The Inspiring Story of an Indiana Woman Who Fell in Love with the Middle East, South Asia and The Muslim People

By Hannah Croucher

I took Arabic senior year of my undergraduate degree and it made everything in my life fall into place. I started to piece together my feminism, my desire to help others, my passion for women’s rights and human rights, and my intense interest and love for culture, language, religion and travel. I fell in love with the Middle East. I fell in love with the colors, patterns, smells, and culture. I fell in love with South Asia. I fell in love with Muslims.

Whenever I’m in a masjid I feel nothing but peace. Muslim people are the most peaceful, humble, loving, kind, giving, and welcoming people I’ve ever met. They’re surrounded by hate and respond with nothing but love. I’m inspired every day. These are my people.

After I graduated with my undergraduate degree in 2012 I remember sitting in my room many times crying because I wanted to travel and experience culture, language, and religion so badly. In May 2014 I was lucky enough to be able to travel to Bangladesh for 2 weeks with an organization that serves the stranded and stateless Urdu-speaking people that still reside in the camps in Bangladesh since the war in 1971.

We did so much, including visiting OBAT schools. These children were radiant. Who knew such light could come out of such darkness? I was surrounded with family. I was empowered. I was able to help initiate the start of a partnership between an OBAT school in Dhaka with Girl Scouts in northern Indianapolis to begin a 2-part pen-pal and music project. I cried the first time I heard the call to prayer live. I’m tearing up thinking about it now.

Since my return my soul has been on fire. That fire drove me to become even more involved in the Muslim community, to gain more experiences with work, volunteerism, and networking, and to piece together the next chapter of my life. During the weeks after my return back to the U.S. I kept thinking “How can I make the biggest impact in the field of human rights?”, “Why does law sound so intriguing to me?”.

I decided to apply to law school for international human rights law - specifically interested in human rights and women’s rights issues in Muslim countries, stateless people/refugee crises, and to also continue my studies in Arabic. I was living paycheck to paycheck, and had to put my credit card to good use to be able to afford the test and study materials, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me from working towards something that I believed I could achieve. I knew that I could do whatever I put my mind to and I was relentless in my pursuit.

These last 2 months have completely changed my life and continue to leave me speechless (which is rare). I received my admission to the Robert H. McKinney School of Law in downtown Indianapolis and accepted a position with the Muslim Alliance of Indiana (MAI) (@indianamuslims). Through MAI I coordinated 7 summer workshops throughout the state of Indiana with the purpose of providing interfaith understanding and responsiveness to cultural domestic violence against immigrant and refugee women.

What better time than now to gain a more personal and in-depth understanding to this growing and widely misunderstood issue? What better time than now to bring awareness, advocacy, and diversity? It’s been joyous to work on these workshops during Ramadan as well because I’ve been able to talk with prominent Muslim leaders in the community during the happiest, most loving, and most peaceful time of the year. But of course the MOST important part is that I get to wear hijab and go to Iftar with my Muslim girl friends (my soul is a brown, Muslim girl, and I prefer Turban-Style hijab).

I don’t say this often, but I think this is what it’s like to feel blessed. I believe this is my purpose. My path is even more clear to me. I feel so lucky and happy to be filled with such fire and passion and to be embraced, loved, and supported by the Muslim community. To be supported by family. These are my people.