We work at the grassroots level throughout the Muslim World to counter violent extremism before it takes hold, to promote tolerance and understanding, and to foster better relations with the United States.
Summer Service Intern Deborah Carey from Satellite Beach, FL, shares her duties as the Social Networking and Communications Intern at ZAYEDESA in Zanzibar, Tanzania.
After a month of living and working in Stone Town, Zanzibar, I have had many unforgettable experiences, from local weddings to film festivals. But the most profound aspect of this six-week internship is more difficult to describe than the subtle compare and contrast that underlines most cross-cultural encounters.
One of my many duties as a Social Networking and Communications Intern at ZAYEDESA, is to troll Twitter throughout the day, and as a political Washingtonian, naturally I follow BBC, Al Jazeera, Washington Post, the whole lot. If you have been following a news network recently, you will know the main headlines for the past week have shared a common theme: Muslim extremism. Massacres in Kenya, village raids in Nigeria, and a budding Iraq civil war flood my Twitter feed night and day. As I read these reports, I often feel conflicted, and a little betrayed, as I have experienced the opposite–extreme peace and gentleness of the Muslim faith in my workplace and neighborhood of Stone Town.
I am deeply saddened by the political, economic, and religious turmoil that are conveyed in these recent news articles. But I am equally saddened by the reality that the extreme peace I have witnessed as a guest on this island—a peace I attribute to their reverence in their faith—will never be in the news, to combat the underlying fear that is created through these unfortunate events.
Nowhere else in the world have I felt so safe walking around town, as greetings of “Asalam alaykum” (peace be with you) are offered to me, even as a stranger. Nowhere else have I been invited to a random person’s wedding and felt welcome, or overhear the call to prayer that pulls the entire city out of their beds at five in the morning, to acknowledge a greater force than themselves. I am constantly moved by the people here, and can only hope that, upon returning, my conversations and presentations about my experience will reflect the connectedness and compassion of this Muslim community.
As an “America’s Unofficial Ambassador,” my role, beyond being an effective Intern, is to build peace through “people to people partnerships.” As it turns out, the peace I’m meant to build has been here in Zanzibar all along, all I have had to do is take part in it by sharing my experience with others. In two weeks, when I am back on American soil, my internship won’t be over—it will have just begun.