I have always defined my personal intellectual curiosity as a desire to understand the existence of human conflict and the potential of lasting solutions and peace. In a world ridden by conflict, the eternal solution-oriented optimist in me constantly yearns to find ways and ideas to bring people together in hopes their common humanity will reap lasting and meaningful relationships.
The intersection of my intellectual curiosity, personality traits, and personal experience as a Muslim-American has made my fellowship at Buxton an affirming and invaluable experience. From bringing together DC young professionals, local pastors and imams, and even middle-school children, I have been exposed to the power and impact of trust. The creation of spaces that encourage meaningful conversation in turn can create a more civil and cooperative community. Fiery disagreement and intense polarization between groups, especially individual faith groups, often comes from the fear that engaging with others will require one to give up their own beliefs and truths. On all levels of society, local, domestic, political, and even internationally the media attest that certain communities, especially those adhering to specific faith practices, cannot be reconciled. What I have learned, however, is that Buxton’s mission of creating spaces to communicate stories and ideas with the disclaimer that one should not feel they have to hide their truths or convictions, has the ability to provide new perspective and a possible way forward in light of an increasingly divided world.
To have had this opportunity to simply share my narrative with those who have never met a Muslim or hold preconceived stereotypes has been empowering and enlightening. I have learned that the issues at hand are not that certain groups of people cannot be engaged, but rather there is a lack of crucial interaction and communication in our society. For most people, compassion and a desire to live a life of understanding reigns, which is why relationship building and outreach is so important. In the US specifically, during a crucial election year, our public square has been divided into differing camps that seem ever at war. The prospect of the wide range of ideologies and interests ever finding common ground seems daunting and impossible. Yet, I do hope and believe that with time and energy we can continue to work towards building the” stronger and more civil global community Buxton aims for.