Life in a Different World

During her eight years in Palestine, FAU student Elham Ahmad faced a different war, the kind Americans will hopefully never know – a fight over land and the right to live in one’s home.

“The war situation was bad and schools kept getting shut down because of the uprising,” said Ahmad, a senior biochemistry major. “It’s a whole different world over there and not many know about it.”

Ahmad is a strong believer of Islam, which is based on five pillars: the belief in the oneness of God, prayer, fasting, charity and the pilgrimage to Mecca. But in the wake of the September 11 attacks, the world’s view of Islam has changed. The entire Islamic religion is blamed for the acts of a few of its followers.

Because of this ignorance, American Muslims are subject to discrimination and degradation. Simple things like travel, public speech and job opportunities have become difficult for them.

“I went to visit my mom who lives in Palestine in the summer of 2006. At the airport, I was detained for nine hours while my bags, sisters and I were searched thoroughly,” Ahmad said. “Others who were not Muslim were able to go right through after a simple search.”

Ahmad was born in Houston, Texas but moved to Palestine in 1994 because her mother wanted her and her sisters to become acquainted with their religion and culture. However, in 2002, Ahmad returned to Houston to attend college.

“You have to live through it to understand the amount of physical, mental and emotional trauma that it causes,” Ahmad said. “There is no other way to understand it.”

Ahmad is proud of her religion, since her faith is the determining factor in the tough decisions she faces everyday. She is also proud that, having faced the tragedies of war and losing friends and family to the vicious cycle, she is still earnest on helping to bring peace to the world. As Islam proclaims, bettering others betters oneself.

“I look up to my sister more than anyone,” said Hanan Ahmad, 19. “She really likes helping people and feels it’s her duty to do anything for others, [anything] legal of course.”

Ahmad’s lifelong objective has been to make an important medical discovery, and that is the main reason she chose pharmacy as a career path. She hopes one day to make a difference in the field of medicine. She has worked for Walgreens Pharmacy since the summer of 2005 and has gained valuable experience with medicine and customers.

“I see how she is with the patients here in the pharmacy and I know she will make a great pharmacist,” Walgreens Pharmacy Manager Mark Youngross said.

Ahmad believes her goal to become a pharmacist will provide her with the opportunity to maintain the health of the society she resides in and to secure a better future. As a child, she dreamt of making a difference in the world and she believes this is a fantastic opportunity to fulfill her childhood dream.

“One move and a medical miracle can be found,” Ahmad said.

Returning to the United States after experiencing the calamities of a war-torn Palestine has caused Ahmad to appreciate freedom, and more importantly, life. She explains that her mother is responsible for teaching her that through faith anything is possible.

“[My mother] represents everything that is good and strong,” Ahmad said. “She also instilled in me Muslim faith and taught me from day one to fear God, because doing so protects me from evil.”

As a Palestinian living in the United States, Ahmad has adjusted her lifestyle to reflect both the western and eastern cultures. While Ahmad’s thoughts and actions are influenced by being brought up in the western world, her Palestinian upbringing is still strong.

“It has taught me to fight for what really matters to me, like family, friends and my religion,” Ahmad said. “It has caused me to defend a country too weak to defend itself and to fight for a religion so often accused of breeding terror and bringing about destruction.”