Tenant Focus: Being Muslim in the Tenderloin

In the sunlit Curran House courtyard, 13-year old Nada Kaid sits with her mother, Nabihah.

Muslims from Yemen, poorest of the Arab countries, they wear traditional dress.  Away from Curran House, it causes them some grief.  Nabihah’s chador is a black robe that covers all but her face and hands.  Nada wears separates of lighter dark colors, highlighted by her blue hijab, a scarf.  As with her mother, only face and hands show, a sign of devout modesty in Islam that, accompanied by a lowered gaze, commands respect among believers.

Jamal, 45, head of the Kaid family, is away working. He’s lived in San Francisco for 26 years, but traveled frequently to Yemen. He was married and started his family there. Now he has six children: five live here at Curran House, and one is in Yemen, where more than half the population lives in poverty.

Nada is her mother’s guide and point person outside of the 22-year-old Islamic Society of San Francisco. 400 Muslims regularly attend the mosque at 20 Jones St., the largest of five in the city and the only one where the khut-bah (sermon) is in English.

Nada, who avidly reads the Quran, has been exposed to more assimilating influences than her mother, thanks to her fluency and the company of her cheeky, pubescent American classmates. But her learning has come at a price, especially at school. Because of her dress, boys tease and ridicule her.  As a Muslim girl, “we are not even supposed to look at boys,” Nada says. “The African-American boys call me ‘bomb-thrower.’ They are bullies.” “Here, I am known around the building, and at school,” she says, now at home and at ease in Curran House. She has learned she must “stick up for yourself—act like I’m brave.”


Photos: Paul Dunn/Central City Extra Sun. Sept. 27, 2015. This excerpt is from a article, written by Tom Carter, was originally published in Central City Extra’s September 2015 issue.

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