Being a Muslim-American teenager, a son of immigrant parents who tread and have continued to overcome a difficult path to providing a stable, successful future for me and my siblings, I have always found myself in interesting predicaments of both opportunities and challenges. At the infancy of my high school career, I began to notice and experience a stigma existent as a blemish against those of my faith, culture, and age. I have understood it to be my responsibility to counter these stereotypes by example.
Throughout my years in school, I have had the good fortune of experiencing many opportunities and meeting people that have inspired me to become who I am today. In elementary and middle school, I remained reserved and quiet. However, in ninth grade, I was inspired by my history teacher to express myself. With his help, I founded my first website, www.truthfromateen.com - Truth from a Teen (TFAT), with a pursuit to change and represent the voice of my demographic which is often overlooked.
TFAT had managed to climb up the charts in search engine results, garner hundreds of comments (and even more Facebook 'likes'), and get over 75,000 page views. In the website's prime, it was one of the first blogs to get in contact with Florida Pastor Terry Jones' followers during the 'Burn a Koran Day' controversy, and therefore was in contact with the Mayor of Gainesville, several news stations, and local churches, mosques, and even the Vatican.
I began to realize that I could use my societal circumstances as opportunities to challenge everyday notions of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and be heard by thousands worldwide.
I have spent the last several years of my life building my confidence and finding my purpose in an attempt to not be futile in a world filled with innumerable opportunities. As a Muslim teenager, I have struggled to prove a stark disparity to the negative narrative surrounding those of my religion and age. Through TFAT, I had aspired to be both proactive and reactive in defining myself. The truth is a person does not need to be an 80 year-old wise man with a long white beard to bear an ounce of perspicacity. It can very well be accomplished by anyone at any age, and I am constantly in pursuit of trying to prove that fact.
I have and will continue to use the challenging circumstances I find myself in as a driving force to becoming an agent of social change. My parents have struggled for their children and have incessantly encouraged us to not be afraid to follow our dreams and desires. Because of their continual guidance and the tutelage of those I have been grateful enough to encounter throughout my life, I have been able to twist my fear of futility into an inspiration to become an instrument in my school, my community, and hopefully the world.
As an African proverb states, “If you think you are too small to make a difference, you have not spent a night with a mosquito”. I owe eternal gratitude to those who have allowed me to recognize the power of the human voice - on both miniscule and massive spheres. I have learned to not waste mine through reticence; rather, I aim to capitalize on my place in society and continue to express and aspire.
It starts here. Seeing yesterday, imagining tomorrow.