There is no easy way to reverse the growing distrust between the United States and the Islamic world, but for 16-year-old Palestinian Sami Qarmout and other young Muslims who spent the past year in America, it’s time to get started.

”We broke some of the myths,” said Qarmout, who is returning to his family in the Gaza Strip after participating in the first US government program to bring young Muslims to the United States. ”Americans are not all rich,” said Qarmout, who lived with a family in Albuquerque. ”I learned that 13 million live in poverty.”

To sponsors of the Cultural Bridges program — established by Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, and Senator Richard G. Lugar, Republican of Indiana, after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 — it is young people like Qarmout who are America’s best hope for winning what many say is a generational battle against Islamic extremism.

”Our job is to go back and tell our people about the United States,” said Hazem Torfah, 17, who is returning to his native Syria after a year in Ephrata, Wash. ”We have different education systems. Here you get to choose what you want to study. It’s hard to do that in Syria. But a mix of both systems would be great.”

”Each time you do, you’ll be sending forth a new ripple of hope…


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