CAIRO - Standing up against all odds that followed the 9/11 tragedy in the United States, a young Muslim is becoming a role model for immigrants aspiring to become a success story.I wouldn't say I'm a unique story, Akbar Hossain told The Times Herald on Sunday, May 20.
I would say I'm unique in the sense that I sought out the help. If no one responded to me seeking out help, I wouldn't be where I am today.
The 21-year-old arrived in the United States in September 2001, to hear the horrific news of the deadly attacks by Al-Qaeda militants.
We arrived Sept. 9, 2001, Hossain recalled.
Our original flight was for Sept. 11, but our apartment lease was up Sept. 8. We decided to leave early, and two days later, the tragedy occurred.
Born in Bangladesh, Hossain lived in Saudi Arabia until his family won diversity visas through a lottery system administered by the US Department of State.
As he arrived, the young Muslim tasted the anti-Muslim backlash that followed the 9/11 attacks.
In school I did go through some tough times, Hossain said.
I started school here in October 2001, and having the last name Hossain, I (was the recipient of) a good deal of those (terrorist) jokes in elementary and through middle school.
In high school I kind of came into my own, and things got better.
The death of the young Muslim's father in 2004 added to the difficulty facing Hossain's family, which lost its sole breadwinner.
He was the primary bread winner of the household, Hossain said of his father.
So after his death, we had a decision to make of whether to leave the US and go to Bangladesh, where our family is, or stay here and figure out a way to make ends meet.
At this difficult moment, North Penn Mosque in Lansdale and Islamic Society of Greater Valley Forge in Devon stepped in and offered the family financial assistance and access to local resources.
They supported us and helped us get on our feet, a grateful Hossain said.
My mom began a full-time job, and I also started working part time the following year.
But the difficulties have never stopped the young Muslim from chasing his dreams.
His passion for community service has earned him the prestigious Harry S. Truman Scholarship for college juniors with exceptional leadership potential who are working toward careers in public service.
Studying government and sociology at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Hossain has also become the president of Brooks College House (a residence hall).
He is also chair of the John Marshall Pre-Law Honor Society, co-founder of the Muslim Student Association, a tax preparer for the Volunteer Income Tax-Assistance Program and a resident hall advisor.
Hosssain is grateful to the role played by his school teachers and the Islamic center for helping him make his future.
Norristown is what I consider home, he said.
When my family was in most desperate need, the community that stood up and said, We will take care of them' was the Norristown community.
Whether it was Norristown Area School District or the Norristown community in which I lived, the people were the ones who responded, aiding to help.
For Hossain, his success story is a proof that the community could succeed in producing role models or stigmatized people.
Norristown is often stigmatized, but I'm living proof that it does produce leaders of tomorrow because of the people that help our young leaders grow, he said.
My commitment to serve the community and my passion for public service derive from the fact that that I am a product of a community that never gave up on me.
It's this passion that has led to my work with the asylum cases, the refugees and the low-income tax clients.
I feel that I owe something back to the country, to the community.The United States is home to an estimated Muslim minority of six to eight million.