian-American identity

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Interviewers: Alexis Grimm, Hanada Al-Masri Interviewees: Wafa and Munjid, “Munjid and Wafa Hinnawi - Part 3, October 7, 2018,” Arab-American Project, accessed June 13, 2024,