I was raised in the Post-9/11 World. I do not remember a time before buzzwords such as “terrorist” and “insurgency” became everyday terms. I was seven years old when the Twin Towers fell. I was raised in an era of fear.
Despite the climate of our time, I was raised with respect for the entirety of humanity. Even though I was raised in a small town, which was void of diversity, I was taught to respect all others and show great compassion for the less fortunate.
Even as a young child, I was exposed to other cultures through films and trips to museums in the city and taught to learn from and admire our differences. I learned the importance of compassion for the less fortunate through my family’s community service. My family taught me through their example the importance of respect and compassion.
I recognize that my story is vastly different from many others, especially that of others who were raised in small towns. I am truly grateful for my upbringing. It has meant that I have had the unwavering support of my family as I have dedicated my academic career to Islamic studies, the promotion of pluralism, and ensuring the cultural sensitivity of development projects.
While I know my family’s support is a constant, reminders are always warmly welcomed. Last night, an hour after I got off the phone with my grandpa, I received an email from him, which told me that he had been reflecting on Ambassador Ahmed’s work and wrote the poem that is included at the end of this post. I was beyond touched to receive this email and to know the true extent to which my grandpa values the work in which I am involved.
Widespread peaceful pluralism will thrive in future generations if we dedicate ourselves to teaching today’s youth the importance of respect and compassion for all of humanity.
Let Us Be A Beacon
by Robert W Clore, tune Finlandia
Our native land, oh, let us be a beacon
To all the world and stand tall and free,
And offer hope to al the poor and war torn
Across the world who from their homes must flee,
And struggle just for life and freedom,
To live in peace, justice and dignity.
In times of peace and loving harmony
When those of Faith love and respect each other:
Then life is good and all the people prosper.
Then let us pray that when we love another
Love will return to us in ample measure
And in our hearts will there remain.
Then let us be that beacon on the hilltop
A shining light for all the world to see:
That we should love and honor one another
Though while at times we all may disagree.
Let love return to us in equal measure
And in our hearts will ever there remain.