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Salima Malik Ahmed

Oral history interview conducted by Zaheer Ali

August 30, 2018

Call number: 2018.006.30

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ALI: I'm Zaheer Ali, and I'm the oral historian at Brooklyn Historical Society. We are here at Brooklyn Historical Society. I'm here to do an oral history interview with Salima Malik, and this interview is for the Muslim's in Brooklyn project. So Salima, if you can introduce yourself to the recording by saying your full name and when you were born.

AHMED: Okay, my name is Salima Malik Ahmed, and I was born in Pakistan in a small city. It was not a city. It was like a cantt, like an army area, which named --which was Wah Cantt. So I was born and raised there throughout my life. And then, you know, I went to school there, college, and study everything. And then I got married, and I moved to United States.

ALI: Okay.

AHMED: Yeah.

ALI: So before we get to the United States --

AHMED: Yes, Yes.

ALI: -- can you spell the town or the location, just so --


AHMED: Okay, it's Wah Cantt, W-A-H and C-A-N-T-T.

ALI: Okay.

AHMED: So in Pakistan the Cantt, wherever is Cantt, it means it's a military area.

ALI: Oh, okay.

AHMED: Yeah.

ALI: Okay, and when were you born?

AHMED: I was born on [date redacted for privacy], 1959.

ALI: Okay, how long did you live in Pakistan before coming to the United States?

AHMED: I lived there, I think, maybe 25 or 26 years.

ALI: Okay.

AHMED: Yeah.

ALI: So tell me about your family background.

AHMED: Okay, my -- as I told you, that we used to live in a Cantt area, so that was a -- like a military area, and my father used to work in a -- ordinance factory. And we had eight siblings, eight, you know, kids, six sisters and two brothers.

ALI: Wow.

AHMED: Yeah, I had a big family.

ALI: Yes.

AHMED: And a very nice area. I used to love to living there, very organized, 2:00very punctual, you know. Like a, like a army, everybody used to, you know, do things on a timely manner. And it was nice living there. I have a good memory of living there, yeah.

ALI: And how about your mom? What did she --

AHMED: Mom, she was a homemaker. And but she used to work sometimes from home, different types of things, because we were a big family and sometimes it was hard, you know, to -- to make ends meet. And so my mom used to work a lot from home, yeah.

ALI: And where were you in the line of children.

AHMED: I was -- I'm number two, yeah.

ALI: Oh, so did that -- what kind of responsibilities did you have as the second oldest?

AHMED: Everything, everything, you name it and I did it. Since my childhood I took care of everything as a household member. I mean, I took care of my 3:00siblings, my younger siblings. I helped out my mom in all the house chores, and I was the most responsible person of the household of taking care of everything. And my parents used to, you know, they were like always think that I can do everything, so that was the thing there.

ALI: And how did you -- how did you learn to do the things that you needed to do to take care?

AHMED: It was like from the childhood, you know, looking at my mom because she was a very good cook. She was a very good in everything. You know, she used to sew. She used to stitch. She used to clean the house. She was very edu-- I mean, she did not go to school that much, but whatever she learned she passed on us, and we learn everything from her.

ALI: Do you remember what the first thing is you learned to cook from her?

AHMED: When I was only five or six years old I still remember that my first grade teacher, she used to come home after school, and I always tried to come 4:00home before her because I used to make roti for her. And I mean, I just ran to home to make roti for her, and that was -- I remember that I was maybe six years old or six, seven, yeah.

ALI: And how was it?

AHMED: It was very good, you know, and she always loved it. She always loved it. She always liked to, you know, eat my roti on her way -- her home.

ALI: So there are different kinds of roti. What --

AHMED: Yeah, just a simple roti.

ALI: Okay.

AHMED: Yeah, simple roti, and everything, you know, I learned cooking, everything from very childhood, very early age, yeah.

ALI: Okay, and what was your family's -- what was your religious upbringing like?

AHMED: The religious -- we were like -- for both my parents, they were very regular in their salat, and they wanted us to be regular also. I still remember that my father used to wake us up for fajr prayer, and then, you know, when he comes home from office around 4:00, 4:00-5:00, then we used to do zuhr and asr 5:00and then maghrib. Isha we used to go to the center every evening to say our prayer for over there. It was like a religious upbringing also. And also my house was also the center of the religious community, you know, activities and everything.

ALI: What does that mean when you say the center of activity?

AHMED: It means that since in the area where we were living, we -- we were -- there was other Muslims and our community was spread out, so our house was the center for the community. sometimes when we didn't have our own mosque at their place.

ALI: And so when you say our community --

AHMED: It's -- it's -- it's a Ahmadiyya Muslim community. I belong to that community, yeah.

ALI: So -- and your parents --

AHMED: My parents, yeah.

ALI: How far? Do you know how far back your family goes into that community?

AHMED: Yes, there's a very good question.

ALI: Yeah.

AHMED: My mother -- on my mother's side, my grandfather, he accepted the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. And when he was very young and he was also one of 6:00the person -- one of the people who stayed back in Qadian to just take care of all those things during 1947. So he was the one person among the other 313 people, so that's where we call dervish. You know Darveshan-i qadiyan, means the person who stayed there to look after all those properties and everything in Qadian. So that was my mother's side. And my father, my grandfather was not Ahmadi, but my father accepted at -- at -- at his young age also, you know.

ALI: So for people who may not be familiar --

AHMED: Yeah.

ALI: -- with the Ahmadiyyah community --

AHMED: Yeah.

ALI: -- and I think it's probably unfair to ask you to summarize, but can you -- can you give a little explanation of what distinguishes, for you --

AHMED: Yeah, yeah.

ALI: -- the Ahmadiyyah community.

AHMED: The -- you know every -- all the religion of the world, they are waiting 7:00for the messiah to come back, you know, the Christian, the Jews, the Muslims, and you name it, you know. And the only difference that is between us and other Muslims are that we believe that the Messiah has come in the name of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, and he was born in Qadian. And through Allah's guidance he claimed that he is the messiah who the world was waiting for.

So we -- our -- you know, our grandparents accepted him, and also there was a signs, prophecies by holy Prophet Muhammad, salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam [may God honor him and grant him peace], and all the other books that were -- that prophecies were fulfilled at that advent of the Messiah. So there were many, many prophecies that were fulfilled during that time.

ALI: So you said he was from Qadian.

AHMED: He was from Qadian, yes.

ALI: And your maternal grandfather, your mother's father --

AHMED: Yeah.

ALI: Or was it your mother's grandfather?

AHMED: Yeah, he was -- he was from Pakistan. I mean, he was a part of Pakistan --

ALI: Right.


AHMED: -- where before --

ALI: Right.

AHMED: Yeah.

ALI: You said your mother's father was one of the people who --

AHMED: Yes, yes.

ALI: -- remained. So that -- that sounds like a very important role to play.

