This Muslim-American Teen Turned His Suffering Into A Full-Fledged Battle Against Stereotypes

Sixteen-year-old Ziad wants to change the way we see each other -- for the better.

You say you want a revolution? Well, one teen is proving that with peace, love and the Internet, you can have one.

Ziad Ahmed is a 16-year-old sophomore at Princeton Day School in Princeton, New Jersey. In the summer before his freshman year, he created Redefy -- a multi-platform organization, whose mission is "to boldly defy stereotypes, embrace acceptance and tolerance, redefine our perspectives positively, and create an active community."



Ziad recently explained in a chat with MTV News that his experience as a Bangladeshi-American, practicing Muslim and self-described "non-conformist" largely informed his decision to create Redefy.

"Many people had prejudice and misconceptions about my faith, even when I was little. The media paints a picture of Islam, and many minorities, in a way that’s detrimental to the public’s perception of them," he told MTV News.

Ziad further described his first-hand experience with bias.

"I deal with prejudice every day and have my entire life," he said, "from being put on the TSA watch list as a child because of my name and having to go to a separate counter to get my tickets ... to being constantly told I am 'cute for a brown kid.'

"I started Redefy to initiate a positive change in the world and to fight the ignorance which I have been victim to," Ziad said. "And more importantly, to fight the ignorance which people will fall victim to who may not have the opportunity to properly defend themselves or understand that there are people who accept them and love them for exactly who they are.



Redefy primarily operates as a website where people can share their experiences with prejudice and post reflections about different current events stories where stereotyping and acceptance are part of a national and/or personal conversation. Redefy also shares various stories about social justice issues on its Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Tumblr accounts. Ziad hopes this interconnected network of experiences will unite people through their shared experiences.

“It’s so hard to hate someone when you understand what they’re going through," the teen explained.

Within communities, Redefy holds workshops for younger students to gain insight into what stereotypes are and how to combat them. Ziad described working with people as young as fifth grade as a moving experience. "They don’t necessarily know the terms stereotypes or prejudice," he told us, "But when you hear them articulate their experiences, they know it all too much."



In addition to Ziad's role as founder, he works with a leadership team of four friends and 20 representatives in schools around the world advocating for the organization's various campaigns. As far as the future of Redefy, Ziad hopes to hold larger conferences and wider-scale programs to educate young people on bias and creating accepting spaces in their communities and ultimately, the world. He hopes the organization will continue to spur teen activism too.

"What a lot of young people don’t realize is that this is our fight. Injustice is our fight," Ziad added. "Until we all unite in our injustices, ignorance will continue to exist."

To learn more about Redefy, you can check out their website here. To learn more about reversing racial biases, check out MTV's Look Different campaign.

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