Wendy Chang shatters the stereotype of a meek Muslim woman the way a judo chop splits a piece of wood.

The 35-year-old nurse at Fremont Kaiser was raised Catholic by her parents, who emigrated from Beijing, but converted to Islam after she met her husband, Faisal Nsour, whose father moved to the United States from Jordan.

Today Chang, a Redwood City native, wears a traditional Islamic head scarf but can accessorize with a second-degree black belt in martial arts, which she’s studied since a co-worker stalked her 12 years ago.

“It was a very threatening and scary experience,” she said. “I decided I needed to take control of my life again.”

Chang met Nsour, 30, during self-defense classes in Fremont and now teaches occasional empowerment sessions for Muslim women in Hayward. The couple have a 5-year-old boy and 2-year-old girl, and the family expects to become a quintet in three months.

Chang shared her story at a media networking breakfast called “American Muslims, American Stories.” About 40 local Muslims and reporters hobnobbed at the event Thursday morning at the Newark-Fremont Hilton.

The organizers stressed that mainstreammedia tend to generalize about all followers of Islam when they report on terrorism by Muslim perpetrators.

“When you constantly associate a religion with a negative term, people think that’s the norm,” said Safaa Ibrahim, executive director of the Bay Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “When abortion clinics are bombed, you don’t hear ‘Christian terrorist,’ even though they’re always quoting the Bible.”


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