In the 2014 Ted Talk “I Am the Son of a terrorist. Here’s How I Chose Peace,” Zak Ebrahim candidly opens up about his father’s involvement in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing that killed six people and injured many others. At a very young age, Ebrahim was exposed to the violent side of a radical Islam and it wasn’t until later in life that he realized that the environment he grew up in was filled with dogma and taught him intolerance towards others.
After his father was sentenced to prison, when Ebrahim was just seven years old, his family was forced to move around frequently in order to protect their family’s identity. Constantly moving from city to city meant that Ebrahim became accustomed to being the new kid and was therefore a target for bullying. It was exactly in this isolation where Ebrahim developed his character and realized he didn’t want to make others feel the way he felt. In his TED Talk he explains, “Being bullied as a kid created a sense of empathy in me toward the suffering of others, and it comes very unnaturally to me to treat people who are kind in any other way than how I would want to be treated.” Expected to follow in his father’s footsteps, Ebrahim was faced with a hard decision on how he wanted to live his life; would he continue to condemn those who were different from him or learn to let his old ideologies go and learn how to respect others.
In 2000, Ebrahim participated in the National Youth Convention in Philadelphia where his world view began to change. For the first time he was exposed to a diversity of students, and he realized that the people who he was taught were immoral because of their differing beliefs, were actually nice people. He found out that one of the friends he made during the convention happened to be Jewish. Finding out this information didn’t change his view of his friend and it was then where he realized that there was no natural animosity between each other, where he was taught there should be.
After Ebrahim’s father went to jail, he and his family decided to stop the dogma and end connections with him. Ebrahim changed his name and decided to live a life of tolerance and love. He chose to share his story to hopefully set an example for other people who are faced with similar situations and show them that there is always an alternative. Ebrahim ends the talk with a powerful statement: “ I stand here as proof that violence isn’t inherent in one’s religion or race, and the son does not have to follow the ways of his father. I am not my father.”
Watch the Talk
Check out Ebrahim’s 2014 Ted Talk “I Am the Son of a terrorist. Here’s How I Chose Peace.”
Read the Book
To read more about his inspirational journey check out The Terrorist’ Son, a TED book original, in the Health Sciences Library today!