Isra Omar: Reconciling the past with the present

Isra Omar is a member of the 2018-19 MALA Young Leaders Fellowship. Fellows participate in monthly digital seminars, dinner discussions, and other MALA events. As part of the program, Fellows reflect on their multiple layers of identities – as daughters, sons, professionals, athletes, and so much more – and share those reflections into the MALA story collection. Personal stories can be a powerful catalyst for change – challenging stereotypes, building bridges, and inspiring action. In a country as diverse and complex as the United States, the identities of Muslim Americans remain layered and contested. We all have stories to tell: stories that deserve to be collected, conserved, and celebrated. We are honored to share the stories of our Fellows here.

If you want to know the end, look at the beginning ~ African proverb

History was always my favorite subject in High School and it continues to be. I have a deep fascination with the study of past events and analyzing the context of how those events have framed the contemporary world. More importantly, history is the only way I can reconcile the past with the present.

The words “inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” did not come cheap. It was a direct response to resist the British rule of the 13 American Colonies. This led to the American Revolutionary War in 1775. In 1783, the 13 Colonies were victorious and won their independence.

In the 20th century, the Civil Rights Movement was born. It all began with a woman (Rosa Parks) who vigorously refused to give up her seat. The movement continued to demand fair and equal treatment to African Americans in the areas of education, leadership, housing, and voting, etc. The most notable leader of the civil rights movement (Martin Luther King, Jr.) believed in nonviolent demonstrations techniques to resist racial inequality. In 1964, President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which outlawed discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

The struggle for freedom still continues. It is an unfortunate reality that we have to fight for freedom when it is an “inalienable right.” In some countries, freedom is a privilege that only the elite can experience – I know this first-hand because I was born in such a country. History has taught me that freedom comes with sacrifice. My mother left her country so her children can be raised in a society that acknowledges freedom of speech and grants fair and equal opportunities regardless of race and religion.

Three years ago, I made a pledge to make an effort to reflect every day. Being in a state of reflection has allowed me to realize my purpose. It could take as little as five minutes and can be done with others present. Personally, I prefer being in state of solitude because it allows me to shut out any distractions. One of the methods that I actively participate in is prayer. Even though I pray to worship God, I reap so many benefits. But my reflections are not just limited to prayer. Recently, I have experienced a love for writing. I write to make the world a better place through hope, love, and kindness.

I’m indebted to the people who have relentlessly fought for freedom. If it wasn’t for their sacrifice, I would not have the courage to fully embody the person I am today. I have lived a life of privilege and my goal is to build a legacy so the next generations of Muslim Americans have the tools to change the world.

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