AHMED: Yes, yes.

ALI: Yes.

AHMED: Yes, he was -- he was actually in Pakistan, the area where the Pakistan was in Lahore, I think, but when it was announcement made that we need some young people to stay in Qadian to take -- to take care of those, you know, sites, so he was one of them to say that I can go there, and I can stay there.

ALI: And so growing up where your house was a center of activity --


ALI: -- how do you think that shaped your own religious outlook?

AHMED: I mean, at that time, when growing up, we did not realize. I personally did not realize that -- what I will be. You know, the shaping up and also the activities, the atmosphere. It was like that, you know. We have to be like that. We'd never think that, why we are doing this, or why we are different from other 9:00people because it was in the -- in the air, you know, you can say that. So it was going into our, you know, shaping up our personalities and everything.

ALI: So do you as -- do you as children remember any kind of resistance. I mean, I don't know many children who like waking up -- [laughter] waking up at sunrise or before sunrise.

AHMED: I mean -- I mean, yes, you know, but it was -- maybe it was in our blood that we have to wake up. We have to say our namaz and we have to read the holy Quran before we go to school. That was like a norm for us. Like we eat. It was a normal to eat. It was a normal to play. So it was a normal to wake up in the morning also. And also another thing is that since our school starts early in the morning so that's, you know, that was like a whole pattern.

And another thing that we, you know, we used to wake up like because being as a 10:00Cantt area there was a siren every morning. Every morning we -- I -- we still remember those siren hooters, you know, like first hooter, second hooter, third hooter. Those were for the workers of the Cantt, but it was like a normal life there.

ALI: Okay, I think that gives us a good sense of your childhood.

AHMED: Yeah.

ALI: So tell me what led to you wanting to leave Pakistan?

AHMED: I mean, if you can ask me that, I -- I left because of my husband, you know. I got married to him, and he had his cousin here in USA doing a very good business. So his, you know, his cousin sponsored him. So at the marriage we didn't know that it's going on, you know, like he's sponsored to go to America, nothing at all. All of a sudden within six months, you know, the papers start 11:00coming up, and then we knew, my side of family, "Oh, he already applied for the American visa." And this and that.

So that happened, you know. So and also my husband, why he was -- he wanted to come here, because in Pakistan it was not a good, you know, thing to be there, especially for young people because of the economy, because of the persecution, because of all those stuff he wanted to just go out. And also because his cousin was here, so that's, you know, all the family think that he should go there also.

ALI: When you mention persecution what are you referring to?

AHMED: Yeah, persecution is a long story. To -- just to become assured that being as a Pakistani student in Wah Cantt and not living in the -- in -- in living in this environment I -- my family and I felt a lot of persecution that -- from the other Muslims, even my classmates, even from my -- my teachers, even from my neighborhood, even from, you know, everywhere. We -- we have gone 12:00through those type of things that we were being targeted of hate.

ALI: Based on --

AHMED: Based on our religion, based on our, you know, belief, as being as Qadiani. Qadiani is -- we are not Qadiani because we -- I was not born in Qadian, so I cannot be -- say myself that I am Qadiani. We are Ahmadiyya Muslim. Qadiani means that if you are born in Qadian then you will be called Qadiani, but that's a phrase that are given. That is given to us from other people.

ALI: So because you were part of this particular --

AHMED: Yes, yes.

ALI: -- community, you were targeted by other Muslims.

AHMED: By other Muslims, always, always.

ALI: What -- what did you -- how did you understand this -- the, you said persecution by your classmates or bullying or how --


ALI: -- how did you --

AHMED: Yeah.

ALI: Growing up, how did you explain this to yourself? Like, what was it?

AHMED: That was a very hard time for me, especially when I was in high school, and that is a very crucial time for any student because that will make your 13:00future. But in my high school, because in that -- during that time there was a -- the whole country started doing that. There was an eruption of, you know, like volcano, that every single Muslim started hating us because that was 1974. And my teacher did not look at me. My teacher did not used to ask my any question, did not, you know, check my homework, nothing. I was just like useless person sitting all the way in the back.

So that was my -- my situation at that time. But Alhamdulillah [praise be to God] you know, I have gone through those things and because I -- we didn't say anything, we didn't protest anything, and slowly and slowly the college, first two years of college were the same. The teacher, the principal even, the worse, but you know, because of -- and I did not say anything. I did not, you know, say back anything.

And slowly and slowly it happens that by third year or fourth year of college 14:00all of a sudden -- the hate was still there. The hate was still there in the atmosphere, but all of a sudden I was being -- because I was very active in sports. I was very active in debates. I was very active in school extra curriculum activities. All of a sudden this class, you know, my class people they started liking me, and I became the union president. I, you know, in the elections. Elections, you know, I won the elections, so that was a great, great moment for me. I don't know how it happened. Why did it happen? But it happened, you know.

ALI: What -- what kind of sports did you play?

AHMED: I used to play a lot, you know, the basketball, the volleyball, you know, everything, running, you know, yeah.

ALI: While you were going through this experience --

AHMED: Yeah.

ALI: -- what were your coping mechanisms? How did you kind of push through it?

AHMED: Patience, patience that was the great thing inside of me. And people used 15:00to say, you know, that especially for me that she has a very patience, you know always. Just say quiet, just keep quiet, that was the only thing. And then praying a lot, a lot, you know. People say that whoever pray in the young age, you know, that Allah helps, so that's what I -- always praying, yeah.

ALI: Did your -- did your siblings have similar experiences?

AHMED: Yes, yes.

ALI: And did any of them use different strategies, or you were all --

AHMED: No, we were like same, same, yeah, same.

ALI: So you said that when you got the news that the paperwork has been processed for you to move to the United States that you were kind of surprised. That your --

AHMED: I was -- I mean, I still remember that I wanted to be very happy, but it was like a normal thing for me. I -- I mean, I did not -- was excited. I was sad also because I was leaving all my family and my country, but a little bit 16:00excitement was there but not too much, you know, not -- because I am going to the other country, and I was not -- I did not talk about never, but that I will be going to the other country. The -- the city where my husband was living, that was a new city for me too. So that was a transition -- transition -- one transition for me also, and that makes me sad because I left all of my family. So now another country. So I was kind of sad.

ALI: How did you and your husband meet?

AHMED: Oh, you -- you really want to listen that?

ALI: Yeah, because you said he was in a different city --

AHMED: Yeah.

ALI: So I'm interested in how you -- how you found each other.

AHMED: You will not believe it. It was a arranged marriage.

ALI: Okay, that's --

AHMED: Yeah, I never saw my husband before my marriage.

ALI: Really?


ALI: So who -- who arranged it.

AHMED: My --

ALI: How did that work?

AHMED: Yeah, one of my aunts, she -- my -- my -- my mother's sister, she used to 17:00be the friend of my husband's sister. So and my husband's family used to live in Rabwah, which is our, you know the -- the main city in --

ALI: Can you spell that?

