When Zak Ebrahim’s father was arrested for his involvement in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, Ebrahim did everything he could to conceal his identity. Now, he’s sharing the story of how he turned away from his father’s ideology in hopes of convincing others to reject extremism.
In a March Ted Talk, Ebrahim recounted how his father exposed him to “a side of Islam that few people, including the majority of Muslims, get to see." But through a college prep program and a job at Busch Gardens amusement park, Ebrahim said that he was exposed to people “from all walks of life.” He made Jewish friends and worked with gay performers after being taught his whole life that being gay was a sin. Ebrahim also credited Jon Stewart and "The Daily Show" with forcing him to challenge his beliefs and teaching him “that a person's race, religion or sexual orientation had nothing to do with the quality of one's character.”
When Ebrahim told his mother that his worldview was changing, she said something that Ebrahim said will stick with him for the rest of his life.
"I'm tired of hating people," she said.
Now Ebrahim is telling his story with the hope that he can get others to change their worldview.
"So why would I out myself and potentially put myself in danger? Well, that's simple. I do it in the hopes that perhaps someone someday who is compelled to use violence may hear my story and realize that there is a better way,” he said.
“Although I had been subjected to this violent, intolerant ideology, that I did not become fanaticized. Instead, I choose to use my experience to fight back against terrorism, against the bigotry.”
Watch Ebrahim's full Ted Talk above.