Hamza Zahurullah

Muslim student sparkles with 36 ACT score

By Carissa D. Lamkahouan

Hamza Zahurullah

Hamza Zahurullah

TMO Contributing Writer

For Hamza Zahurullah, when it came to taking his ACT tests, the third time was most definitely the charm.

The saying is a tired cliché, but Hamza’s perfect composite score of 36 – a ranking achieved by less than 1 percent of the nearly 2 million test takers each year – is most certainly not.

Hamza, a 17-year-old senior at Auburn High School in Rockford, IL, first sat for the exam last spring as part of his school requirement. He scored a 34 that time around.

“After I got that score I was really excited for my prospects,” he said.

Determined to retake the test and boost his score to a 35, Hamza dedicated many of the following summer months to studying.

“After getting a 34 I told myself that even if I can’t get to a 35 I had to take it one more time just to prove to myself, for my own sake, that the 34 wasn’t a fluke,” he said.

However, even with concentrated preparation, he faltered somewhat during his second try in August, earning a 33. Despite his intentions going into the second exam and his drop in score, Hamza wasn’t ready to give up and decided to try again, devoting the month of September to study time in order to be ready to retest in October.

But this time, he had a little help.

“My parents and I put in a lot of time studying,” Hamza said. “Every night in September my dad and I always took at least an hour to an hour and a half completing practice questions in English and math. It definitely wasn’t fun when I was doing it, but now that I have the results to show for it I’m happy I put in the time.”

Hamza’s father Fazlur said he and his wife Sameena were more than willing to put in the time for their son if it meant helping him to reach his goals. In fact, Fazlur said they often had different roles to play in keeping Hamza motivated and moving forward.

“These tests make a big impact (on your future studies) so we decided to invest the time with him to make sure he was organized and making the most of his study time,” Fazlur said. “Sometimes we were his cheerleaders, and sometimes we had to be harsh and lay down the law.”

The plan worked, and when Hamza received his perfect score he could finally breathe a sigh of relief. He admitted he was never certain of earning a 36.

“It was a shock to see that score,” he said. “In a way I was prepared to get that score, but going into the third test I was more stressed than I had been in the other exams so I felt my chances were worse.”

Now, armed with stellar ACT marks – 36 in English, reading, science and writing and a 34 in math – and top-notch grades in high school – he holds a 4.4 grade point average and is ranked fifth out of his class of 301 – Hamza is focused on applying to a myriad of universities including Harvard, Yale, the University of Chicago, Brown, Northwestern and other top-tier and Ivy League institutions.

“I’m not sure yet where I will go, but any one of these schools I’d be happy to attend,” he said.

As for what field of study he plans to pursue, Hamza said he’d like to explore his life-long love of film.

“Movies are always something I’ve been fascinated with since I was a child,” he said. “I like to analyze films, and I’m interested in pop culture. It’s fun to know about different actors and different quirks involved in moviemaking.”

Hamza said his ultimate career goal, should he achieve it, would have him heading west.

“I hope to combine film study with business or economics,” he said, adding, “I would love to work at the corporate level of a major Hollywood film studio.”


Community News (V13-I39)

Presentation on Islam in Humboldt

EUREKA,CA–In order to obtain cultural/inter-religious harmony in the community through diffusion of information, the Humboldt County Human Rights Commission and the Humboldt County Library are co-sponsoring a one hour presentation on “Understanding Islam” by Abdul Aziz, professor emeritus at Humboldt State University.

It will be held from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. in the Conference Room of the Humboldt County Library, 1313 3rd St., Eureka, on Saturday.

Fundamentals of Islam including issues such as the concept of God, the life of Prophet Muhammad, Muslim beliefs, modes of worship, various forms of Jihad, status of women, suicide bombing and terrorism with reference to the current political and social environment will be discussed in light of the teachings of the Quran. However, any question on Islam will be welcome.

Aziz has taught an off-campus HSU course, “Introduction to Islamic Culture,” for a number of years. He is also a past Humboldt County Human Rights commissioner.

