Taken early by he.
Are part of We.’
– In memory of Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha, and Razan Abu-Salha, by Amjad Hajyassin
A year ago today, we lost three very special people at the hands of a murderer. I wrote the piece below after learning of their deaths as an attempt to process their deaths. It’s been a year and I still don’t understand. In the past year, it feels like things have gotten even worse in the U.S. for Muslims. There are hate crimes reported every week. My sisters in faith are afraid to wear hijab. A frontrunner in the Republican party openly declared that he believes that Muslims should be banned from entering the U.S – and is celebrated for it.
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“The idea that some lives matter more than others is the root of all that is wrong with this world.”
– Dr. Paul Farmer
This past Sunday, I attended a training for the Prison Education Program at Cal Poly Pomona. The program is led by the amazing Dr. Renford Reese. After reading Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness and learning about the realities of the prison system in this country, I knew I needed to find a way to help. PEP aims to reduce recidivism rates in prisons by providing inmates with guidance and resources to pursue their goals after leaving prison.
At the training we, of course, discussed the logistics of the program, safety precautions, etc. But my favorite part of the training was when Dr. Reese brought up this idea of umbuntu. Umbuntu is the South African philosophy of ‘humanness’ and is ‘the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity.’ Many of the struggles people face daily are structural and money needs to be used to create infrastructure to combat these injustices, but as Dr. Reese said during our training ‘Words are free. And if we believe that words have the power to hurt people, we must also believe that words can heal.’ And that’s what PEP is all about – creating a sense of umbuntu and recognizing that if anyone in our community is hurting, we are all hurting and we must actually do something to help.
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I’ve been pretty open about my faith on this blog and while I don’t owe anyone any sort of explanation, I do realize that science and faith aren’t often seen on the same side of the equation. And while I respect peoples’ right to believe whatever they choose to believe, I thought I’d take a shot at explaining why my faith is so important to me and how it got to be that way.
“The wound is the place the Light enters you.” – Rumi
As many stories of ‘finding yourself’ begin, mine also starts at when I was lost and in a state of extreme despair. I grew up in a practicing Muslim family. My parents moved to the U.S. from Pakistan, where the official religion of the country is Islam. The vast majority of the people my parents grew up with were all Muslim. They never questioned Islam as a way of life because it’s all they ever knew. It was ingrained into every fiber of their being.
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