Title: The Terrorist's Son
Author: Zak Ebrahim
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (September 2014)
The Terrorist’s Son, the story of Zak Ebrahim, is truly a story of choice. A young lad who grew up in surroundings that brought forth a lot of divergent thoughts, Zak Ebrahim grew up to become a man who would make a conscious choice for peace despite all the influences of violence that he was exposed to as a child. Zak’s father was convicted for his role in the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing. Prior to that, in November 1990, his father shot and killed the leader of the Jewish Defense League. El Sayyid Nosair, Zak Ebrahim’s father, was mentioned by Osama Bin Laden in his infamous video message, where he asked the world to “Remember El-Sayyid Nosair.”
In the time after his father’s complicity in terror, Nosair was imprisoned. Zak and his family had to move around a lot, and faced death threats, exclusion and constant ridiculing. His father and his uncles tended towards radicalized thinking, and modeled fanatical beliefs – but Zak was constantly aware of the fact that hateful feelings were unnatural. In his growing years, he understands the power of empathy, and as he recognises that he can make and nurture friendships and relationships with people belonging to different faiths, Zak’s choices tended towards a life bereft of violence.
The Terrorist’s Son is Zak’s memoir, as he traversed the journey to make that choice for peace. He dispels the myth that terrorism is a foregone conclusion for people who are trained and brainwashed into hate. He makes a marvellous example out of himself, reflecting on the truth that to hate is a choice one makes, just like peace, tolerance, love and respect are all choices one can make. Violence and intolerance thrives all around us – and for Zak, in his childhood, this exposure was as real and direct as it could get. But, he was conscious that he had a choice to make, and he made the choice and lived by it.
Zak’s book, in the bigger sense of the context it is set in, reflects on a lot of powerful truths. He reasons that people who are conditioned to be terrorists can be well poised, for the most part, to actually combat terrorism. He sees them as capable of doing this because they have an ability to bring in seemingly incompatible ideologies together in conversation and advocate the achievement of peace. Zak argues that everyone, regardless of their upbringing or circumstances, can learn to tap into their inherent empathy and embrace tolerance over hatred.
Empathy underlies the interactions Zak has had in his life, especially seeing as how he sees it as an extension of his personality and his personal identity. To make a choice to live a life of peace, and to abide by peace as a continuous and conscious adherence to that choice is a reflection of a stronger and braver person. And Zak Ebrahim is every bit that brave person.