Less Dread, More Curiosity

May 21, 2024

She noticed Joseph Weidknecht, a Trump supporter who had arrived alone wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat. Weidknecht soon became surrounded by crowd members who proceeded to snatch the hat from his head and threaten further harm. “That's the point where something kind of snapped inside me because I wear a Muslim hijab,” said Amdeen to Weidknecht in the video. As the clip concluded, Greene welcomed Amdeen, now a pricing analyst living with her husband in Chicago, to the stage along with her uncle, Ghassan Amdeen. So I had a standard of respect for who he was in my life and what he has done for me.

Greene then turned to another story from the One Small Step series. 

In 2016, Amina Amdeen was a Muslim student at the University of Texas at Austin, and she attended an anti-Trump protest outside of the Texas State Capitol building in the aftermath of his Presidential election. She noticed Joseph Weidknecht, a Trump supporter who had arrived alone wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat. Weidknecht soon became surrounded by crowd members who proceeded to snatch the hat from his head and threaten further harm.

“That's the point where something kind of snapped inside me because I wear a Muslim hijab,” said Amdeen to Weidknecht in the video. “And I've been in situations where people have tried to snatch it off my head. And I rushed towards you and I just started screaming, ‘Leave him alone!’”

Police arrested one person involved in the altercation, and in the wake of the incident, an unlikely friendship bloomed. The story of the interaction between these two seemingly incompatible perspectives became a source of inspiration, garnering national attention and becoming the subject of a 2019 documentary film, (Un)Divided. 

As the clip concluded, Greene welcomed Amdeen, now a pricing analyst living with her husband in Chicago, to the stage along with her uncle, Ghassan Amdeen. Like his niece, Ghassan is also an Iraqi native now living in the US, and he has spent almost two decades advising the American military, first as an interpreter and then a Middle East cultural advisor—having been deployed for a year and a half in the fight against ISIS. 

When Amina received the invitation to speak about navigating difficult conversations, she proposed having her uncle join—”Not just my uncle, my favorite uncle.” (An effort was made to have Weidknecht participate in the conversation but he was not able to be reached.) The relationship between uncle and niece had always been strong, but it grew deeper in 2016 when Ghassan revealed something to Amina that left her stunned: he had voted for Donald Trump.

“He started talking about the issues that made him come to that decision,” remembered Amina. “And to be quite honest with you, it was difficult to keep my passionate side subdued because in our culture, you respect your elders, basically, no matter what. So I had a standard of respect for who he was in my life and what he has done for me. But I was very fired up…and I started kind of respectfully grilling him.”

The source of this news is from New York University

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