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American Muslim Student Rewarded for Coexistence Efforts

LAWRENCEVILLE – An American Muslim school student, Shaezmina Khan, has won the Princeton Prize in Race Relations of Central and Southern New Jersey for her work to change how the Western world views Islam.

“I was surprised when I learned I had won a certificate of accomplishment – one of six handed out at the April 11 awards ceremony at Princeton University,” Khan told Central Jersey on May 6.

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The Muslim girl, who lives in Pennington, New Jersey, was encouraged to enter the competition by her friend, who won a certificate several years earlier.

The awards’ program is sponsored by Princeton University in New Jersey, the US, to recognize students who have worked to close the gap between ethnic groups.

Khan successfully organized a two-day symposium for Muslim youths at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) to help them bridge between Islam and the American society.

As the president of her school’s Muslim Students Association, Khan also held the first Islam Awareness Week at her Lawrenceville School in New Jersey.

“Nobody focused on understanding my religion, but it’s interconnected with race,” Khan said, pointing out that Muslims from different ethnicities.

Khan’s symposium brought together 50 Muslim high school students around the theme of “Defining Your American Identity.”

The event included workshops and lectures about topics like Challenging Islamophobia and Racism, and Breaking Barriers: Building Relationships Across Racial Divides.

“Being Muslim and American aren’t mutually exclusive. You can be both, and you can do it well. No one should question your faith and your citizenship,” believes Khan who was born in the US for Pakistani immigrants.

During her school’s Islam Awareness Week, Khan showed her colleagues a video entitled “The Life of Muslims in America” and discussed it afterward. The students also listened to a Muslim chaplain from the University of Pennsylvania who spoke about the misconceptions about Islam.

Moreover, Khan invited her classmates to try on a hijab as she tried to explain its significance. In addition, she answered some questions about hijab and women rights in Islam.

“I chose to wear hijab because it reinforces my values around modesty and makes me committed to God. It serves as a protection and makes others judge me on my character and intellect, not my bared appearance. The hijab isn’t a sign of oppression,” Khan expressed.