There is no cost to attend. Everyone is invited. For more information, call 707-822-8217

Fast-a-thon to be held at UNM

The Muslim Student’s Association at the University of New Mexico will hold its annual Fast-A-Thon this week to raise money and awareness for famine in the eastern horn of Africa.

Last year’s fast raised roughly $1,200 for flood relief in Pakistan. This year organizers says they hope to raise even more money and more awareness to help end world hunger.

“Just because now they don’t talk about it that much in the media, doesn’t mean people aren’t starving to death anymore,” said MSA President Mustafa in an interview to the student newspaper. “We need to keep focus and attention on people who need help, not just because it’s a news story, but because as human beings we all need to take care of each other.”

The event is not exclusive to Muslim students.

“This fundraiser is a human issue, meaning we want people of all different faiths, cultural backgrounds, different political ideologies, etc. to come help and support the people of the eastern horn of Africa,” she said. “As fellow humans we should bear the responsibility in making sure that we all help each other out, and this fundraiser is just another opportunity for doing so.”

New York cabbies win rights to veto racy ads

NEW YORK,NY–New York City cabbies who object to driving taxis topped with ads for strip clubs have won the right to veto the racy ads.

The city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission approved a new rule last week  that lets cabbies who own their vehicles say no to the racy ads.

Several cabbies told the commission they hated the provocative roof ads.

Previously the owners of taxi medallions could decide what ads to put on the cars. Many taxi owners do not own the medallion.

The racy ads were objected to not only by Muslim taxi owners but also others. A Sikh owner told the board that  his six-year-old granddaughter had told him she wanted to become a dancer after seeing an advert for Flashdancers on his taxi.

‘We should keep [the advertisement] there to tell the children that it is good?’ he had asked.

Dupage County approves mosque without dome

CHICAGO,IL–The DuPage County board voted last week to allow a mosque and Muslim community center to be built along Roosevelt Road near Lombard.

It will be built just east of Interstate Highway 355, at the southwest corner of Roosevelt Road and Lawler Avenue. Plans are for a main building with place for worship, a gym, a library, a learning area and a conference room.

But the board did not allow the Muslim group to build a 50 foot high dome to cover the prayer area. This is the second Muslim development in unincorporated DuPage County that has recently modified construction plans because the board denied approval for a dome.

The county sets a height limit of 36 feet in residential areas, and only grants variances to exceed that limit on a case-by-case basis.


Ambassadors of Islam

By Milad Alucozai

IMG_4526Lafayette, IN – Local Muslims gathered on Tuesday morning to join more than a billion around the world in marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan, which calls for fasting during daylight hours.
Located in central Indiana, Lafayette is mid-size Midwestern city with a community of about 1,000 Muslims. They gathered in the Old Burtsfield Gymnasium (a local school no longer in use) from every race, nationality, and economic status, to offer their prayers.

The event was organized by the Islamic Society of Greater Lafayette and drew a crowd young and old, with local families and their children joining with students from nearby Purdue University, as well as non-Muslim visitors taking advantage of the congregation’s open invitation to the community.

The special prayer began promptly at 8:00 am and was followed by a khutbah emphasizing the importance of building bridges with the broader community.

The khatib told attendees that they must be ambassadors of Islam not only in the Mosque but also at school, in the workplace, and elsewhere, by carrying themselves with the highest character and doing good deeds.

“Do not be just a doctor, a teacher, or a student. Be a Muslim doctor, a Muslim teacher, a Muslim student,” he said, “Be mindful of how your conduct is perceived and represent Islamic in the best light.”

Every Ramadan, Muslims young and old need to go back to the Quran and the teachings of the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (s) to become better Muslims.

This is even more important in these tough times when heated rhetoric and acts of violence against Muslim Americans (and non-Muslim Arab Americans) have increased.
As Muslim, we must do our part to break down prejudices and barriers through our daily actions.