Daisy Khan, an Eloquent Voice for the Islamic Community Center Near Ground Zero
Daisy Khan, an Eloquent Voice for the Islamic Community Center Near Ground Zero - NYTimes.com
By MICHAEL M. GRYNBAUM
Published: November 12, 2010
Anne Barnard contributed reporting.
DAISY KHAN had never seen so many Jews in her life. The year was 1974, and Ms. Khan, an awkward, artistic 16-year-old who had just emigrated from India to the suburban Long Island enclave of Jericho, N.Y., was attending her first day of school in America.
It was not going well.
Daisy Khan with former teacher Ira Greene. Jericho High School Alumni Hall of Fame
Her fellow students giggled at the newcomer with the dark skin, exotic accent and unfamiliar religion. Few Muslims, it seemed, had ever attended the mostly Jewish Jericho High School. When a teacher asked her to stand and introduce herself, the questions came fast: Did she ride a camel? Did she ride an elephant?
“It was very strange when you are 16 years old and you have to explain your religion to an entire class,” Ms. Khan, now 52, recalled recently in the Upper West Side offices of the American Society for Muslim Advancement, her nonprofit group. “But that’s where my first activism began. I realized that actually I was a spokesperson for Islam.”
It is a role she now inhabits on a far larger scale. Since the summer, Ms. Khan, a former architectural designer, has emerged as an eloquent and indefatigable public face of the maelstrom surrounding Park51, the Islamic community center and mosque that she and her husband, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, are trying to build two blocks north of ground zero.
A modern Muslim who prefers high fashion to the hijab, Ms. Khan has become a lightning rod for the anger of right-wing bloggers and commentators who consider the Islamic center an affront to the victims of Sept. 11, or worse.