Imran Hafiz was a fourth-grader when terrorists hijacked four airliners and wrought the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, on the East Coast.

At school, “some kid accused me of being a member of the Taliban for no other reason than being brown and Muslim,” he said.

Even when Hafiz emphatically said he had nothing to do with the repressive group on the other side of the earth, the other boy insisted, “Well, you could be.”

Now 15 and a sophomore at Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix, Hafiz asserts that the comment is not the boy’s fault.

“It doesn’t start from hate. It starts from ignorance,” he said. “All they knew about my religion was that a fanatical group of people did this terrible thing, and somehow everybody must be connected with it.”

The incident gave impetus for him, his sister, Yasmine, and their mother, Dilara, to collaborate to write and publish a book about their Islamic faith geared to young people.

In August, they published “The American Muslim Teenager’s Handbook,” a 132-page book broken into 15 chapters dealing with such topics as “Islam 101” and “The Quran.”

The Paradise Valley family mixed humorous quizzes, colorful graphics and responses from other Muslim teens to produce the book, which they hope will help other young Muslims explain their faith to their peers.

Yasmine, 17, a senior at Phoenix Xavier College Preparatory, where she is a National Merit Scholar semifinalist, recalls scanning the nonfiction sections of bookstores. She found religious guidebooks for teens of many faiths and beliefs.

“I asked my mom, ‘Why isn’t there anything for Muslims?'”

A longtime teacher at the Scottsdale Islamic Mosque, where she has overseen books and resources, Dilara searched the Web and found nothing about Muslims geared for teens.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, “we really couldn’t recognize the way our faith was being portrayed,” said Dilara, who was born in Karachi, Pakistan, and educated at Johns Hopkins University and the London School of Economics. “There was a lot of misunderstanding and misconceptions, and we felt the fanatical minority was getting all the attention.” (MORE)


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