Editor’s Note: After Sept. 11, 2001, Sarwat Husain began advocating for Muslims from her home in San Antonio. She and her husband started Al-Ittihaad, a free monthly English-language newspaper for Muslim youth and American Muslims.
For 11 years, Sarwat Husain owned and operated a child development center with her husband, Zakir Husain, in San Antonio, Texas. Sarwat was a clinical nutritionist, but she was also an activist who often became involved in efforts to resolve injustices being done to African Americans and Latinos. She did not initially get involved in Muslim civil rights because “there were no civil rights issues,” she said. “But now there is.”
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, a friend in South Africa phoned Husain and asked her what she was doing. Husain was preparing breakfast.
“‘America is burning and you’re making breakfast?'” her friend said.
Husain turned on her television and saw the second plane hit the World Trade Center.
“As I was watching the flames in the building, I knew it would change things completely,” she said. “I was wondering what would happen to Muslims of America – this is our home. We have a dual responsibility as Muslims and Americans. What do we have to do to help our country?”
Amid the hate crimes and anti-Muslim sentiment in San Antonio, Husain, 52, transformed into a Muslim civil rights activist and donned a hijab, a traditional headscarf – something she rarely did after her arrival from Pakistan to the United States in 1970. She penned columns in the San Antonio Express-News, gave sensitivity training for law enforcement and companies, and established the San Antonio Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) chapter in 2003, where she is the president. She also learned everything about publication.