By Taylor Tompkins
Zak Ebrahim remembers when his closest childhood friend was just ten years old. The boy’s father had ripped him from his home in the United States to fight in the war in Afghanistan.
When he returned, Ebrahim says the boy was a shadow of his former self, and never recovered. “This is what happens when we use violence as a resolution of conflict”, Ebrahim says.
Ebrahm participated in a different kind of war, a war of ideologies. His father is a convicted al Qaeda terrorist, who is serving life in prison in the United States. Ebrahim’s book, The Terrorist’s Son: A story of Choice, chronicles his journey.
Hosted by the Global Center for Journalism and Democracy, Ebrahim spoke to an audience of more than two hundred at SHSU’s Huntsville Campus. The presentation was also live streamed to more than 30 people at SHSU’s campus in The Woodlands.
Ebrahim says his indoctrination began early. When he was just six years old, he says he went to the mosque with his father. Ebrahim says the Imam who was preaching told members that “western culture was corrupting Muslims all over the planet, and that the consequences of Western democracy were materialism, sexual perversion and idolatry”.
When he was seven, his father El-Sayyid Nosair, assassinated the founder of the Jewish Defense League. While in prison, Nosair began to plan attacks on New York City, which led to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.
By the time Ebrahim was 19, he says he and his family had moved at least 20 times and changed their last name.
Ebrahim, who is now an atheist, recalls a childhood dominated by bullying, extremism and hatred. He says it wasn’t until he took a summer job at Busch Gardens in Florida that he realized the stereotypes that formed his opinions toward others were false.
He also credits Daily Show host Jon Stewart with serving as a father figure. “Throughout the years of watching him I learned so much and he had a great deal to do with the reason that I ultimately chose the path I did” Ebrahim says.
Now, Ebrahim is determined to promote peace. While his father serves six consecutive life sentences, Ebrahim promotes interfaith dialogue. “No matter the level of violence you’ve been exposed to, it doesn’t have to define your character...in all of us is the ability to change our paths.”
He no longer communicates with his father, but doesn’t rule out a conversation in the future.
Following his presentation, Ebrahim conducted a thirty minute question and answer session and signed copies of his book.
GCJD is dedicated to bringing speakers to campus to offer different perspectives. Brenda Juarez, an SHSU student enrolled in GCJD’s workshop class believes Ebrahim was a great choice “because terrorism is something fairly relevant to us right now”.
GCJD IN THE NEWS WITH ZAK EBRAHIM
Global Center for Journalism and Democracy
Dan Rather Communications Building, Room 201, Huntsville, TX 77340
Phone: (936) 294-4399