Hasaan Ali loves his Islamic faith and his Kentucky community, and even as a teenager, he’s worked hard to meld the two.
Fortunately, he says, the task wasn’t too difficult.
"Paducah is already such a warm, inviting, and loving community," he says. "The community here has always been friendly and tolerant of people of all types of different races, religions, faiths, ethnic backgrounds, etc."
The senior at Paducah Tilghman High School helped his parents establish the Islamic Center of Paducah nearly two years ago and is helping it to continue to grow. He says when his parents moved to Paducah 16 years ago, the Islamic community was small. But, in recent years, it has grown so much that there needed to be a place where local Muslims could congregate, worship, and educate the public about theirfaith.
Hasaan says he helped his father develop the center’s bylaws and has now preached sermons and helped organized events for the center, including an open house to educate the Paducah public about his faith.
"This was not only a great outreach event but a great, open, interfaith dialogue where we got to know one another," he says. "That was a really, really fulfilling part of this whole experience—to educate others about what Islam really is."
Hasaan hopes to help the center grow and develop, further promoting peace and tolerance in the community. But in the meantime, he stays busy earning honors as a student and competing in the Kentucky High School Speech League. Hasaan might know Urdu, Hindi, and Punjabi fluently, but in English, he has argued and debated his way to success in the Extemporaneous Speaking and Public Forum Debate categories. He has participated in so many speech and debate activities that he hasearned a degree of distinction from the National Speech and Debate Association.
"My goal, coming into high school, was to do as much as I could and have the best time that I could and achieve the most that I could because these are four years that I won’t get back," Hasaan explains.
As his last year of high school comes to a close, Hasaan will probably leave debate behind and enter college. He hasn’t chosen a university or a major yet, but he says he’s very interested in medicine and also likes politics and law.
And, of course, Islam will remain one of his chief interests. He plans to keep it as a focal point in his bright future.