AHMED: Rabwah, R-A-B W-A-H, so that's a city where all mostly the Ahmadi's lives. There's an Ahmadi city in there because we acquired, you know --

ALI: What is an Ahmadi?

AHMED: You know, our community is -- has a city in Pakistan.

ALI: Oh okay, okay, okay.

AHMED: So that was --

ALI: So Ahmadi, that's an Ahmadi city.

AHMED: Ahmadi, yes, so my husband's family used to live there, but my husband used to work in another city in Karachi, but very far along. So my -- my aunt and his sister, they were friends. And every time my husband used to go to his home on vacation, you know, all the mother and sister they, you know, "This time you get married. You're not going to go back without that." But every time he used to leave and then you know.

But this time when he came everybody was behind him in that you have to get married. So my -- his sister just talk about to my aunt, and they said -- she 18:00said, "Okay, let me introduce you to my sister, and she has daughters, and maybe you can find some girl." So then they came to my house, and you know, they talked to my parents, and then everything got settled down.

ALI: And so did -- did they ask you what -- what -- what did they tell you or ask you, and you know --

AHMED: That's a detail, actually.

ALI: I'm interested.

AHMED: Okay so I used to work. After my graduation I used to work in a school. I was a teacher in a school, which was a Air Force base school, which was like two hour's drive from my house, but that was a very good school, and I got accommodation, a full apartment over there. So usually on Thursday I used to come home because Friday was an off day. So I came on one Thursday at my home, and I saw there's some guests our home and my aunt. I said, "Why did you come all of a sudden?" And she said, "Go upstairs and just wash yourself." And this and that.

So I said, "Well, but why you -- why -- who are these people?" And then my aunt 19:00was like scolding me to go and this. So I came down and you know we talked. And they were very kind all -- his parents were there. They were very kind, very humble, and they saw me. They talked to me, and then you know my aunt told me that that's why they are here. And I said, "I don't want to, you know, get married. I just want to study." Because that was my main goal, to -- to do masters and do the PhD and this and that. So and then they liked me, and then my mother went with them the next day because my father said that we have to see the boy also.

So my mother went with them the next day, and then when my mother came back and he came back with them also, my husband, to see me. And so -- no, he didn't come back. He didn't come back. My -- my parents came back. My mother came back, and then she said, "Yes, we are okay." So the same first week, weekend they saw me, 20:00and the next weekend we got engaged.

ALI: So when your -- when your parents came back --

AHMED: Yeah.

ALI: -- or even when you met his parents --

AHMED: Yeah.

ALI: -- what kind of -- did you have questions?

AHMED: Nothing.

ALI: No.

AHMED: Nothing.

ALI: No.

AHMED: No question at all. No question at all. Even, you know, after that weekend I went back to school. I went back to my job. I did like five day's work, and then next Thursday my, you know, maybe I got a call from my home that, this weekend you're going to be engaged. I said, "Why?" I don't know why. And then my sister came to pick me up because they know that I'm not going to come back home. So I came back home, and I got engaged engaged, the nikkah. We did the nikkah. And then I went back to my school. My principal, he was a wing commander, Mr. Absaar, I think.

So he called me, and he was interviewing me that, "How did it go?" And he asked me a question, "What did the lucky guy do?" I said, "I don't know." I -- 21:00literally I was thinking that what type of question is that? What should I answer that? I did now know what he does. What is his job? What he -- where -- you know, I only know that he lives in Karachi and he works there. That's it. And my -- my principal, he was so surprised. He said, "You don't know even what he does?" I said, "Sir, I don't know. I didn't ask anybody that, what he does. What is his, you know." So he was surprised also.

ALI: So you -- how -- how usual was this practice?

AHMED: I mean, this was a usual practice, and -- but it was not like a must, you know, like that. People used to meet each other. People used to have like cousins, this or that. But in my case it happened, you know. So I accepted that, my parent's decision, and that was it.

ALI: So you trusted the --


ALI: -- elders to kind of --

AHMED: Yes, yes.

ALI: -- know what they were doing.

AHMED: Yes, yes, yes.

ALI: Okay.



ALI: So when you moved to -- so we can fast-forward.

AHMED: Yeah.

ALI: I think this is an interesting, you know -- how long have you been married?

AHMED: Eighty-five, we got married '85, maybe 30-34 years, 33, 34 years now.

ALI: Wow.

AHMED: Yeah.

ALI: That's longer than many people who chose their --

AHMED: Yes, yes.

ALI: -- spouses [laughter].

AHMED: Yes, I mean, it was not my life and my husband's life not a bed of roses at all.

ALI: Right.

AHMED: At all. We have ups and downs, ups and downs many, many times.

ALI: What kind of -- what kinds of ways do you think you -- I guess I'm interested because, you know, usually people think that they need to try to learn who the person is before they get married.


ALI: But in your case you have to learn who the person is after you're married.

AHMED: Yes, yes.

ALI: Can you tell me any stories or any experiences where you had to go through 23:00that process?

AHMED: Yes, in the beginning it was hard, and to, you know, to understand each other. I mean, not hard because the way I was grew, the way I was, you know, growing up, I -- we understand that it's going to happen, and this is the way that we have to handle. So my husband's family is also very big family, a lot of sisters and brothers. And I knew -- I knew that I have to handle everybody. I have to be very nice to them, and that was happening, you know, and they were nice to me, and I was nice to them also. And then I went to Karachi, living with him, and also there was his brothers living with him also, and then it was fine.

It was -- I didn't have any trouble to understand him, or he did not have any trouble to understand me. It was like in a normal, you know, like the way it should be. It was like that. It was not the arguments, or you know, like you 24:00don't like this, or I don't like this. It was -- it never happened in the beginning also. Actually it never happened till the day now. I mean, we have differences, but it's not that we have to stick to our difference, you know. Sometimes I say sorry. Sometimes he said sorry. So that's a normal life for us, yeah.

ALI: Okay, so fast-forward to moving to the United States. When you first came to the United States --


ALI: -- what year was that?

AHMED: He came in December '85, I think, and I came in January '86, yeah.

ALI: Okay, and where --

AHMED: Maybe 10, 20 days apart.

ALI: Where -- where -- where did you move to?

AHMED: We lived -- we moved to his cousin's house in Queens with his family.

ALI: Where in Queens?

AHMED: In Jackson Heights.

ALI: Okay.

AHMED: Yeah.

ALI: And how -- tell me what your feelings were the first time you were -- what were some of your first impressions?


AHMED: I mean, it was -- it was normal. It was normal. And feeling for the family or feeling for the United States?

ALI: The United States, the place, this is your first time.

