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Interview: Promoting diversity

February 13, 2011


Maryam Mohiuddin Ahmed is a bright young person who excels at academics and extracurricular activities. After obtaining excellent grades in her O-level and A-level exams, she is currently pursuing a law degree at LUMS. In addition to academics, she has been an all Pakistan scrabble champion, attended the Muslim-Jewish Conference in Vienna and also presented her paper at the 13th American Studies Conference at the Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.

Here are the excerpts from the interview:

You attended the Muslim-Jewish Conference in Vienna in 2010, how was the experience?

The MJC has definitely been one of the most enriching experiences I've had in my life. It was absolutely amazing to interact with such a diverse and motivated group of individuals from all over the world, all with different perspectives but having such a zealous desire to come together and exemplify what celebrating one’s differences and diversity really means.

Every dinner conversation, coffee breaks, even the tram rides were filled with enlightening conversations, each leading to tremendous discovery of oneself and the others. It was quite motivating to see so much potential for peace and development of interfaith and intercultural relations between the Muslims and the Jews, as well as other religious communities.

How was your dissertation at the 13th American Studies Conference received?

I've come across brilliant individuals as my colleagues and professors, who have been extremely supportive. I presented my research on Islamophobia in various Diasporas in the US and Europe at the conference, to interestingly mixed responses.

I came across professors and academics who lauded my endeavour as well as that of my fellow colleagues who had also presented papers there. It was, nonetheless, a very important experience for me as it was the first time I was presenting my research at a formal academic conference.

What is your most significant achievement?

That is a tough question to answer. I think my most significant achievement would be the sense of realisation that has come with my experiences, the most important one being the significance of honesty— to oneself and to the dear ones.

Who has supported you most in your endeavours?

To tell you the truth it has been a mix. I have been blessed with extremely considerate parents. Apart from their endless support and counsel, my grandfather has always been a humongous source of encouragement and motivation. Couple that with a few really close friends and that is my indispensable support system.

In light of all you've experienced, what does success mean to you?

Success to me, quite frankly, amounts to communication. If you can communicate your point of view effectively to those around you and end up leaving a positive impact in their lives, you have achieved success and it only comes through honesty, integrity and a belief in the message.

How do you manage to strike a balance between studies, extracurricular activities and a vigorous social life?

It is extremely difficult juggling a social life, academics, extracurricular activities and familial obligations. Sometimes it gets quite taxing and I end up disrupting my sleeping habits but then again that comes with being a university student and living in a hostel! I guess the key is knowing what is most important to you and how much you can effectively accomplish. Once you've established that, you prioritise and give it your best shot.

What are you doing now and what are your plans for the future?

Well, I'm working as a part-time research assistant for one of my professors and heading the communications and registration department for this year's Muslim-Jewish Conference which will be held in Geneva. I'm also trying to work out a research proposal on the potential of interfaith dialogue with a couple of Jewish friends and trying to get the LUMS radio back on air! Simultaneously, I’m looking at research-based masters programmes in law, social justice and development which is where my plans for the future come in.