LIVING AS A REFUGEE IN AMERICA: AN INTERVIEW WITH IMAM ZIA (6/6)

“I hope that this experience, of being a refugee at one point in my life, has made me a stronger person but, more importantly, an empathetic person. I am able to do what I do, whatever little I can do for the community mainly because of the experience that I went through. When your emotions take a toll on you and you’re down for so long you feel there’s something missing in your heart. You don’t feel like you’re missing something but at the same time, there’s a lot that’s missing. Outwardly, all your needs are fulfilled, you have a car a house and everything else but you still feel like you need something that you’re not getting. This experience helps you become an empathetic person but on some people, it has the opposite effect. It hardens them and they become more indifferent to the plight of those in need. We should be aware of this pitfall, this desensitization that can occur as a result of suffering. And we should make a conscious effort not to allow ourselves to become indifferent. We must use that experience of hardship to be more willing to give back and more willing to help our community and humanity. One of the most beautiful things about America is that it definitely opens up your mind and you see diversity here. Here you have a model of coexistence and progress, where individuals work together peacefully and not just tolerating one another but loving one another. You appreciate the diversity and that God has created people so differently. The diversity here helps you become more welcoming and accepting of others because that’s what’s missing in most places overseas. The conflicts that you see in the Muslim world, whether is Afghanistan or Syria, whether it’s sectarian, religion-based conflict or ethnic conflict, people don’t appreciate or accept each other’s differences and that causes unnecessary war and suffering. We are so different yet also so similar. At the end of the day, we are all one big human family.”

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