AHMED: Oh, I was surprised. I was -- "Oh, this is America? Oh, this is New York?" because the house that we used to live was a huge -- back home. I mean it was huge; front yard, backyard, upstairs, bedrooms, bathrooms, you know, living room, dining room, kitchen, a big kitchen, the servant quarter -- they're huge. But over here I moved to an apartment, two-bedroom apartment with his family, his cousin's family used to live, and so -- but still since I used to be living in big families, so I did not have any problem, you know, at all living in -- with the people, with living around people. So but seeing the New York City, how it was, was a kind of surprising for me.

ALI: Tell me what were some of the things that really kind of stood out at you?


AHMED: Like a -- buildings, apartments, small apartments, no backyard, no front yard, and also like rush because the Cantt area was very quiet. And there was no like punctuality at all. There was nothing, you know, there was no prayer time. There was -- I mean, there was -- in general no punctuality and there was no uniform in schools. That was a big surprise for me, huge. There was no uniform in school. You can wear anything you want to, and then also because my husband's cousin, he has kids, so because I can, you know, I was like being his aunt. I can support them also, so I used to go to their schools, and I was -- that was the biggest shock that I got from him.

ALI: How so?


AHMED: When I went to the school and I wanted to talk to the teacher, and they took me to the classroom and I was waiting for the teacher outside I saw the students are coming from one room, one door, they're going out from the other door, and the teacher is in the class. There is no discipline. There is no -- nobody's sitting. Everybody's shouting. Everybody's -- that never happened in our schools. That was a biggest shock for me in school -- the school systems. I was a teacher there in an Air Force School. You know, you know how the force's schools are, very organized. If the shoe is not polished the student used to get punished, you know. And if the page is ripped off the notebook, that is not good for the student. And I was planning that I will continue my teaching profession, but looking at that school I said no. So I did not.

ALI: So tell me when did you move to Brooklyn, and what brought you to Brooklyn?


AHMED: Brooklyn, as my husband was working with his cousin and they also had a business in Brooklyn, so he came to Brooklyn to handle that business of his cousin's, so --

ALI: What kind of work was it?

AHMED: He -- he used to -- they used to work in a restaurant, a huge, big, you know, name. At that time the name was huge throughout the USA, their restaurants, but now there are so many others, but so they opened a branch in Brooklyn, so that's what he came to take care of that. But they did -- they didn't last for a long time, that branch. They closed it.

ALI: And so where -- where in Brooklyn did you move?

AHMED: In Foster Avenue and Coney Island Avenue --

ALI: Okay, so tell me -- tell me --

AHMED: -- in an apartment building.

ALI: -- tell me -- describe what it was like when you moved into that part of Brooklyn? How would you describe it?

AHMED: Brooklyn, Brooklyn was a little bit better than Queens because it was not 29:00that congested, the area especially, and the roads were wide and less people, and the apartment that we got, the apartment that was a good, you know - the situation was good. The area was good. So I liked living and starting my life in Brooklyn also.

ALI: And when did you start having your own family?

AHMED: Oh, my -- when we -- when we were living in Queens I got my first daughter --

ALI: Okay.

AHMED: -- at -- in Queens she was born in Elmhurst Hospital, so when we moved to Queens she was, I think, one year, one or two years old.

ALI: You mean when you moved to Brooklyn.

AHMED: Brooklyn, yeah.

ALI: So what -- having come from Pakistan where you were persecuted for your faith, what was your religious experience like in the United States in Brooklyn?


AHMED: Okay, in --

Ali: Or Queens first and then Brooklyn, yeah.

AHMED: Okay, Queens, Queens we used to have one center, which was not close by. It was -- we always have to go by the car, and all by -- if -- because I didn't want to drive, so if I want to go by myself I used to take trains, but that center house wasn't very good. You know, people, a lot of people used to come for jummah prayer, for other activities.

So that was a center point which was good, and also you know, there was a like woman, teacher, students, everything, so I started teaching there also. And but when we moved to Queens -- to Brooklyn, that was hard to go there because it was far, very far from here. There was no transportation, so -- but I used to take my daughter sometimes, and I -- I used to take two trains and a bus to get there, but I did because I liked it.

ALI: Why was that important for you to -- to go to a center.


AHMED: Because that was -- that was my, you know, second home always, you know. My center, my jamaat, my community was always my second family. So that's why I used to go to meet with those people always because in Brooklyn we did not have any center, any area. So that's why I always find my peace there, you know, my family.

ALI: Right.

AHMED: Yeah.

ALI: When did you stop having to leave Brooklyn to find that?

AHMED: To leave Brooklyn?

ALI: Yeah, when did you -- when -- when -- when were you able to find that in Brooklyn?

AHMED: Oh okay.

ALI: Yeah.

AHMED: All the Brooklyn people, they used to go there for Eid, for other activities, for annual gatherings, for salat, or for Friday prayers, but then, you know, the Brooklyn community started growing up. So they -- it was decided that now Brooklyn can have their own activities, their own center. So at that 32:00time we moved to Kings Highway and Kings Highway, you know, in a big house. So that house was always belonged to one my other community member, so we decided that the basement we can use as a center point in the beginning. So we used the basement of that for all the community activity, everything.

ALI: So the basement of the house where you lived --

AHMED: At the house, yeah.

ALI: What kind of activities did you have?

AHMED: Like a Friday prayers, like woman's meeting, men's meeting, kid's classes, you know, Sunday class, so an also the competitions. You know, we used to have a like ijtema. Ijtema means that all the kids do compete with each other. So we used to get that also. And also the -- during Ramadan iftar ever day in the basement and also our homes, you know, so.

ALI: What -- what kinds of -- did you have to do anything to change the 33:00basement? What kinds of things did you have to do to the basement so it could accommodate this?

AHMED: Yeah, we -- we used to -- because that was also an office, and we used to, you know, during -- for jummah we have to put drapes for women in the back and men in the front. And then for the classes we used to have like a whole area to clean to -- you know, the mats for the students, the board, so we used to, you know, change it as we needed it, you know, every time.

ALI: How long were your -- how long -- how many years did -- you held meetings in there?

AHMED: I think maybe I would say six, seven years maybe, yeah, yeah.

ALI: And then where did --

AHMED: Then -- then -- then we got our own place. We bought a place, our own mosque, and then all the things -- all the things shifted to that mosque.

ALI: The -- the place that you bought to become the mosque --

AHMED: Yeah, yeah.

ALI: Tell me, was it originally -- what was it --


AHMED: It was like -- it was like a synagogue. It was a like a -- and we bought from them. It -- when we bought it, it was synagogue, you know, their -- their -- their -- everything was like a synagogue, and then we changed it so much to use our own purpose.

ALI: What kinds of things did you have to do to change it?

AHMED: Change, we made two big halls, you know, because before it was like small rooms. And we changed it to big -- two big halls, one for men, one for women. And also we fixed the basement and made kitchen and library there, so.

ALI: Was -- was there anything that you had to do to the -- because I don't know what synagogues have, but --


ALI: -- did you have to --


ALI: Tell me, structurally, what did you have to -- yeah, yeah.

