1. How are you, and how was your day?
I’m fantastic! Thank you so much for asking. I had a very busy day, but overall it was pleasant. How about yourself?
2. Tell us a little bit about your background?
Well, first of all I’m American. I was born in the South so you could say I’m a country girl. Give me a pitcher of sweet tea and a book and I’ll call it a day. I consider myself a nomad though, because I like to travel all over the world. There’s something exhilarating about learning a new language, culture, way of life and simply immersing yourself in it. In my free time, I like to campaign as an activist for women and children’s rights. I am a staunch supporter of clean water initiatives and those campaigns that aim to bring education to all, regardless of color, religion, and gender.
3. You’ve said to have traveled often as a child, what did you learn from it?
Oh wow, where to begin? I think that traveling young, I got to see different locations of the world through a naïve set of eyes. There were no politics or boundaries for me because I explored the world without biases. Even now, traveling as an adult, I try to keep my viewpoint neutral about a country or city until I visit it. So in an essence, I’ve learned that if you have preconceived notions about a certain culture or location, you’ll never really see the beauty of the world.
4. When did you first start writing?
I began writing short stories in middle school for class so about the sixth grade? Yeah, that seems about right. They weren’t as vivid in detail as my novels are now, but it was a starting point.
5. What is your writing process, and how do you your research for them?
I don’t really have a “process,” per say. Most of my settings and characters in books are inspired from actual locations I have visited over the years and actual people I have met on those travels. If there is a subject matter I am unfamiliar with, I tend to turn towards local leaders in the field that I am researching. For example, I was researching astrophysics for a character in one of my ongoing books, so I reached out to a local astrophysicist for more information. After my preliminary research is done, I write out a rough outline as a layout for upcoming chapters and characters. From there, I begin writing out my chapters.
6. Most of your work so far is about Islam and Muslims, why is that so?
Well, to start off, I’m Muslim. I usually get people to do a double-take when they hear that since most people expect to see someone of Arab descent as a Muslim. Second, I always loved reading books about Islam and Muslims, but there is definitely a lack of variety and representation when it comes to fictional Muslim books. You will usually get things such as love stories and war stories. I wanted to change that.
7. You have a few books available on Wattpad , which are you most proud of?
Oh this one is tough. I have to say it’s a tie between two of my works. The first is titled Blue-Haired Muslim, which is about an unconventional convert to Islam and his struggles before converting. The second is my book titled I am Jinn , which deals with the theory that old polytheist idol-worshipping religions were simply being manipulated by the jinn. These two works are some of my most read and most likely to cause conversation, which is why I’m most proud of them.
8. You also have a published novel, The Dangers of Islam: The Terrorist. What is this novel about?
The novel is about Dawood Khan, a soldier in the US military who goes through numerous struggles in both his personal life and his professional life. The title is a play on the misinformed belief that all Muslims are terrorists and that the religion of Islam is fundamentally dangerous. You wouldn’t believe how many messages I get from Muslims and non-Muslims alike just based on the cover.
9. What is the main struggle the protagonist Dawood Khan facing?
Dawood’s main struggle in life is his identity. His journey towards finding his identity is met with fierce Islamophobia, which puts him in various unique situations, some which even become life threatening. His character is based off quite a few Muslim Americans that are currently facing similar struggles in life.
10. Who should read this book?
I recommend that both Muslims and non-Muslims read this book. It gives you a look into the various struggles that first generation American Muslims face while living in communities that are heavy on cultural beliefs. These communities often have hypocritical views that clash with the Islamic identity.
11. Are you realizing any new books soon?
I’m glad y’all asked. I’m currently working on two books. The first is the sequel to The Dangers of Islam: The Terrorist titled The Dangers of Islam: The Convert. This story deals with a key character from the first book, Iman Abdullah. I’m not giving too much away because my fans are always looking for spoilers. I’m currently releasing it chapter-by-chapter on Wattpad and once it’s complete, it will be published in print as well. The second book I’m working on is titled “Unmarried” and deals with a female protagonist who is still single in a community the stresses marriage early for women. A lot of her story has to deal with peer-pressure and societal pressures. This book is strictly being released on Wattpad, so you can check it out for free.
12. What do you enjoy reading, or have been reading lately?
I thoroughly enjoy reading religious texts when I have free time. I’ve read the Qur’an, Bible, Torah, Bhagavad Gita, Analects of Confucius, Tripitaka, and Guru Granth Sahib. I’m currently working on reading the Aqdas, the holy book of the Ba’hai faith. I like learning about different faiths. It really helps me respect the culture and religious aspects of society when I visit foreign countries. You’d be surprised by how many beliefs we all have in common.
13. Is the average American-educated about Islam and the Muslim world?
That depends on locality. In major metropolis areas, there are usually sizeable populations of American Muslims that are very active in their communities. With their initiatives, non-Muslim Americans are quite informed about their Muslim compatriots. As far as small cities are concerned, a lot of Americans are very misinformed when it comes to Islam because they simply aren’t exposed to Muslims in their vicinity. Unfortunately, a good portion of news on the Muslim world comes from news agencies that sensationalize disaster and wars, thus leading to a generally negative viewpoint of predominately Muslim countries. We are working on reaching out to smaller communities of non-Muslim Americans, but it doesn’t help when we have a presidential candidate that vilifies us at every turn
14. What is the cause of all this hostility and hate?
Again, there is some hate, but it’s not as common as some would have you believe. The predominate reason for hostilities and hate is misinformation and a lack of access to Muslim communities. A lot of people are content in not learning about Islam from Muslims, instead relying on websites and leaders who already have a biased point of view about our religion. These leaders often have a monetary benefit in hate-mongering and fueling hysteria. These so-called “leaders” also tend to further their own agenda by vilifying everyday Muslims, which only leads to further distrust of and decay in relationships with local Muslims.
15. Can peace and friendship be found by some miracle?
I think that peace and friendship is inevitable if we all learned to live and let live. Too often we find ourselves trying to dictate how everyone should act or should feel according to our own preferences and beliefs. Unfortunately, we tend to look at the world only through our own lenses, which in turn causes strife and discord. This goes for both Muslim and non-Muslim communities worldwide. If we want peace, we’ll have to put others first for a change and we will definitely have to tolerate viewpoints that are different from our own.
16. This is our last question, and thank you for being with us. Do you have any message you would like to share with Pakistan?
Over the years, I have had many interactions in Pakistan and although an overwhelming number of visits have been positive, I have had a few negative experiences as well. These negative experiences often dealt with people refusing to hold their tongue when dealing with views different from their own. If there were two things the people of Pakistan can improve upon, they would have to be tolerance and tact. Often times you will find people blurting inappropriate things out, especially when it comes to someone’s beliefs and mental health. That’s very problematic because it shows that you do not respect the one you are talking to or about. People are different all over the world. If you don’t learn to tolerate different beliefs and hold your tongue in your own backyard, you will never be able to travel the world without biases. Thank you so much for having me. It’s been an honor and a pleasure.