After 9/11 my mom made me wear a USA ribbon every day, but now we are proving our faith through service


The colorful words blinking on Dallas’ biggest billboard were everything.

Thousands of Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims had spent the day at the convention center next door, participating in parades, performances and prayer to commemorate the start of the 60th anniversary year of our spiritual leader, the Aga Khan.

The Dallas Omni’s 23-story light display the night of July 11 celebrated with us. “Diamond Jubilee,” the tall letters spelled.

The lights on the Omni symbolized how far the American Ismaili community — my community —had come in the past few decades. Growing up in a post-9/11 era, I felt immense pressure to defend my faith. But as our religious community matured over the years, we felt more secure, we stopped explaining ourselves and we began embracing the power of showing who we are by living our faith.

As we prepare for the Aga Khan’s visit in Houston, his first trip to Texas in 10 years, that shift feels righteous.

The shift was not always obvious to our small community. Ismaili Muslims represent a small slice of Islam worldwide. We constitute about 20 million of the 1.8 billion Muslims. The Pew Research Center estimates there are 3.45 million Muslims in the U.S., of which the Ismaili Muslim community in Texas numbers around 40,000.

So when I was a child, the adults drilled talking points into my head and expected me to defend my faith to other children who might question me:

The Ismailis are a diverse group of Shia Muslims led by the Aga Khan, a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad through the prophet’s daughter Fatima and son-in-law Ali.

No, the Aga Khan isn’t like the pope. While there are similarities between their leadership, the Aga Khan wasn’t nominated and selected. His right to lead the Ismailis as their 49th imam continues a 1,400-year ancestral tradition that dates back to the time of the Prophet.

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(Thanks to reader)

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