Scholar encourages open conversations about religion

Khaled went to Edison High School, a highly diverse school in northeast Minneapolis. At Edison, Khaled never thought much about how he fit in as a Muslim and student of color as many religions and ethnicities were represented.

This is why when he transitioned to college, Khaled felt out of place. As a college freshman, Khaled was faced with often being the only student of color in his classes and he was targeted by a racist incident in his dorm room shortly after beginning college. This was also the year when his mom passed away. Khaled describes this time as incredibly challenging.

After his mom’s passing, Khaled did a lot of reflecting. He asked himself what would his mother want of him? And he knew the answer – to succeed. He also thought about being a Wallin scholar and what this meant. Khaled recalls thinking: ‘Having the scholarship meant I did not have to worry about finances; it helped me focus and think about what I could offer the world. Wallin Education Partners is backing me up, standing behind me, so it’s time for me to step up.”

The incident where he was singled out for being a student of color was difficult, but Khaled recalls that it also brought the community together – his peers at the dorm room stood by him, the university leadership denounced the incident, and he was even invited to Dean’s house for dinner. He saw this unfortunate event as an opportunity to start a dialogue. Since then, Khaled has made it his goal to talk about race and religion openly and to help build an understanding between different groups. Khaled told us: “Misconceptions and misunderstandings are a big part of the challenges that take place around the world. In my experience, there is a huge gap in the lack of knowledge and education pertaining to the religion of Islam. Instead of pointing fingers and making excuses around the cause behind this lack of knowledge, I feel it is important for me to speak up and share my knowledge with those who are willing to listen and understand. Creating a safe and open environment to have respectful dialog is key.” 

Khaled later completed his MBA and is currently working as a Strategy and Planning Manager for Post Consumer Brands. He continues to encourage open conversations about difficult topics. He reflects: When you are given the ability to think, speak, and make an impact, you owe it to those who do not have a voice and are unable to drive change, to speak up on their behalf.”