AHMED: Structurally, yes, outside, you know, the outside structure?

ALI: Yes.

AHMED: That was totally synagogue, and then we removed everything and then we fix it, and then we put the kalimah [Arabic phrase, usually the shahada or 35:00testament of faith] and also the mosque name and big kalimah, and we didn't put the tomes because I think -- I don't know if it is allowed at that building or not because the trains comes, you know, they're just right there. So but hopefully in the future, you know, maybe we'll do that. So we change -- we change a lot, and then we've put fence also.

ALI: What kinds of things did the synagogue have that you had to take down?

AHMED: I think they had their names, their forefathers' names was written there, their names in Hebrew, and also I think there was a sign, you know, the Jewish sign was there also. And so we have to remove everything and we put like cemented -- and we put kalimah, the big kalimah, outside.

ALI: Was there a feeling that -- did you -- because I don't know, and people may be wondering, was there anything in particular that you, your community felt they had to do to consecrate the -- to make the space sacred for Muslims because 36:00it used to be a synagogue? Was there anything that you had to do to transform it that way?

AHMED: Yeah, when -- I remember that I heard, and I think I still have that paper, newspaper, news that they did not like it, the people who used to have that synagogue. They did not like it at all that why they -- they are changing it to mosque? And they protested in law also, in court for that. But then we won the case.

ALI: So the day -- so let's back up then.

AHMED: Yeah.

ALI: So let's -- let's start with the -- so your community is growing.


ALI: And so the basement can't --


ALI: -- accommodate, so you're now looking for -- who -- how was the process for finding a new place?

AHMED: You know, we have always in every community, in every local community, we have a like a committee, you know, the -- the committee that who -- does 37:00different different jobs. So that was a property committee, and they were looking for the place everywhere in the Brooklyn. So they find this place. They negotiate also. They -- they -- they bought this place.

ALI: Were there people in your community who maybe did not want to go into a former synagogue, or was that not an issue?

AHMED: No, no, no.

ALI: Not an issue.

AHMED: No, that was not an issue at all.

ALI: And so did the -- the sellers not know who they were selling to?

AHMED: That I don't know because I was not in that committee.

ALI: Right, right, okay.

AHMED: And to -- as, you know, let me tell you, the Queens that we have, the Queen mosque, we used to have a small place. I mean, a small at that time and like maybe two or three hundred people used to go there, but then it became also very small, so now we have a huge place. And it's a corner, and also that was a synagogue, plus a day school for Jewish. So if you can visit that mosque you 38:00will see that.

ALI: Is it -- I guess it's maybe because if a building is already zoned as a religious --

AHMED: Maybe as a religious, yeah, yeah.

ALI: -- then it's easier to move --

AHMED: Easier, easier.

ALI: -- in from one --

AHMED: To move in, yes.

ALI: Which is kind of, you know, the --

AHMED: Yes, yes.

ALI: -- the life of being in a city like this that you --

AHMED: Yes, yes.

ALI: -- you -- synagogues and churches and mosques and temples --

AHMED: Yes, yes, yeah.

ALI: -- they all kind of share the same --

AHMED: Yes, and -- and --

ALI: -- identity.

AHMED: -- the one place that we used to have before in Queens now they Sheikh, they bought it for their worships. So that's happening.

ALI: Oh yeah, so it's like one religious group to another.

AHMED: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

ALI: So tell me, now that you -- once you had this formal place, what is the name of the mosque?

AHMED: Bait Dahir.

ALI: Okay.

AHMED: Bait means the house, Dahir, or mosque.

ALI: How do you -- how do you --


ALI: And Bait is B-A- --


ALI: B-A-I-T, oh so like bait.

AHMED: Bait, yeah.

ALI: Yes, bait, okay. What has been your role in this mosque? [laughter] Or 39:00roles, tell me all the stuff that you --

AHMED: I, you know, I'm just a humble person for this community, whatever comes I can serve, you know, as my capacity. Yeah, so I have been serving for this community for many, many years and in different capacities. One -- the main thing is that I'm always the educational secretary, educational for women, women auxiliary, and that's my job is always. And other than that I also used to work with girls, young girls, and -- and also I was being always involving in teaching Sunday school, you know, as you call Sunday school. So we call it tahir class. Before it was tahir class. Now it is -- it's national now, Tahir Academy. So that is -- I am a principal for that academy. And every weekend we have 40:00classes or trips, everything.

ALI: What -- what does Tahir mean?

AHMED: Tahir is a name.

ALI: Oh okay.

AHMED: Tahir is a name. Tahir means, it think Tahir means bakisa [phonetic]. I mean -- I don't know the real root meaning, but it's a boy name. It's a name. It's a name, Tahir, yeah.

ALI: Oh okay, okay. What -- why is it so -- tell me -- let me ask it this way. What kinds of activities or things do you do specifically with women and girls, and why is that important for you?

AHMED: Okay, very good question. In our community, since the start in the beginning, we had a great role as a woman to build up or to help out or -- in this community. You know, our Masih Hazrat Mirz? Ghul?m Ahmad when -- at his 41:00time the women who were there, they -- they were very active in also all the activities for the community, and at that time they did not have like a name or anything particular, but during our second Khalifa, Hazrat Mirza Bashir ud Din Mahmood [inaudible] we called him, he passed away, and during his time he made all these auxiliaries, and he specifically, you know, made all those organizations for the community.

And since then each and every organization is working. We have like men's auxiliary. We have like -- we call them ansar, men 40 and above called Ansar. Then we have 15 to 40 men they call Khuddam, and then we have 7 to 15 boys. We call them Atfal. And then on the woman's side we have 7 to 15 years girls. We 42:00call them Nasirat. And then 15 years onward women are called Lajna Ima'illah.

So my part for these auxiliary is I work for boys 7 to 15 and 7 to 15 girls and then women always for their education. Education means the education of the Holy Quran, education of salat, education of hadith, education of prayers, education of modern values, education of Islamic values, all of these things that come under my, you know, duty, and that what I'm doing since many, many years, since 30, 40 years now.

ALI: And what do you think about this work has kept you -- kept your attention and your interest?

AHMED: I mean, when we were growing up in our home we saw this, the same community, these and auxiliaries and, you know, the -- so we were growing up in that also. So since I have all that knowledge, I'm very thankful to my God that 43:00I have that knowledge, and I'm passing on this knowledge to the young generation also and to those people who -- those ladies who don't -- who didn't get the chance to get it from their home, from their upbringing, so that's what, you know, we are trying to do that.

ALI: What -- what are some of the challenges you have experienced trying to do this work here in Brooklyn?

