| Alumni

Yusra Hamidani Is Unapologetically Muslim

It is Ramadan and Women’s History Month, and Yusra Hamidani wants Muslim Americans to speak their truth.

Yusra was born in Karachi, Pakistan, and immigrated to the U.S. when she was five years old. In high school, she was selected for an Act Six scholarship to Gonzaga University, where she studied Business Administration. During her four years as an Act Six scholar, Yusra said she learned so much about DEI, leadership, community, and service. “The program expanded my world view immensely, helped me build empathy, and think holistically how I could help the community at large.”

Yusra was empowered to start wearing the hijab after she graduated from college. “My time at Gonzaga brought me much closer to my religion, Islam. My experiences at school led me to finally feel comfortable and empowered to be able to start wearing the hijab and I’ve been wearing it since 2016, the day after I graduated.” She said wearing the hijab has helped her show up as her true self every day.

ATVing across the city of Cappadocia. Yusra loves to travel. She believes it is important to experience other cultures and expand her worldview. (Photo courtesy of Yusra Hamidani)

After graduating, Yusra started a full-time role at The Boeing Company in a rotation program that exposed her to different roles within tech. She enjoyed the work but struggled to find professional mentors who could relate to her experiences or advocate for her as a Muslim-Pakistani-American.

For instance, Muslims are required to pray five times a day. But due to lack of accommodations for Muslims in the corporate sector, work meetings are often scheduled in conflict with prayer times. “Inclusivity isn’t ‘you can attend the prayer service and we’ll have you catch up on meeting notes,’” Yusra said. “It’s about scheduling the meeting at a time that accommodates my religious obligation so I can actively participate in both.”

This struggle has continued throughout Yusra’s corporate career. “There are instances where I am the only female in many meetings I partake in, the only Muslim, and sometimes the only person of color.” The lack of representation is why Yusra is passionate about advocating for Muslims in America. “We need more representation of Muslims across industries to bring cultural change and inclusivity.”

At Boeing, Yusra eventually helped lead internship recruitment efforts with her alma mater, Gonzaga University. As a person of color, female, Muslim, and a hijabi, Yusra said she not only brought forth an equitable perspective to the programming and recruitment efforts, “I also helped my peers with marginalized identities feel empowered and recognize that they too can have opportunities, like I did.”

We need more representation of Muslims across industries.

Today, Yusra works as a senior product manager supporting Amazon’s Sub Same Day business. Previously, she supported the Community Food Delivery and Food Donation initiatives at Amazon. She had the opportunity to partner with business teams, external community partners/non-profits, and tech teams to launch tech tools which aid initiatives and also help drive systematic change in the fight against hunger. In addition to her DEI efforts at work, Yusra also serves on the boards of Degrees of Change, Gonzaga University’s School of Business Supply Chain Management,and CAIR-WA supporting education and youth development, and Muslim advocacy creating policy change.

Yusra is inspired by other Muslim women leaders, past to present, such as Khadijah bint Khuwaylid, Prophet Muhammed’s first wife, who was the first person to accept Islam and devoted to giving back to impoverished communities. Yusra is also inspired by her local community members such as Nehath Sheriff, founder of the MCRC Community Health Clinic, and Samiah Rizvi, clinic coordinator. “These are women that have been resilient and shown me how to be change agents. I try to live by their example.”

“I am very proud of my Muslim female identity. I think both being a woman and being a Muslim have empowered me,” Yusra said. March 10 to April 8 is Ramadan, a holy month of fasting for Muslims that holds a special place in Yusra’s heart. “It’s not just a month of not eating and drinking. It’s a month of spiritual reflection and realignment, and also charitable contributions and community engagement.”

But this Ramadan and Women’s History Month, Yusra has a heavy heart.

Mezquita Mayor de Granada (Mosque of Granada). When Yusra travels, she visits mosques in different cities. (Photo by Yusra Hamidani)

The genocidal violence happening in Palestine right now weighs very heavily on Muslim Americans, Yusra said. The vast majority of Palestinians are Muslim (98-99%) and Palestine is home to Islam’s third holiest site, the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Since the October 7, 2023, Israeli attack on Gaza, over 30,000 Palestinians have been killed. Of those, most are women and children.

Yusra is disheartened at the lack of awareness about the Gaza genocide in the U.S., the unwillingness of people to talk about Palestine, and the expectation that Muslims should just go on with their day-to-day lives when they do not even feel safe expressing their views on the conflict.

“Over the years, I have seen U.S. political leaders speak up against injustices taking place across the globe. It’s been very frustrating to not see that same level of engagement or support for an issue that is very close to Muslim Americans. Do we not matter?”

Yusra said she wants to encourage individuals who identify as Muslim and Muslim women to embrace their potential and speak their truth. She acknowledges it is a challenging time and there may be fear of retaliation.

“But as both Women’s History Month and Ramadan teach us, be resilient and a change agent in your community. The improvements we wish to see won’t come overnight, so continue to be an advocate for positive and inclusive change—and be unapologetically Muslim.”

Written by Sharon Ho Chang, Communications Director

Featured image: Yusra and her siblings on the Bosphorus cruise in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2019. (Photo courtesy of Yusra Hamidani)

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