Phreedum: How did you begin writing and speaking about what terrorism is and isn’t?
ZS: I wasn’t happy so I started soul searching. First I went to a psychologist. Then my husband I went to this super expensive retreat way out somewhere. I still wasn’t happy. I didn’t have God in my life. I was kind of afraid to have God in my life because I knew I would have to be responsible for whatever I learned and God required of me. I knew I was going to have to submit. However, as I learned more about God I became a better human and a better servant. I chose to develop my relationship with God and seek to live a life that reflected what he expected of me. Part of that expectation I believe has been to use my gifts and abilities to educate people and live as respectfully and harmoniously as possible.
Phreedum: When I met you, you were wearing your hijab and the title of your talk was “No, I am not a terrorist.” Would you say that this too was part of what you believe God expects of you?
ZS: Yes. Deciding to wear the hijab was a choice. Not long after that choice my husband and I chose to leave California where we lived and were raising our children to Indiana. I also chose to home school my children. I also chose to begin talking about terrorism after being encouraged to do so by someone hosting an event regarding psychology and professional development. That’s what I was doing before I started this work. My husband and I did real estate and I also did professional development coaching.
I was at the event and after engaging in conversation with the man he said I needed to talk about things people weren’t talking about, like terrorism and the truth about what it is and isn’t. I pondered what he said, sought God, and then I went back to school for Islamic studies. I wrote my book “No I Am Not A Terrorist.” and have been speaking about it and other topics related to terrorism ever since.
Phreedum: How does your speaking schedule impact your marriage and family life?
ZS: My marriage and family life is actually pretty great. We travel a lot as a family so my children continue to get their education, travel, and get to see their mother serving God through her work to educate people and live respectfully and harmoniously. There are times when my extended family watches the kids and just my husband and I travel. My husband has been very supportive.
Phreedum: What has been a highlight for you so far?
ZS: Seeing people’s facial expressions. Once while speaking in Ohio there was a couple whose nonverbal communication clearly suggested they knew what a terrorist was and I was probably one. There was so much judgment on their faces. By the end of my talk the couple was smiling and nodding. They came up afterwards and thanked me for coming and how I shared so many things they had not previously considered. When you break down ignorance and people really get it and say what they thought and now know, it’s really rewarding.
Phreedum: What has been the biggest lesson you have learned as an entrepreneur?
ZS: Be happy, but your future has been written for you. Do your best, but be content, because you will have what has been ordained for you. Success comes in different forms. Take Bill Gates and Steve Jobs for example. Both technology gurus in their own rights, but their paths and outcomes led to different forms of success and societal change.
Phreedum: Who are your biggest supporters?
ZS: My family. Everyone from my husband and kids here in Indiana to my parents and siblings who live in California. My family is the most supportive and then my fans. I have over 20,000 people on Facebook. Support will be there if you do what you do well, then the critics will be outnumbered.
Phreedum: How does your work change the lives of others?
ZS: By educating and informing people they no longer have a reason to be afraid of people who are different from them. Different doesn’t have to be scary. Through my work I get to be a light and show people we are all humans, all capable of good and bad. You can’t pigeon hole an entire culture/faith/race. You have to look at the individual. Individuals make choices just like individuals make change.
Phreedum: What do you believe people in general just don’t understand about terrorism?
ZS: I think most people think all Muslims hate all non- Muslims. False! However, this message is constantly in the media. If you read the history of the faith and the history of other faiths it is not true. People take things out of context. I constantly try to invite dialog and I seek to offer understanding and gain understanding.
Phreedum: You don’t talk about an easy topic. How do you stay inspired to do this work?
ZS: There is a need. After 9/11 there has been so much misinformation and ignorance about terrorism, individuals from the Middle East, and people of the Muslim faith. Because of that there has been so much unnecessary turmoil and hurt. I believe it is both my duty and my purpose in life to do this work as unto God.
Phreedum: What is one of the best things about living in Indiana?
ZS: My husband, children, and I are the only ones here in Indiana so this means I get a lot of work done. The rest of my family is in California. Indiana is also centrally located geographically in the continental US so it makes it pretty easy to travel. Now I am not a fan of Indiana’s weather. It’s usually cold.
Phreedum: What is the greatest thing about being a woman?
ZS: Being able to multi task. I know many men who try but fail. I think God has gifted us to be able to multi task and not lose focus.
Phreedum: What is one piece of advice you would offer to other entrepreneurs, particularly those who make it their business to address topics that we as a society like to avoid?
ZS: Fail your way to success. If you fail just get back up. Success will come. To be honest I am glad I didn’t experience success when I wanted it; I would not have been prepared. Success will come when God thinks it’s best for you.
To phind out more about Zohra Sarwari visit www.zohrasarwari.com