Raza Rizvi is an IT infrastructure engineer based in New York. He holds a master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Wichita State University. A grassroots community grassroots organizer and philanthropist, Raza is a mentor to young thinkers and leaders from diverse Muslim backgrounds.
America is not the land of my birth, but my adopted land, which I call home. Born in Karachi, the biggest city in Pakistan, I moved to United States at the age of 23 and have lived here most of my adult life. I have spent many years in Midwest, the heartland of America and on the East Coast. I have been to over 40 states and have visited almost all the major national parks.
I completed my MS in Electrical Engineering from Wichita State University in Wichita Kansas, and am an IT infrastructure engineer by profession. Besides my formal education, I have received the religious educations of Quran, Hadith, Fiqh and Islamic history. I love reading about history and believe there are some great lessons to learn from American history. The earlier struggles we had in this country have helped shape what she is today: the United States, the greatest nation in the world.
I vividly remember leaving Pakistan and arriving in New York in August of 2001. The very first night I went to visit the World Trade Center towers. Three weeks passed. I started graduate school in Wichita, Kansas. The morning of September 11th, my bell rang and a fellow foreign student came over to tell me about the unthinkable. American society, the perception of Muslims living within America and elsewhere… everything changed that day.
After 9/11, Islam became a hot topic and American Muslims received a lot of exposure in the media. Unfortunately many of the community representatives the media chose to talk on the issues were of a certain outlook and a certain background, and did not represent the highly diverse communities of Muslims in America. Many American Muslims I know dislike the rigid viewpoints we see getting presented by these spokespeople… in our name. Those claiming to represent us are stubborn in their old ways, trying to represent Muslims in America while they have no clue what America is actually about.
For me, America is justice, freedom and pursuit of happiness. I love everything about the American dream. Why America? Because America is unique. She is an idea: that anyone can come here from anywhere in the world and live the life what he/she wants. This simple yet powerful idea resonates so well with me and millions of Muslims in America. Sadly, some people claiming to speak in the name of American Muslims still adhere to the old ways and resist integration with American society.
There are talented, dynamic people within the Muslim communities across the United States who carry a tremendous potential to play a leadership role. Yet they have been held back because they don’t wear certain “religious” attire, didn’t grow a beard, happened to be women – or refuse to repeat the tired narrative that Muslims in America are always victims. An imam is supposed to represent the community, no matter how distant he may keep himself from the core values of American society. To me, that seems absurd.
We need fresh leadership: a new network of young professional American Muslims who identify as Americans and Muslims – people who grew up in America or have lived here long enough to celebrate and cherish American values. American and Muslims: two terms that are not mutually exclusive and should never be.
God bless America.