Anas Coburn was born into a white, middle-class Presbyterian family. He was raised primarily in Southern California and educated at the University of California at Berkeley. Coburn has lived and traveled abroad and is now the executive director of a non-profit organization.
Despite the trappings of a comfortable mainstream life, Coburn knows what it is like to be pushed to the margins of the dominant culture.
In 1973, on his 24th birthday, Coburn converted to Islam.
“When you become a Muslim, you are relinquishing power. You become a minority,” says Coburn, 54, who recently moved from New Mexico to Putney.
As executive director of Dar al Islam, a non-profit that does public education and outreach about his adopted religion, Coburn works to counter what he sees as an explicit bias in this country against Muslims.
To that end, the organization offers training to high school teachers on the development of a Muslim-friendly curriculum. It offers education and support to young men and women born into immigrant Muslim families who may have grown up unfamiliar with their parent’s religion.
While the pervasiveness of anti-Muslim sentiment concerns Coburn, its depth does not.
“My impression is that there is a very broad bias against Muslims in the United States but it’s also very shallow,” he says.
Most of it, he says, is based on ignorance and, given some information and a chance, most people will come around…