As the South Asian community matures in
North America, so does its political involvement especially in the
second and third generation. Ibrahim Khan is an example with potential
to inspire youth in South Asian particularly Muslims community. He was
nine years old when he came from Karachi to Long Island. He took
Political Science and English in
of Albany because he cared about making voice of the South Asian
community heard. Although his family is not involved in politics,
politics was discussed at his home in living room. He was he President
of Muslim Student Association at University of Albany whereby for the
first time in any NYS college, classes were suspended on Eid day. He
was also the Editor of his college magazine. Being the Editor of the
college magazine has helped him in his current job as a Communications
Director to Senator Brian Foley.
Ibrahim started working as an aide for
Assemblyman Ramos while being in college as NYS Assembly was only a
block away from
of Albany. He has worked with quite a few
State legislatures and is most inspired by Senator Hillary Clinton who
is now been nominated for the position of Secretary of State. Ibrahim
has worked with Senator Clintonís campaign, Assemblyman Phil Ramos,
Brookhaven Town Supervisor Brian Foley who has now been elected NYS
Every now and then, he likes to be in
kitchen. But mostly he is passionate about representation of South
Asian community in legislature. His presence at the political office
has helped South Asian community in approaching politicians.
Here are excerpts of our conversation:
GN: How old were you at the time of 9/11?
I was a senior at high school. It was a
very challenging time, but I saw unique set of opportunities in it; it
was a chance for us to talk about our culture, about our religion
about our faith.
GN: Are some of us embarrassed to talk
about our culture?
I donít want to speak for anybody else. If
we are, itís natural..and itís unfortunate, but itís not uncommon.
Weíre not the first immigrant group facing these challenges and we
wonít be the last.
GN: How active are South Asians in
Political involvement is a daunting task;
there arenít many people ahead of you who you would just follow.
GN: There are set rituals at home, and
there are different values of the society. Is there a cultural
conflict going on?
At times, sure there was a clash. But
mostly the values at home are the values that help you succeed in the
society. At times you have to have courage to go out and try new
things. More often than not, values at home are asset even at
GN: How about religion?
Mosque shaped my views and what my world
GN: Are mosques playing their role as
churches or synagogues are?
My mosque played an outstanding role in my
growth from basketball to learning other things. I went to
Masjijd-ul-Quran at the Bayshore.
GN: After 9/11, do you think there was a
market for young Muslims, young South Asians who could bring diversity
to the political arena?
Sure. We do bring a certain diverse
experience and I think people realize it. There is a market for
diverse people who see things differently, and politics is about
solving problems, the more angles you can see a problem from, the more
solutions you can have.
GN: Do staffers come to you asking for an
about Islam? Are you seen as a representative of Pakistan?
They are very curious of makeup of the
country. And you have to make sure that they get the full picture and
not just what CNN says. You have to tell things that they wonít hear
from TV. People do see you as a representative of the community
whether or not you like it.
Pakistan is a country with problems like religious militancy and
fundamentalism, how hard is it to explain what real
It is challenging particularly because of
the image shown in the media. The reality is that it is difficult for
Pakistanis to explain it to themselves also. The best we can do is to
be realistic by drawing a whole picture for them. People in
Pakistan have immense talent and skills.
GN: How often do you visit
Once every two or three years. And I was
raised there for the first 9 years.
GN: Whatís your impression of
Itís a big part of who we are; it has
given us many values.
GN: How do you see yourself: Are you an
American or a Pakistani?
Thatís difficult. Thereís a part of me
that will always be Pakistani and at the same time this country has
given me enormous opportunities that I wonít have in
GN: Why do South Asians mistrust
A part of it is that we come from cultural
background where politics is negative. There have been a number of
coups where people voted and after a couple of years their government
was gone. Naturally they are apprehensive about getting involved. ďWho
cares about what I sayĒ is the sentiment that has to be addressed,
people need to be visible, so that their voices can be heard.
GN: Did Obamaís campaign change some of
One campaign cannot change things. To some
degree it helped.
GN: What do you see are the challenges for
South Asian youth?
Most of the challenges are similar to
everybody else. Itís lack of opportunities when it comes to economy
and education especially in current economic crisis.
GN: You work with legislators. Are
politicians moving in the right direction with regards to economy?
Itís hard to say. Economic policies take a
long time to show an impact. People are optimistic that Obama
administration will do what needs to be done. Whether or not he will
succeed, only time will tell. Certainly he seems to have trust of the
GN: What is it that South Asians should be
County and are not quite doing it?
Making your voice heard, being represented
is most important of all, and again itís not easy. They need to get
involved, and find out things they care about; you donít have to be a
politician to be represented.
GN: Can Caroline Kennedy be a substitute
for Senator Clinton?
Iím very biased on this one. I donít think
anyone can substitute her in terms of her work in healthcare and
foreign policy. I hope someone can close to her.
GN: Were you disappointed when Obama was
nominated as presidential candidate?
I was, but Barrack was the best choice.
GN: How much anger was there in Hillary
It wasnít anger; it was disappointment and
a lot of that was alleviated when Hillary came out and openly
GN: Do you think some people would be
satisfied that she would represent our country as Secretary of State?
Obviously, she has traveled almost the
entire world. People are very happy with it.
America has been having female Secretaries of State for last two
decades. Is there a particular reason for that?
Weíre making up of hundreds of years where
there were all men.
Clintonís being Secretary of State help
Absolutely. She has a unique understanding
of region; she understands problems, and she is someone people really
trusted in that part of the world.
GN: Whatís your take of media?
I love media. I can relate to what media
is covering; I can anticipate some of the questions and I understand
that media has to ask questions, so that story is fully covered.
GN: How do you feel about the story that
came about Senator Monserratte?
He is innocent till proven guilty.
GN: People donít trust politicians. Donít
stories like these further turn them off?
Politicians are human beings. Generally
they can make mistakes, and for the most part people understand that.
GN: Will we see Ibrahim Khan running for
an office in future?
Maybe youíll have to stay tuned in.
GN: What kind of change you want to bring
We have to have representation we need is
what I care most about.