AHMED: Here, a lot of challenges, a lot of challenges. The first thing is that in this country, in -- in -- back home you don't have to, say, teach your son kalimah, [Arabic phrase, testament of faith]: "La ilaha illa Allah, Muhammad rasul Allah" [There is no god but Allah, Muhammad is His Messenger]. You don't have to, you know. When the girls and boys, they can hear the kalimah from all over, from the mosque, you don't have to teach azan [call to prayer] to your son, the words of azan. You don't have to teach who the prophet is. You don't have to teach anything, you know. You don't have to teach the holy Quran at your home. There are neighbors, aunties, or there's mosque. There's everything. And 44:00you don't have to memorize the verses of the holy Quran in the back home because there are some written on the walls, you know, in the neighborhood.

But in this country, if you are not teaching the kalimah to your kids at home, outside, when they step out, there is nobody. There is nothing. There is no one who can teach those things, so that's the basic thing that we have to teach. And then also I was thinking that when I was teaching my daughter all the same thing, some of my neighbors friends who were also from Pakistan, they did not, you know, they did not get the training of that, or maybe they did not have that temper or patience to teach their -- so I invited them, so they used to come to my home, and there I started a school actually.

That was the first initial school in the United States. So challenges, a lot of challenges, and even though all the kids there are coming every weekend, every 45:00week class, and they -- alhamdulillah, they have learned so many things now but still when they go to school, you know, when they go to other -- other places, they have to think that, which is right? This is right or that I learned from mosque? Which is that right? So they are also doing a jihad [striving for], you know.

I always appreciate all the young girls and boys who are being as a Muslim. Not -- I'm not talking about the Ahmadi Muslim but Muslim in general, they are doing jihad because at home they are taught some other thing, at the outside world it's opposite, nothing is there. So they have to keep balance in both, and in this they are doing a jihad of theirs.

ALI: And when you say jihad, you mean --

AHMED: Jihad means they're striving for. Jihad -- the real meaning of jihad is striving for. So they are striving for their upbringing. They're striving for their modern values. They're striving for their education, secular education, 46:00secular, you know, society, and they're striving for their being as a Muslim. So there's a greatest challenge for them also, being as a parent for us also, but for them also.

ALI: So as a parent, and how many children did you -- do you have?

AHMED: Three, I have three.

ALI: So you -- as a parent of three children, were there moments where you were particularly worried?

AHMED: Yes, always.

ALI: Tell me -- tell me --

AHMED: Not any single moment, always.

ALI: Any single moment -- always.

AHMED: Always, you know, when --

ALI: What kinds of things worried you as a parent?

AHMED: When my -- when my kids go out, step out from the home I get worried, but then I say, you know, dua. I, you know, I trust Allah, so I said, my job is to train them. My job is to tell them what is good, what is right, what is not right. And if they can understand it it's up to them, you know. But I always, 47:00you know, try to -- and alhamdulillah, they have struggled too.

ALI: Yeah, growing up, were there things that your children wanted to do that you had to say --

AHMED: I had to explain them that what are the benefits. What are the, you know, what are not the benefits. I have to explain them. And sometimes they listen. Sometimes they agree. Sometimes they, you know, they do things. But at the same time, because they are living in this society, they have to, you know, match up with the society also. So sometimes it gets at the point where I have to -- I have -- I have worry, you know, but thank God, you know, that -- and at this age, at this point, I say that I -- I am doing my job, and I will be doing my job till my last breath. So it's up -- Allah's hand now.

ALI: What were some of the things growing up your children wanted to do that you had to explain to them?

AHMED: I mean -- I mean, staying overnight, you know, it's like a phenomenon 48:00here, you know, so I had to explain them, not. This is not -- we don't do that. Birthday parties, you know, like luxury birthday parties, we don't do that, you know.

ALI: How do you -- how did you celebrate your children's birthday?

AHMED: First of all, you know, we don't do parties. Like, we don't invite people, but at the same time that was also the tradition of my home that my father used to bring some sweet, you know. This, okay, today's your birthday, so this is your -- and some -- you know, that's the simple way. Simple way, not too extravagant but also recognizing the day. So that's what my father used to do. The same thing we used to do that, you know.

ALI: How about growing up and having to deal with the, I guess, secular or other religious holidays like Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.


AHMED: Halloween, yes, yes, yes.

ALI: Tell me, how did you -- how did you navigate that as a parent?

AHMED: Very good question. Halloween. Halloween is a very, you know, like kids always want to have that. So I explain them in very young age that this is not the way. And I explain them the -- the history behind the Halloween, but still they were -- there are as kids. They wanted to have something, so I always, you know, the costume that they used to buy was a police officer, was -- and I always tell, you can be your own. You can be your own, just have a nice dress, so that's what they used to do. Just up to I think fifth grade, fourth, fifth grade, and after that they didn't have -- there was no Halloween, and so yeah.

And also Christmas. Christmas I explain them that this is their -- this is the holiday for the Christian people, we recognize that also. And we explain -- I explain them the story behind the Christmas. And we can give -- we can give the 50:00gift to our classmates. That's fine. Giving gift is not a bad idea. So that's what we used to do. Even our community also does that during Christmas. We do gifts to the neighbors and everything, you know.

And other thing is what -- Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a family holiday, getting together, not bad, so we celebrate that also.

ALI: Do you do, you know, for many people Thanksgiving also involved more elaborate kinds of cooking --

AHMED: No, no, no, no.

ALI: No.

AHMED: No, not like that, no. Only we can have a family gathering, that's it, you know.

ALI: So one of the things you talked about growing up was that you learned how to cook from your mother.

AHMED: Yeah.

ALI: As a parent, how have you been able to transmit some of the cultural practices that you learned?

AHMED: The cooking?

ALI: Yeah.

AHMED: No, [laughter] that is a very good question. You know, when my daughter was getting married my husband specifically told her mother-in-law that she 51:00doesn't know any cooking.

ALI: How did that happen?

AHMED: She doesn't know. You know, they were just -- just sitting before marriage. We were just -- I mean --

ALI: I mean, how did it happen growing up that --

AHMED: Yeah, because they were always busy in study, always. And the study is different over here. Study, you know, it's very take times, and alhamdulillah, my -- all my kids were very good in study. So -- and also because I was doing everything for them, and another thing is that since my family was here, you know, my husband's family was here, so we were a big family some here and there. So I used to cook everything, but they used to help me like setting the table and -- but now my daughter who got married, she cooks so good that her mother-in-law said, "Why did you say that, that she doesn't know?" She cooks so much now good things, stuff and everything. So cooking is not a problem. Cooking 52:00is -- learning cooking is not a problem, and you know, at any age you can cook anything.

ALI: What are the -- so since you helped them understand the major holidays here --

AHMED: Yes, yes.

ALI: -- what are the major celebrations in your community?

AHMED: Eid. Eid is a big --

ALI: What happens -- what -- tell me what happened to the last Eid here in Brooklyn.

