Green Team Leader, Walking the Walk Youth Initiative
Member, Bawa Muhaiyaddeen Mosque & Fellowship
"Finding My Voice After 9/11"
"My story, unfortunately, had to stem from despair and desolation. I have always felt a certain fascination for the many religions of the world. Back in the days of elementary school none of my classmates – and probably few people in general- were familiar with Islam. I always enjoyed giving my classmates bits of information about the religion such as the fasting, or the fact that I couldn’t eat pork. Much to my surprise they actually expressed their interest, and wanted to know more. However, things took a rather ugly turn at the start of my middle school years.
"Just a couple of days into fifth grade, the 9/11 tragedy occurred. I remember a CNN reporter talking about Jihad saying that it was to ‘kill any non-followers.’ I turned to my dad in disbelief, and I thought to myself, ‘This can’t be happening.’
"At this point, everybody in school knew I was a Muslim, and their wrong mindset on Islam gave way to a wave of bullying that I found startling and heartbreaking. What followed on my part were bouts of anger and frustration. But somewhere along the line, I stopped and took a moment to reflect on the ignorant behavior people were throwing upon Islam. All of this, which defines ignorance, was started from a lack of understanding. I wondered if I carried a similar misunderstanding toward other faiths.
"That’s what groups like Walking the Walk are all about, fulfilling that vision of people, whether they are Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Bahai’s, or any other faith, to come together in order to learn, understand and overall accept and respect the differences, as well as recognize the many similarities between each other."