Hasham Shamid came here with his family from Pakistan about eight years ago, seeking a better life.

“If I were in Pakistan, I would be a grocery man selling fruit in the street,” Shamid said.

In the United States, the 20-year-old high school graduate has a job he loves and he is studying at Ocean County College to become a nurse.

For Shamid, however, the adjustment to life in an American suburb was anything but easy.

As a child in Pakistan, he kept farm animals behind his house. He raised them, played with them and affectionately called them his pets.

“I can’t have pets here,” he said. “We would have to get permits.”

When he was bored in Pakistan he would play with his animals. As an immigrant to America who is not fond of television or video games, he was just plain bored.

He stopped wearing his traditional Pakistani clothing and adopted a more Western look.

“I can’t wear my chalway qameez anymore,” Shamid said. “They’ll call me a terrorist.”

High school was rough; he was routinely threatened with violence. He doesn’t talk overtly about his high school years; he just says, “I had a lot of trouble in school.”

He found an oulet for his boredom in volunteerism, logging 1,500 volunteer hours at Community Medical Center while he was in high school. He works there now, at the registration desk for the emergency room.

But the cultural center of his childhood, a mosque, was missing in Ocean County.

“We pray five times a day,” Shamid said. “We can pray in our home, but I went five times a day to the mosque in Pakistan.”

Shamid, his family and his fellow Muslims have a place to do that now. The Islamic Center of Ocean County celebrated its grand opening Saturday with prayers, poetry and scripture. (MORE)


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