AHMED: Okay, Eid, every time after Ramadan, you know, we fast, and then on the Eid day early in the morning we get up, we pray, and then we do breakfast, and then we get ready for Eid namaz. Every year we go to Eid namaz. There's not a single Eid that we missed or our kid missed, even though if it is a weekdays, you know, it's a problem here, but they take off, and you know, sometimes they have to take off for two, three hours. That's what they did, and then they go back to school after that, after namaz. So that's the main thing, saying namaz, 53:00and if we have a -- any family member, then we have a lunch, good lunch. Sometimes we go out for lunch or dinner. So that's the way we -- and we give -- I used to give gifts to my kids every Eid, but now they grow up. So now they have their own gifts. But every time -- and a nice dress, you know, like excitement to buy the dress and to match everything, you know, like that. So Eid is a big holiday for us.

And then also the other Eid, Eid al-Adha, the same thing we do, and then only thing is that Qurbani is a problem here.

ALI: What is Qurbani?

AHMED: Qurbani means that on Eid al-Adha we have to sacrifice an animal to -- just to celebrate the Hajj [phonetic] and Qurbani. So it's a problem here, but once or twice I did it just to show my kids that how it is and what is the significance of it. So sometimes we send money to our country. Sometimes we give 54:00money to our community.

ALI: So when you say it's a problem here what do you mean?

AHMED: I mean, in -- in back home we used to buy our own goat, you know, and the butcher we invite, and then -- but over here, because there's no shop, there's no like that, so. But we can still give -- buy the goat from -- from the butcher shop, but it's very time consuming. Sometimes we have to go to New Jersey to get that, you know. So it's a very time consuming here.

ALI: To do the slaughtering of the animal?

AHMED: Slaughtering and everything.

ALI: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

AHMED: Yeah, yeah, so.

ALI: I want to make sure I -- okay. So -- so tell me how has -- since you moved to Brooklyn in the mid '80s?

AHMED: Eighty-six, '87.

ALI: Eighty-six, '87.

AHMED: Yeah.

ALI: So you've been in Brooklyn for almost 30 years?


AHMED: Thirty years, yeah.

ALI: Have you stayed in the same area?

AHMED: No, we moved to Kings Highway.

ALI: Okay.

AHMED: Yeah, the house that I told you --

ALI: Okay, okay, how -- how has that part of Brooklyn changed over the years for you, just --

AHMED: The part where we used to live before?

ALI: Yeah.

AHMED: A lot.

ALI: Yeah.

MALI: That Foster Avenue? It's changed a lot now. It's a little Pakistan now. Yeah, a lot of Pakistan shops, businesses, people. There's everything Pakistan, you know. You can get everything, whatever you want from Pakistan, that's there. It's -- it has -- it's -- it has changed a lot. You know, when we moved to there, there was -- I think there was only one or two shops, only one or two families there, two or three families, yeah, not much, yeah.

ALI: And how would you -- how was your relationship as an Ahmadiyya --

AHMED: Yeah.

ALI: -- Ahmadi Muslim to other Muslims who are not Ahmadi here?

AHMED: I always welcome them. I always have a good relationship. I always being 56:00friend with them. And because two of my best friend in Brookyln, they are not Muslim-- they are not Ahmadiyya Muslim, but they are my first friends, and they are my best friends still.

ALI: How did you meet them?

AHMED: In Brooklyn, you know, one -- my husband actually, when we were in Foster Avenue my husband told me one day that one of my friends' families coming from Pakistan, and so we will welcome them, and we will go to their house because his friend used to live alone, and his family was in Pakistan. So we went there, went to their house, and we invited them to our-- and since then, you know, '87 maybe, since '87 we are friends. And then there's -- another family came, and at the same area, so -- so that we are friends with them also still.

ALI: Does your community mosque do activities with other local mosques --



ALI: -- who are not Ahmadiyya?

AHMED: Uh, we invite always, whenever we have a gathering, we invite people like interfaiths, and also when we invite, when we celebrate holy Prophet Muhammad's -- salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam [may Allah honor him and grant him peace] --birthday, Seerat un-Nabi we invite them, and we always invite them whenever we have any celebration in our mosque, so yeah.

ALI: So one of the things you talked about growing up was the persecution and bullying you experienced in Pakistan --


ALI: -- because of your faith. How has your experience been in the United States or in Brooklyn, especially in the last 20 years or especially since 9/11, or maybe let's talk about 9/11. Can you talk about what your experiences were around that time? Like, do you remember that day? Tell me what that day was like for you.

AHMED: Nine-eleven, I still remember that.

ALI: Yes.

AHMED: I was sitting at my home watching TV in the morning. My father-in-law was 58:00also watching, and my -- I dropped my kids to school, and then I was, I think, preparing breakfast. All of a sudden, because TV was on, all of a sudden it happened, and we watched the whole thing, and also outside to that area was saw the you know, in the air, the small things in the air, and after that, since my school -- my kids were in school, so I wanted to get them. And but some -- you know, my -- when I -- when I was trying to go out people said don't go, especially in scarf, don't wear scarf if you're going outside. But I said, "I need to get my kids, and I cannot go out without my scarf."

So I ran to the school. I got them, and we came back home. And after that there was a difficulties in atmosphere also, you know, like everybody. But there was an incidence going on. There was like -- people were against scarf, but I never 59:00took off my scarf. The way I was used to wear I used. It was sad for us, for everybody. It was very sad. And my husband used to work close to that area. And he used to -- he used just to -- you know, there is a Chase building in front of that area, so he used to work there, and it was hard for him too to travel there and to be there in that area. But it was a dilemma for everybody, every citizen of United States, so.

ALI: Did you personally face any experiences?

AHMED: Not -- not really, personally no. No, I didn't face any personally that -- no.

ALI: How about your children?

AHMED: Children, they didn't do any -- they didn't face anything also.

ALI: So you've mentioned you have a daughter. Are your children daughters and sons?

AHMED: Two daughters and -- yeah.

ALI: Two daughters and your son. Did you -- did your daughters -- were they covering their hair as they were growing up as well?



ALI: Was that something that you had to --

AHMED: That was a challenge for them.

ALI: Yeah, tell me -- tell me about that.

AHMED: That was a challenge for them and for me also.

ALI: Yeah.

AHMED: But I was -- I mean, I used to tell them that you have to cover, but since they were in schools and they see a lot of those things they did -- they did not wanted to cover, but slowly and slowly they understand, and they started covering also. So --

ALI: Tell me what the conversation was like, yeah, between you and --

AHMED: Conversation that I used to explain them that we are this, and we are not that, you know. We are Muslim, and this is our religion that teaches us that, and also covering head is not that you are doing it for fashion or for anything because this is -- we believe in Islam, and Islam teaches us that. And also this is our -- for our own safety, you know. We -- it's not that we have to show our beauty to other people. That's used to, you know, most of the time the conversation was.

ALI: Did you -- you said it was a challenge.


