Wednesday, October 24, 2001

Teen-ager brings Islam to Webbville

Student says Afghans 'thirst for peace'

The Associated Press

        WEBBVILLE, Ky. — An exchange student attending Lawrence County High School came to the United States from Pakistan on Sept. 10, a day before the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington that killed nearly 6,000 people.

        Ahmed Javaid Zeerak is reluctant to talk about the U.S. bombing of Taliban targets in his native land of Afghanistan, but eager to discuss the plight of the Afghan people, whom he calls “thirsty for peace.”

        Ahmed is a native of Kabul, Afghanistan. He and his family have been living in Peshawar, Pakistan, near the Afghanistan border, for five years. Though he left Afghanistan during the country's civil war, he says he still considers it his home.

        At first, Ahmed said, he was apprehensive about staying in the U.S. after the attacks. But now, he says he has a purpose for being in eastern Kentucky with Michelle and Tim Stratton, his host family.

        “I hope that I have taught them a little bit about my people,” Ahmed, a Muslim, said. “I need to answer any of the questions that people have. I want them to understand where I came from.”

        His Islamic faith is misunderstood by many, the teen-ager said.

        “Our first commandment is that you must not kill, just like yours is. Killing is the most unforgivable sin,” he said. “Islam means peace.”

        Michelle Stratton said she was concerned about Ahmed because the school system received several negative phone calls about him before he was enrolled.

        But Ahmed said no one has said anything insulting to him. He said he has been treated with tolerance and respect by everyone, especially the staff, students and administration of the Lawrence County schools.

        He said even before the bombing began, Afghanistan was in the middle of a severe famine and drought.


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- Teen-ager brings Islam to Webbville