(NEW YORK) — Amara Majeed is a college freshman who is already making history.
Majeed, 18, goes to Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, and majors in pre-law.
“I think I’m the only freshman at Brown [University] that wears a headscarf,” Majeed, of Baltimore, told ABC News.
Born to Sri Lankan immigrants, Amara is an activist who, through her Hijab Project, is fighting to break down the stigma attached to the headscarf that is worn in public by some Muslim women after they reach puberty. The garment signifies modesty.
Amy Robach of Good Morning America interviewed Majeed for her #GirlPower series, which profiles inspiring and strong women.
Majeed, who started the project when she was 16, said she did so because she wanted to encourage women and girls to try the headscarf “for a day, go public with it and share their experiences on my site.” Her goal was to eradicate stereotypes about Muslim girls and fight Islamophobia.
She said she was surprised by the range of women who’ve tried the scarf and how well the project has been embraced.
“I hope to really foster sisterhood, promote feminism, and promote the understanding of an oftentimes misunderstood and underrepresented minority,” Majeed said.
Robach asked Majeed what she thought was the biggest misconception was about women who wear the hijab.
“I think the biggest misconception is probably that we lack intellect. And that we are oppressed … I think that people equated me wearing the hijab with a loss of American identity. And, oftentimes, people — you know, they questioned whether I spoke English. They questioned my intellectuality,” she said.
She added that people perceived that the scarf wasn’t her choice and that her parents forced her to wear it.
Wearing the scarf “really does align with my ideals as a feminist,” she said, adding that she wears it to express that she doesn’t want to be objectified or sexualized.
She started wearing the scarf when she was 14, and says it changed the way people viewed her.
“Honestly, I get a lot of hate … people telling me, ‘You’re a terrorist. You need to go back to where you belong. I hope you get AIDS,’ et cetera. And, in all truthfulness — this isn’t anything that’s new to me,” she said.
Robach asked Majeed whether she felt safe walking down a U.S. street while wearing her headscarf.
“No,” she replied, adding, “It’s very scary. And I don’t feel safe walking in the streets alone at night with the hijab on. And sometimes I even, if I’m wearing a jacket, I just put a hood on to kind of cover up the hijab.”
“Do you envision a day where you will feel safe walking down any street in America with the hijab on?” Robach asked.
“I don’t know if it’ll be in my lifetime,” Majeed said. “But I hope and pray that it’ll be in my children’s lifetimes or my grandchildren’s lifetimes.”
In pursuit of her goal, Majeed penned a letter to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump after his controversial comments about Muslims. Trump has called for a temporary “complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the United States.
In a tweet shortly after making the call, he wrote: “Just put out a very important policy statement on the extraordinary influx of hatred & danger coming into our country. We must be vigilant!”
In her letter, Majeed told Trump that he was dragging America into the past.
“With all due respect, Mr. Trump, you are a demagogue who is capitalizing on Americans’ fear and paranoia; you are scapegoating an entire population of 1.6 billion people in an attempt to further your campaign, in an attempt to ‘make America great again,’” she wrote.
Majeed said she wrote the letter because she’s scared.
“So, I felt like I needed a way to express kind of what I was feeling as a Muslim American, and to tell Donald Trump that his comments are … harmful to the Muslim community,” she said.
According to Majeed, Trump has yet to respond to her letter.
Her passion to change the world earned her a spot on Seventeen magazine’s Teen Power List. Despite her accomplishments, she’s still just a teenage girl at heart.
“I pretty much like any movie that has Leonardo DiCaprio in it,” she said, laughing. “And I am a huge Swifty. I love Taylor Swift. And I think that she is an incredibly powerful woman.”
She confessed that she binge-watched Scandal recently and is a big fan of Gossip Girl.
Asked what the phrase “girl power” meant to her, Majeed replied: “I think that girl power is essentially showing the world that we females can be powerful not despite but because of our gender.”
She added: “One woman’s fight should be our fight. And one woman’s struggle should be our struggle. … Feminism really embodies this idea that we have to help each other and lift one another up.”
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