AHMED: Yeah, it was challenge for me to explain them.

ALI: Yeah.

AHMED: It was challenge for them to accept them.

ALI: Did you -- did it happen the first time, or how long?

AHMED: No, no, it took time. It took time.

ALI: Yeah.

AHMED: It took like two, three years maybe.

ALI: Yeah.

AHMED: Yeah.

ALI: Were you ever worried that they wouldn't accept --?

AHMED: Yes, yes I was worried. I was worried and -- but alhamdulillah, they understand it, so yes.

ALI: What -- what were you thinking at the times when you -- you were like, I, you know --?

AHMED: Oh, I don't know now because it is a long time. So I mean, my job was to explain them, you know.

ALI: Yeah.

AHMED: That was I was doing every day. And in the mosque also to the other girls also, and but I was not that harsh, you know. Like, I was not beating them for that. I was not, you know, it's -- so they understood it. So they started doing it.


ALI: Because you said -- you said it took two to three years, so --

AHMED: It took -- yes.

ALI: You know --

AHMED: Maybe middle school, high school, you know, that time.

ALI: So -- so -- so the first time maybe they didn't do it.

AHMED: Yeah.

ALI: But you just kept --

AHMED: Yeah, I kept telling them.

ALI: Yeah, okay. What kinds of activities does -- do you do or does your mosque do for now regularly for the, you know, for your community?

AHMED: First thing is jummah prayer, every jummah we have there, and then I think on Tuesday evening we have also the session, the conversation session. Men's side, they do that. And on the weekend basis we have classes, you know, the maybe sometimes Saturday, Sunday, depends, and then also we have auxiliary meetings. Auxiliary means men have their own meeting. Ladies have their own meeting. Girls have their own meeting. Boys have their own meeting. So --


ALI: What -- what are some of the reasons why they would have men meeting separately from women meeting? What are some of the kinds of things that would be specific to each group?

AHMED: Okay. Because each group, we have a national syllabus for men, for women, for girls, for boys. We have to cover that syllabus on monthly basis. So men get their own, you know, agenda. Women get their own agenda. Boys get their own agenda. So we have to do separately, you know. In the same time, but we divide it ourself. But sometime, you know, we have a mix, you know, one meeting for everybody. That's what -- when we celebrate different days like Seerat un-Nabi day and also the community days that we used to have we have. So that we celebrate together, and also some other meetings that if we have a common goals then we have a together meeting.


ALI: What are some of the things that are unique to men or women requiring them to be separate?

AHMED: Okay, men because they have their -- they have -- they have to do the tabligh [propagation] and taleem [education] and tarbiyat [training] mean the education and also the moral training, and they have their own agendas all -- every monthly basis, maybe salat, maybe, you know. And the women, we have to teach women all the things, the holy Quran, the hadith [Prophetic tradition] and the prayers like that. But most of the time, you know, we have a separate meetings, but mostly we have together meeting also where one topic discussed with everybody, yeah, but in the different halls, not together, not sitting together, yeah.

ALI: Okay, I think -- I think I covered everything. Is there anything else you would like -- if -- if there is something that you would like -- because this is 65:00going to be archived for generations. Is there something that you would want people to know about you or your family or community?

AHMED: I mean, I am just a -- I am nothing, you know, that people should know about me, you know. It's not like I'm like a person that -- I'm just a housewife. I'm just a mother. I'm just like a community member. So it's -- if people want to know about me that's okay, but I don't think of myself as being a very -- personality that people should know about me. But the only thing is that whenever -- if they would listen to it, the only message that I want to tell that humanity is the big lesson. You know, we are all human beings, so we always have to keep in mind that the next person who you are talking or who we're dealing is -- god created. Allah has created that person no matter if that person is, you know, what color, what nation, what religion, but the next 66:00person, as Allah created you, the same Allah, the same God created that other person. So always keep in mind the other person always also have feelings, always have thinking, always have, you know, so just keep in mind that. That will be my message, that we should take care of humanity. Humanity should be first, then our nations, our religion, our countries, our priorities. So that's the message that I will give. And yeah --

ALI: That's -- that's beautiful.

AHMED: And for Muslim, after that, after humanity for all the Muslims, that it's okay to have a different opinion about a different topic, but at the end we should think that our holy prophet is one, and we should try to strive the -- the true teaching, and the true meaning of the Holy Quran that how holy Prophet Muhammad, salla Allahu alayhi wa sallam [may God honor him and grant him peace], prescribed so many things about the human and about the Muslim. That's the -- 67:00and how his corrector was, that we should follow, try to follow his corrector in our daily lives.

ALI: Well thank you.

AHMED: Yeah.

ALI: That's a good note to end on.

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Interview Description

Oral History Interview with Salima Malik Ahmed

Salima Malik Ahmed was born in 1959 in Wah Cantonment, Pakistan. She worked as a teacher on a nearby Air Force base until marrying her husband in 1985. She immigrated to the United States shortly after their marriage, spending a few years in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens before eventually settling in the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn. She raised her children in the Ahmadiyya community centered around the nearby Masjid Bait ul Tahir, where she also taught religious classes.

In this interview, Salima Malik Ahmed discusses growing up in Wah Cantonment, Pakistan, including her family, their Ahmadiyya Muslim faith, and her arranged marriage to her husband. She expands on their immigration to the United States, her memories of the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens, and raising her children in the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn. She also speaks at length about her involvement with Masjid Bait Ul Tahir, an Ahmadiyya mosque in Bensonhurst. Interview conducted by Zaheer Ali.

This collection includes oral histories conducted and arranged by Brooklyn Historical Society in 2018. The interviews reflect varying approaches to religious observance among Muslim Brooklynites in relation to a wide range of communities and traditions within Islam, including Sunni, Shi'i, Sufi, Nation of Islam, W. D. Mohammed community, Five Percent, Dar ul Islam, and Ansaarullah. Collectively, there is particular focus on cultural and religious customs, practices, and gender roles within these communities; education and the arts; immigration from South Asia and the Middle East; the Nation of Islam; Islamophobia in the wake of the 1993 and 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center as well as after the 2016 presidential election; political activism and engagement; and community relations with law enforcement and government officials.


Ahmed, Salima Malik, Oral history interview conducted by Zaheer Ali, August 30, 2018, Muslims in Brooklyn oral histories, 2018.006.30; Brooklyn Historical Society.


  • Ahmed, Salima Malik
  • Masjid Bait ul Tahir (Brooklyn, New York, N.Y.)


  • Ahmadiyya
  • Arranged marriage
  • Child rearing
  • Immigrants
  • Islam
  • Muslim families
  • Religion and culture
  • Religious pluralism
  • Women in Islam


  • Bensonhurst (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)
  • Jackson Heights (New York, N.Y.)
  • Punjab (Pakistan)
  • Queens (New York, N.Y.)


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Muslims in Brooklyn oral histories