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Changing Hearts—And Possibly Saving Them—One By One

Muslim student and Tangletown resident sets an example through a blood drive.

Tangletown resident Abdul Naseer doesn't cut the typical figure of a life-saver.

On the shorter side and thin, Naseer has no bulging muslces, no deep, booming voice. 

Nonetheless, the 23-year-old University of Minnesota student led members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Student Association in organizing a blood drive this fall that collected enough to save up to 105 lives. But the blood drive, part of a nationwide campaign called Muslims For Life, wasn't just about saving lives.

"We wanted to show that we, as Muslims, can be proud of being Americans," Naseer said. "You know, that we can serve our society, be good to our neighbors and save lives."

In a society filled with prejudice, Doug Donley, a pastor with University Baptist Church—which helped host the drive—said events like Naseer's blood drive help to push back against misconceptions and stereotypes of American Muslims.

"There are still too many voices in society that try to divide us and put us in religious and cultural camps," said Donley. "Events like this help not only dispel myths about 'the other.' It also helps create a different narrative—one that works together for justice, peace, mercy and service to the poor and outcast."

Phil Miner, head of the University's Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence, said that there's another side to events like these: promoting an external image of conformity.

"Groups that may be seen as different, marginalized or minority gain credibility if seen as doing things the mainstream culture perceives as normal and nice," Miner said. "Said another way, (the average person thinks) 'if they act like me, there's hope for them yet.'"

Naseer said he tries to look past any specter of prejudice to keep himself motivated—and looking past the low turnout, of 35 donors.

"I like to look on the positive side of things," he said with a smile. "The fact that 35 people came, that showed us that we shouldn't worry. People were willing to reach out."

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