I am the son of a terrorist. Here's how I chose peace | Zak Ebrahim | Summary and Q&A

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September 9, 2014
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I am the son of a terrorist. Here's how I chose peace | Zak Ebrahim

TL;DR

In this content, Zak Ebrahim shares his personal journey of growing up in an extremist household and ultimately breaking free from violence and hate.

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Questions & Answers

Q: How did the speaker's father play a role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing?

The speaker's father, El-Sayyid Nosair, was involved in planning the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. He and other men were convicted of placing a van filled with explosives into the parking lot of the North Tower, resulting in an explosion that killed six people and injured over 1,000 others.

Q: How did the speaker's upbringing contribute to his isolation and lack of social skills?

The speaker's frequent moves during his childhood, along with being the target of bullies, led to his isolation and lack of social skills. He often had to change schools, making it difficult to establish friendships. Additionally, being from a bigoted household meant he had a distorted view of the world and struggled to connect with others.

Q: What experiences challenged the speaker's bigoted beliefs and opened his eyes?

The speaker's participation in the National Youth Convention in Philadelphia, where he befriended a Jewish classmate, helped challenge his bigoted beliefs. Working at Busch Gardens and interacting with people from diverse backgrounds also played a significant role in changing his perspective. Watching "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart also forced him to confront his own bigotry.

Q: Why did the speaker change his name and why does he choose to speak out about his experiences?

The speaker changed his name to distance himself from his father and start a new life. He speaks out about his experiences in the hopes that his story can prevent others from turning to violence and extremism. He wants people to understand that violence and hatred are not inherent in one's religion or race, and individuals can choose a different path.

Summary

In this powerful talk, Zak Ebrahim, the son of an extremist, shares his journey of transformation from a childhood surrounded by violence and bigotry to becoming an advocate for peace and tolerance. He recounts his personal experiences and the pivotal moments that challenged his deeply ingrained beliefs, leading him to reject extremism and embrace a more inclusive worldview. Despite the adversity he faced, Ebrahim believes that change is possible and hopes that his story can inspire others to choose peace over violence.

Questions & Answers

Q: Who was El-Sayyid Nosair and what crime did he commit?

El-Sayyid Nosair assassinated Rabbi Meir Kahane, the leader of the Jewish Defense League, in 1990. Initially found not guilty, Nosair later became involved in planning attacks on several New York City landmarks, including the World Trade Center. He was eventually convicted for his involvement in the 1993 bombing that killed six people and injured over 1,000 others.

Q: How did Zak Ebrahim's father influence his childhood?

Zak Ebrahim's father exposed him to a radical side of Islam at a young age. He was part of a group that engaged in target practice at a shooting range, and even encouraged Zak to participate. This upbringing created a distorted perspective on the world and left a lasting impact on Zak's life.

Q: What realization did Zak Ebrahim have about people's desires in life?

Zak Ebrahim realized that despite religious or cultural differences, most people want the same things out of life. He recognized that extremism exists in small percentages within every religion and population, and that these individuals feel compelled to impose their beliefs on others through any means necessary.

Q: How did Zak Ebrahim start questioning his upbringing?

Two significant events led Zak Ebrahim to start questioning his upbringing. The first was during his participation in the National Youth Convention in Philadelphia, where he became friends with a Jewish classmate and realized that there was no inherent animosity between them. The second was during his summer job at an amusement park, where he interacted with gay performers and discovered their kindness and lack of judgment. These experiences challenged the stereotypes he had been taught.

Q: Who played a significant role in changing Zak Ebrahim's worldview?

Jon Stewart and his show, "The Daily Show," played a significant role in challenging Zak Ebrahim's bigotry. Jon Stewart's nightly show forced Zak to be intellectually honest with himself and recognize that a person's race, religion, or sexual orientation has nothing to do with their character. Stewart's influence was especially powerful because he became a father figure to Zak when he needed one the most.

Q: What did Zak's mother say that impacted him deeply?

Zak's mother, weary from a lifetime of dogmatism, told him, "I'm tired of hating people." This statement made Zak realize the amount of negative energy it takes to hold onto hatred. It was a pivotal moment for him in understanding the destructive nature of hatred and the importance of choosing a different path.

Q: Why did Zak Ebrahim change his name?

Zak Ebrahim changed his name when his family decided to sever ties with his extremist father and start a new life. Changing his name allowed him to distance himself from his past and begin a journey toward peace and tolerance.

Q: Why does Zak Ebrahim share his story?

Zak Ebrahim shares his story in the hopes that someone who may be inclined toward violence might hear it and realize that there is another way. He wants to stand as proof that violence is not inherent in one's religion or race, and that individuals can choose a path of peace and compassion.

Q: What does Zak Ebrahim do to fight against terrorism and bigotry?

Zak Ebrahim uses his experience to speak out against terrorism, condemn his father's actions, and promote tolerance and understanding. He is an advocate for the victims of terrorism and aims to counteract the pain and loss caused by extremist ideologies.

Q: How does Zak Ebrahim conclude his talk?

Zak Ebrahim concludes his talk by asserting that he is not his father and that violence is not predetermined by one's upbringing or heritage. He stands as a testament to the possibility of change and hopes that his story can inspire others to choose a path of peace and reject extremism.

Takeaways

Zak Ebrahim's personal journey from extremism to tolerance highlights the power of empathy, education, and personal experiences in challenging deeply ingrained beliefs. By sharing his story, he shows that change is possible, and that individuals have the capacity to choose peace over violence. Ebrahim's transformation serves as a reminder that love, understanding, and acceptance should prevail over hatred and division.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • El-Sayyid Nosair assassinated Rabbi Meir Kahane in 1990 and was involved in planning attacks on New York City landmarks

  • The speaker, Zak Ebrahim, is the son of El-Sayyid Nosair and was exposed to extremist ideology growing up

  • Through personal experiences and interactions with people from different backgrounds, Zak's worldview shifted, leading him to reject violence and extremism

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