Kenza Dekar

Born in Algeria; Studied at Clemente Course in the Humanities

Surprisingly when I came to the U.S., I discovered my faith without the influence of the culture.  And it is something very powerful because we realize our real life there was in part patriarchal, society was everything, you needed the authorization of the father for everything, the husband, and basically you have no independence.  That is not true.  And I got to learn it when I came here because I got to discover my faith without them.  Isn't it funny, that you come to the West to end up becoming a better Muslim?  Isn't it crazy?  But I also discovered that my faith was not at odds with the Western culture, surprisingly.  But to get to this conclusion I had to delve through Clemente into Aristotle and Plato, like you have to go far away back to the Western culture and how it started and it is really not at odds.  So, there is a lot of work to do, and I learned that I can have an impact.  And I just maybe now with the kids very small, I have an impact.  You cannot be created;  you cannot be in this world and just dwell without leaving truth.  And that is something that tells you—someone who is lacking confidence like me—this is powerful.  You have an impact.  


Born in Algeria, Kenza Dekar Raheb immigrated to the United States with her husband and daughter when she was thirty-one.  Since then, she has given birth to two more daughters, home-schooled her children, and worked for a community organization.  Raised in Algeria to appreciate Western culture while living according to Muslim mores, Kenza began to explore religion seriously only after the birth of her first daughter.  Kenza speaks frankly about her fear of going out in public in America wearing a headscarf, particularly after the Boston Marathon bombing.  Frequently treated with suspicion, Kenza tells of finally breaking down one day when a stranger performs a simple act of kindness.  Kenza also describes her frustration over the high price of college in America, her fear of debt, and her internal struggle over whether to give up her dreams of education. She speaks enthusiastically, however, of the opportunities she has found for herself and her children through local organizations like the library, Worcester Interfaith, the Broad Meadow Brook Sanctuary, and the Clemente Course in the Humanities.  She says she has learned she can have an impact, and that although the American Dream may no longer be reachable, freedom here is real.

Interview Date: 
June 1, 2017