Student Spotlight: Parwana Khazi

By: Staff Writer Andrew Kan

Senior Parwana Khazi wrote a Facebook post intended for Donald Trump on Dec. 7, 2015 talking about the “true essence of Islam”.  KTVU Journalist Frank Somerville later spotlighted her post on Dec. 15, 2015.  This issue, the Smoke Signal, got a chance to interview Khazi and learn more about her intentions and motivation.

The Smoke Signal: Can you explain why you wrote this post?

Parwana Khazi: I was just going through my [Facebook] news feed, seeing what my friends like and share, and I saw an article about Donald Trump saying that he wanted to ban Muslims from coming into the US in the future.  For me, that really touched me, because a lot of my family lives abroad.  For example, my mom’s entire family lives in Europe, and I have a lot of my dad’s family in Asia, and they come to visit us quite often.  For me, I thought if this [Donald Trump’s suggestion] does end up happening, I won’t be able to see the people I love for a long time, so I just decided to write my thoughts and opinions out.  I didn’t want to write anything hateful, but just wanted to write what I was feeling.  I just intended it for my circle of Facebook friends.

SS: So the post was something spontaneous that came up in your mind?

PK: It was pretty spontaneous.  I wasn’t thinking like Oh, I’m going to do this.  A lot of my friends gave me a lot of positive feedback.  That was really helpful.  

SS: What would you say is the main purpose behind your post?

PK: Just to spread awareness.  I know if you only pay attention to the media, not only in the US, but also around the globe, there is a really bad connotation of Muslims[sic].  The only time you really hear about them is if a so-called Muslim goes and blows up somewhere or kills someone.  For me, that was never the image of the religion I have.  For me, that wasn’t the type of Muslim I wanted to be known as.  I wanted to make sure that the ideals and values that I was raised with were nowhere close to what these people were claiming to be the religion of Islam.  So I just wanted to make sure that the people that I was in contact with on Facebook would hopefully be aware of that.  I know that I am friends with people on Facebook from all around the country.  People in different areas have different images of Muslims depending on what type of environment and community they live in.  Writing for me was a way of expressing my thoughts and putting it into use, and hopefully it would work out.  I definitely did not think that it would be shared by someone [Frank Somerville from KTVU] I have been watching and listening to for so many years.

SS:How do you feel now that your post has reached beyond your circle of friends?

PK: In two words, humbled and honored.  There is nothing more I can say about that.  It’s a real experience.  It’s something that I thought I would never have.

SS: Has your experience changed you in any way?

PK: It definitely showed me the power of social media.  Before I had only heard that there was only a chance that what you post on social media would get shared and go viral.  I never really thought that would happen to me.  Even now, it[the experience] is not that big of a thing, except that people are being really nice to me.  There are not too many ways I can describe it.

SS: Do you think Donald Trump himself or any of his campaign/social media managers are going to respond?

PK: I really don’t think so.  This is just one letter of hundreds if not thousands of letters written to him.  At the end of the day, I know that I can’t probably change him [Trump] much, but hopefully I can change the opinions of other people who are going to be voting in a little bit.  

SS: In your post, you wrote about the “true essence of Islam”.  What do you think is the “true essence of Islam”?

PK: Peace, kindness, humility, [and] honesty.  Those are the main traits that I have been raised with, the main things that all of the scholars in my life have imposed on me growing up.  My parents, my grandparents, everyone, they always had a huge emphasis on just being a good person.  I want to be a good representation of what Islam actually is about, not what the extremists that call themselves Muslims show.  

SS: I know that KTVU spotlighted the line, “I wasn’t taught to kill others with my hands but rather try and help them with my words”, but were there any specific parts of your post that you wanted to stand out?

PK: I was honestly really happy that was the line that they chose to remember my post, because that was what I was trying to get at.  I wasn’t one of the terrorists, or a bad type of person.  A human life means so much to me.  If I could do anything, I would help another human being regardless of what race, what gender, what ethnicity, etc.  That is my biggest goal in life, to help others.  I would never want to harm another person.  Social media makes it seem a whole new way.

SS: Have you written or planned to write any other related writings in the past?

PK: It’s the first time I wrote something addressed to a specific person.  During eighth grade, I wrote something, but it wasn’t anything major, I was just talking to my friends.  And after the Paris attacks, I posted something about the supposed Muslim terrorists who were ruining the true image of Islam. But it was never aimed towards anyone specific, it was more general.  This doesn’t really change any of my future plans in life, but it just adds to my wish and desires, showing that just because I am a Muslim doesn’t mean I can’t be a small, but hopefully part of society.  

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