Before 9/11, Jamal Kamandy wasnâ€™t outspoken about his religion.
But after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon â€“â€“ along with the conflicts that followed â€“â€“ he now feels obligated to help others understand and learn about the true, peaceful nature of Islam.
Kamandy, a political science and philosophy double major at CSU, spoke to a crowd of 30 people packed into the basement of the Mugs Coffee Lounge in Old Town on Friday night.
â€œI donâ€™t want Muslims to be cornered in our society and be held accountable because of the acts of 19 stupid people,â€ he said. â€œPhysical violence will only continue a vicious cycle of hate. Therefore, Muslims and non-Muslims must engage in peaceful and prosperous dialogue.â€
Kamandyâ€™s father moved to America from Kabul, Afghanistan in the late 1970s. One of 13 children, his family lived on just 60 cents a day. But when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, his father fled mainly on foot to a U.S. embassy in Pakistan where he received refugee status for his family to immigrate to America.
He finally settled in Fort Collins as an entrepreneur in the late â€˜80s and has owned the Mountain CafÃ© in Old Town for almost two decades.
Kamandy was born and raised in America and is immersed in American culture, but he has knowledge of Islam and the Quran that makes him unique to share his experiences.
His main goal for the presentation was to bridge the gap between the cultures and to hope that those in attendance could leave the lecture with an intellectually honest view of Islam and Muslim people.
When asked how to get more engaged in dialogue, Kamandy said many people would only entertain the thought if Muslims came to them.
â€œThey need to be willing and not afraid,â€ he said. â€œI can only go halfway. They also need to come with an open mind.â€
Kamandy also said Muslims need to be much more open and engaged about their religion of peace.
â€œIt takes courage to combat stereotypes and ignorance about a group that you are part of â€¦ Itâ€™s the only way to alleviate the increase in discrimination against Muslim-Americans that we see every day.â€
Kamandy also took special care to address terrorism within Islam.
Currently, Kamandy is working on the Wood Street project for the Center of Peace, Justice and Environment, which is attempting to save an impoverished housing community from being dismantled by a real estate developer.
He is the vice president of Young Americans for Liberty, a politically active group on campus who seeks to restore understanding of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and its practical applications in everyday life.
Staff writer Chadwick Bowman can be reached at email@example.com.