Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Ordinary Muslims Inspire Peace, Understanding

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Ordinary Muslims Inspire Peace, Understanding

Article excerpt

Speaking at KARAMAH, Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights, in Washington, DC on March 13, freelance writer Salma Hasan Ali discussed the powerful impact that the personal stories of ordinary people can have on the way individuals of different faiths and cultures view one another.

She began by sharing how her personal experience led her to this revelation. When she began working on an account of her life as a Pakistani-American Muslim woman several years ago, Ali explained, she thought that only friends and family members would read her words. At the time, her only inspiration for writing her story was to educate her children about their family's history and Pakistani heritage, she said.

Much to Ali's surprise, however, in December 2008 The Washingtonian magazine published her writing under the title "Pakistan on the Potomac," after a friend of hers forwarded the publication's editor a copy of her work. Her writing received copious amounts of positive feedback from readers who expressed pleasure in being able "to meet a Muslim family up-close and personal," she recalled. In the years since her story was published, Ali has taken up freelance writing, and has sought out stories about other ordinary Muslims in an effort to spread interfaith and intercultural understanding.

"Personal stories are important in breaking divides," Ali said, arguing that even the most seemingly ordinary accounts can be eye-opening and meaningful to others. "Stories humanize," she explained, pointing out that "it's hard to hate someone whose story you know. …

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