Nancy Reagan Islam

My latest piece for the Daily Beast (full article here):

The timing of the death of Nancy Reagan just as Donald Trump’s ascendancy to the Republican nomination seems increasingly unstoppable, is particularly painful for one Muslim lady in Brooklyn, Farhana, and her family.

That is because Farhana is not the name she goes by; she goes by Nancy—a nickname her family gave her in 1990, a year after she was born, and the year her family moved to the U.S. from Bangladesh. It’s customary for Bengalis to give their children more English-sounding nicknames that family and friends will use throughout their lives.

Her name was given in honor of President Ronald Reagan, as his 1986 immigration act enabled Farhana’s family to join their father, who was already living in the U.S. Her uncle named his son, Nancy’s cousin, “Reagan,” for the same reason. And so in 1990 the Muslims “Nancy” and “Reagan” moved to Brooklyn.

Continue reading here.


One thought on “Nancy Reagan Islam

  1. Dear Mr. Freedman, I appreciated your recent article about the Bangladeshi immigrant family who came to the United States thanks to the policies of the Reagan Administration. However, one thing I did want to point out is when you pointed out out that it is customary for Bengali Families to give English sounding names to their children or family members which is true that “some” families do give their children English sounding nicknames as to assimilate in the United States and in this case was to show their appreciation for the First family of the United States at that time. But this custom is not really practiced all over Bangladesh, just a minority number because it is sometimes frowned upon because of cultural identity and other things. I am Bengali American born in the United States(in the Bronx actually and raised in Brooklyn), and I did not really need a nickname because it was 2 syllables. Other Bengali American kids did have Bengali nicknames but only a small minority had English sounding nickname. And every Bengali man I knew had Muhammed in their first or last name but they all had nicknames as to rule out confusion. So I just wanted to say I appreciated your article but wanted to point out that it is not widely practiced. It could be that the next generation of Bengali or Muslim Americans maybe adopting more English sounding nicknames due to the times we live in and I’m not hearing about because I’m getting older now.

    Thank you

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