CAIR-OH: Helping Muslim Kids Be Proud
Tom Feran, Plain Dealer, 10/7/05
The way it started out, the way it was originally written, the child in the story only had to deal with a basic fear shared by kids everywhere. That maybe, because he wasn't exactly like them, he wouldn't be liked or accepted by his peers.
But events took a hand, and the story subtly changed in a way its author could not have foreseen.
Instead of just worrying about being accepted by his grade school classmates, the boy in her story has to face the real fear that something bad might happen to him because of who he is, an American Muslim.
His fictional story is told in a book called "My Name Is Bilal," newly published by Boyds Mills Press. Its author, Dr. Asma Mobin-Uddin, is an Ohio pediatrician and former Westlake resident who wrote it out of necessity -- first for her own three children, but now for a much wider audience.
"I had taken some time off from my practice when I had my kids," she told me, "and I was trying to look for books that would reflect Islamic themes or Muslim-American characters. . ."
Bilal, the boy in her story, hides his religion and calls himself Bill to be accepted by classmates. But he struggles with his deception until a teacher gives him a book about Bilal ibn Rabah -- a beloved figure in Islamic history who withstood religious persecution to make the first Islamic call to prayer.
Mobin-Uddin, 38, submitted her manuscript five months before the terrorist attacks by Islamic extremists on Sept. 11, 2001. Resulting fears and stereotypes gave more importance and urgency to the book's message of understanding and tolerance, and only the need to illustrate it as a children's book delayed publication.
"Kids have different challenges now," Mobin-Uddin said. "We had people just not knowing what Islam was."
She got used to answering questions while attending Marion Catholic High School, where her parents felt that people who respected God would respect her and her own faith.
She earned undergraduate and medical-school degrees at Ohio State University and did her internship and residency in Cleveland, at Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital, while her husband, Cleveland native John Kashubeck, was getting his training at Mt. Sinai Hospital. They now live in the Columbus suburb of Dublin.
She has a second children's book in the works, does community work and speaking engagements through her Web site, www.asmamobinuddin.com, and serves as vice president of the Ohio chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.