Children often grow up watching their parents, aspiring to one day follow in their footsteps. As the all-too-common sayings go, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” and “like father, like son.” But for Zak Ebrahim, becoming like his father is the last thing he wanted.
Ebrahim is the son of a terrorist. But he made a different choice.
Ebrahim will share his story of a life dedicated to promoting peace at the Union College Leadership Symposium on September 25 at 10:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. in the College View church.
At the age of seven, Ebrahim began attending target practices with his father, El-Sayyid Nosair. Soon afterwards, Nosair shot and killed the leader of the Jewish Defense League. Six years later, while still in prison, his father was convicted of planning the New York City Landmark bomb plot, as well as the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, which killed six and injured many more.
His father’s incarceration led Ebrahim’s family to uproot themselves, change their names, and attempt to start over. By the time he was 19, Ebrahim had moved 20 times. His frequent transitions made it difficult to make friends and made him an easy target of bullying.
After years of hiding, Ebrahim decided to go public with his story and speak about how he’s chosen to live a life of peace, in spite of how he was raised. He gave his first TED talk in 2014 and released his first book, “The Terrorist’s Son: A Story of Choice,” shortly afterwards. The book won an American Library Association Award the following year.
During his 2014 TED talk, while sharing his reasoning behind giving up his hidden identity, Ebrahim shared, “perhaps someone someday who is compelled to use violence may hear my story and realize there is a better way.”
Ebrahim strives to follow a path of peace and show others that violence is not answer, no matter their upbringing. “I stand here as proof that violence isn’t inherent in one’s religion or race, and the son does not have to follow in the ways of the father,” he said in his 2014 TED talk.
Since going public, Ebrahim has shared his story at a number of various venues, including multiple TEDx events, the US State Department, the FBI and at high schools and universities around the world.
The Leadership Symposium is part of the Union College Leadership Program, which allows students to earn a leadership minor with almost any major. Students involved in this program participate in peer mentoring, leadership classes and weekly meetings to develop leadership skills.
“We want to make sure all students have a chance to exercise their abilities and to connect and learn from other leaders before they graduate,” said Linda Becker, director of the program. This program provides an opportunity for students to grow themselves and connect to internships and mentors to better their understanding of what it means to be a leader.
The College View Seventh-day Adventist Church is located at the corner of 48th Street and Prescott Avenue on the campus of Union College. Both the 10:30 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. presentations are free and open to the public.
By Danica Eylenstein, student writer