Sam Wazan was born in Beirut, Lebanon, destined for a life of religious hatred and intolerance.
But Wazan, author of “The Last Moderate Muslim,” chose a different path for himself. Today he is determined to reach as many people as possible, whether they are Muslims, Jews or Christians, and change the image associated with Islam in today’s society.
Wazan brought his message at the Downtown Fuquay-Varina Rotary Club’s public speaker series Monday night at STARS Theater and Arts Center. He has spoken with other Rotarians around the country and talked of real peace and love during his presentation.
After the explosions in Boston flooded television and computer screens Monday afternoon, Wazan received an email from a man that heard his message a week ago.
“We are all victims of violence and extremism,” the email read.
Wazan likes knowing that he’s getting through to people and sharing a different perspective than most Muslims openly share.
“That’s invaluable,” he said of the email. “That fuels me.”
It is Wazan’s goal to uphold humanity above all differences – to help others see the beauty in diversity. While many Muslims claim that Islam is a religion of love and peace, Wazan said actions speak louder than words.
“Go into the community,” he said. “Don’t talk it. Act like it.”
In an attempt to end religious violence around the world, Wazan talked of his upbringing in Lebanon. He was born in 1964 and survived gun battles, religious violence and a civil war that rocked the Middle East. Until he was 10 years old, Wazan attended an Islamic school.
That was when the violence took over and his family lost power and water. Resources were sparse and his family went into hiding.
“Outside, the religious war went into full swing,” he said.
With some massacres less than a mile from his home, it was a difficult time for his family. Nothing was held sacred, not even religious buildings.
When school resumed, Wazan had a difficult transition back into daily life. He failed, convinced that he was a dunce and not realizing it was stress from the situation. He decided he didn’t want to fail anymore. He even remembers yelling at a sniper to kill him one day.
He had given up on his future.
“I was ready for someone to toss an AK-47 at me and join (the fighting),” he said.
But he said he was fortunate. No one offered him a gun.
Instead, he eventually found a different way of thinking and immigrated to the United States.
Wazan remembers when he was caught kissing his Christian girlfriend in public. Sharia enforcers took action against the young couple, dragging them from Wazan’s car and chopping off their hair.
That was a turning point in his life.
“I wanted to be a part of the solution,” Wazan said.
He said there are several root problems plaguing his homeland – from the brainwashing of children in religious schools to the thankless society where people are encouraged to “have them for lunch before they have you for dinner” to the conversations that people subscribe to within their families and from the public sector as well.
But there is the possibility for peace in the Middle East and around the world. Wazan said children should be taught tolerance. It all begins with children learning civility.
“Don’t fight intolerant people,” he said. “Teach them tolerance.”
And from there, people can learn acceptance and respect. Not everyone has to agree on religion, but everyone can be respectful of others’ choices and beliefs.
“May peace prevail in Fuquay-Varina. May peace prevail in Boston and the United States,” Wazan prayed before his presentation. “And may peace prevail in the world.”
Wazan’s novel draws from his real-life experience, but also from major events that took place in the Middle East. It is available on Amazon.com.
Lynanne Fowle first heard of Wazan from an email he sent out to Rotarians in December. Because the Rotary Club promotes peace, Wazan seemed like the perfect fit for the series.
“We were just so thrilled to hear what he had to say,” she said.
The theme of the public speaker series is world peace and conflict resolution. The next speaker series event will be in July when the Downtown Rotary Club has the first viewing of a video documentary, sharing the stories of Holocaust survivors.
Contact Kelly Griffith at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-552-5675.