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“We started going into schools, and rolling out our curriculum.
“It was an amazing feeling, to have an idea you’ve always wanted to do and suddenly people were helping you out and making some impact.
“Zia is a gem,” says Yousef Casewit, a lecturer who taught Zia in his first semester.
“I was looking forward to his participation in my classes this quarter.” “He developed educational curricula to promote religious peace.
It’s the best thing I’ve ever done.” In order to develop his organisation further – now 30-people strong and building their own international partnerships – in 2015 Shah applied for a scholarship with the US-funded Fulbright programme.
He was then accepted to study at the University of Chicago on an Islamic Studies course, which he says was a huge step, but also one off the beaten track for a Pakistani. You just don’t see Pakistani students studying at a divinity school.” This unexpected travel block was a shock not just to local friends and family.
From historic tensions with India, to the threats of the radical Taliban, and widespread attacks on Shia Muslims – which saw his own uncle shot and killed in 2010 – Shah saw that something needed to be done.
And so he set out to tackle the problem at a grass-roots level.This couldn’t be real.” Shah is not the type of person you expect to see on a watch list: a 25-year-old student with ambitions of teaching children about the peacefulness of divinity.In 2014 he was given funding from the United States Agency for International Development (Usaid) to set up Ravvish, a social enterprise that runs workshops for young students on different faiths and beliefs.Despite the notoriety of an immigration ban sought by the Trump administration – the proposals for which have included seven Muslim-majority countries – this all occurred during Obama’s time in office.If there is one positive thing to come out of this situation, Shah wishes that US border and customs would “do their research” before choosing who to block.Ravvish has also attracted international attention, with the World Bank overseeing the curriculum, and a student from University College London (UCL) visiting to monitor the progress of his efforts.