3. “I request America to look into our hearts and see that the great majority of us are not terrorists, but good and simple people. Our land is stricken with poverty because we are without education. But today, another candle of knowledge has been lit. In the name of Allah the Almighty, may it light our way out of the darkness we find ourselves in.” Syed Abbas
Syed Abbas, who had earlier been instrumental in removing a fatwa against Mortenson, gives this speech at the dedication of the Kuardu primary school in Chapter 19. At the event, which takes place in the days just after 9/11, Abbas publicly expresses the feelings of the vast number of moderate Muslims who do not hold the extremist beliefs that many Westerners think are typical of the Middle East. Rather, he shows his faith in education and his gratitude toward Mortenson and the others at the CAI involved in building schools for the children of Pakistan. He even calls upon his audience to protect the Americans and aid them in their work. Because Abbas carries the title of Supreme Shia leader in Pakistan, his words carry a great deal of weight, not only in convincing the audience to follow his directives, but also in convincing Americans that he and other peaceful Muslims are quite a large group rather than a small minority.
The speech, in fact, is not the first time Syed Abbas has acted as a spokesperson for moderate Islam in the book. Earlier, when Abbas is working on the project to provide fresh water to Skardu in Chapter 17, Mortenson describes him as the personification of Islam’s true teachings, which foster belief in peace and justice, not in terror. Mortenson wishes Americans could see this side of Muslim faith, and he compares the Koran, Islam’s holy scripture, with the Christian Bible and the Hebrew Torah, saying that all three teach concern for those in distress. In the later chapters of the book, Mortenson finds that his work must include educating Americans about the Pakistani people and the realities of their lives and religious beliefs. He wants people in the U.S. to realize that most Muslims share the peaceful beliefs of Syed Abbas, and like Abbas, want little more than better lives for themselves and their children.