NEW YORK (FOX 5 NEWS) - Many Muslims argue that the president's foreign policy is fostering a more vocal Islamophobia in the United States. And it is especially problematic for women who wear traditional garments, which they say makes them targets for hate.
"I am a professional woman who works, I'm a mom, I'm a community advocate," Dr. Debbie Almontaser said. "I someone who does basically a lot of the same thing they do except that I wear a head scarf, a hijab, and that I'm of Muslim faith."
Almontaser is the founder and CEO of Bridging Cultures Group. Born in Yemen, she came to the United States at age 3 with her family. They settled in Buffalo, New York, in the 1960s. She said she recalls her father telling the family they would be just like everyone else.
"And so when growing up I was in a secular Muslim family," she said. "We didn't pray; we didn't know when the holidays were coming."
Then in middle school, Almontaser started to get a better education about her faith and traditions. one day she decided to wear a hijab to school.
"I went to a social studies class and my teacher basically said to me 'Why are you wearing that thing on your head?'" she said, adding that the teacher told her people in American don't wear it because it is a sign of oppression.
Almontaser said she went to the bathroom and took it off. The next time she connected again with her faith was when she moved to New York when she was 19.
"I saw the vibrant, incredible diversity and people being able to be themselves in their skin is when I started to do a lot of soul-searching of my faith, what my purpose was," Almontaser said. "I then embraced Islam through, actually, the African-American Muslim experience."
The community activist met three African-American Muslim women.
"Six months into my joining these women and learning about Islam is when I made the conscious decision to live a spiritual life as a Muslim woman," she said. "I started to cover my hair and pray five times a day and make the choice to raise my children as Muslim."
She has been wearing a hijab for about 30 years.
"[Wearing the hijab] is a part of our religion and I think what's really important for people to know, watching this, is that it's a woman's choice. It's not a man's choice," Almontaser said. "Though we worship five times a day through prayer, I find that wearing my hijab is a form of worship that I do everywhere I go publicly."
Even though she hasn't been discriminated against, she admitted people stare at times.
"Stares of intrigue and curiosity and maybe once or twice I sensed a little bit of tension in some of the stares," she said. "There are days when we hear political rhetoric that is anti-Muslim that I felt in fear for myself and my fellow sisters who are hijabis in New York City."