Learning about Mandela changed his life


Originally published in Times Dispatch


In 2000, I was an ignorant 18-year-old kid. Upon a visit to South Africa 13 years ago this month, I had no idea who Nelson Mandela was. One morning my father and I visited Robben Island. That day changed my life forever.

I learned of a man who spent 27 years in prison only for freedom of conscience. I learned of a man whose prison cell was so small that he could not lie down straight in it. I learned of a man who suffered with other prisoners, buried waist deep and urinated upon by racist, bigoted prison guards, just for their entertainment. I learned of a man who went into a cave set aside for urination and defecation, and in that putrid stench he instead taught unlettered prisoners how to read and write in the sand.

I learned of a man who was forbidden to have his photo taken so no one would know what he looked like. I learned of a man who was forced to work in mines, damaging his tear ducts and thus he could not cry. I learned of a man who would spend another eight years on America’s official terrorist watch list, only to be removed finally in July 2008.

I learned of a man who has inspired billions, and changed the life of that 18-year-old that day in ways I never could have then imagined. I learned, and that has made all the difference.

Thank you President Nelson Mandela. Rest in peace.

About the author

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Qasim Rashid

Qasim Rashid is a best-selling and critically acclaimed author, practicing attorney, visiting fellow at Harvard University's Prince AlWaleed bin Talal School of Islamic Studies, and national spokesperson for Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA.

Qasim’s new book #TalkToMe: Changing the Narrative on Race, Religion, & Education is due out in December 2015. #TalkToMe is a non-fiction memoir on how the power of dialogue can overcome racism, xenophobia, intolerance, and violence.

Previously, Qasim published EXTREMIST: A Response to Geert Wilders & Terrorists Everywhere (2014), which became an Amazon #1 Best Seller on Islam.

Qasim’s first solo-authored work is the critically acclaimed book, The Wrong Kind of Muslim: An Untold Story of Persecution & Perseverance (2013).

Qasim regularly publishes on TIME, The Huffington Post, Washington Post, Daily Caller, and CNN. His work has additionally appeared in USA Today, The Daily Beast, National Public Radio, Virginia Pilot, among various other national and international outlets. He also regularly speaks at a variety of universities and houses of worship, and interviews in a variety of media including the New York Times, FOX News, Pittsburg Post-Gazette, Muslim Television Ahmadiyya International, Huff Post Live, Al Jazeera, NBC, CBS, Voice of America, among several other national and international outlets.

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i love mandela for all his greatness and sevivalness

Avatar photo By Qasim Rashid