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I am the son of a terrorist. This is how I broke free of my indoctrination


Apr 27, 2017

By Zak Ebrahim on April 24, 2017

On 5 November 1990 my father, El-Sayed Nosair, assassinated the extremist Rabbi Meir Kahane in New York City. The experiences I have had as a result of my father’s actions set my life on a course that even to this day I have a hard time fully processing.

Exposure to men like the blind sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, who helped coordinate the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and the hatred that men like him preach warped my worldview in a way that took years of conscious effort to undo. The death threats against my family from those seeking vengeance for my father’s actions and the instability of having to move 20 times in 20 years made me feel that at any moment my fragile world would again be turned upside down.

Additionally, being bullied in school and abused by my stepfather at home ripped away what little confidence or sense of self-worth my younger self had accumulated in that time.

For as long as I have thought about the question, “Why did you change your path?” I have grappled with how best to respond. Do I talk about my father’s actions? Or perhaps it’s more natural to talk about my own life experiences as a result of those actions?

The complicated answer is to say that in my life I have had a thousand interactions, experiences and lessons that lead me down the road I am on today. Perhaps if a particular person or place had been different it would have completely altered my trajectory and I wouldn’t have been so fortunate to find my way out of the darkness.

At a very young age I was isolated from society at large and taught to be fearful of it, often for the most arbitrary of reasons. That empathy from years of being physically and emotionally abused provided a visceral reaction in my mind to my own hypocrisy. Every time I treated someone badly because of their race, religion or sexuality I was reminded of what it felt like when someone had done it to me. After growing up in so much hardship and strife I refused to perpetuate that feeling in others. Because of this realisation, I finally felt there was light at the end of the tunnel. And for a while it was enough for me just to revel in the warmth of these new friendships and the acceptance that came with no longer judging people based on the stereotypes I had been taught.

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