October 25, 2018
Ambassador Shirin Tahir-Kheli, Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute, Johns Hopkins SAIS
Moderated by Joshua White, Associate Professor of South Asia Studies, Johns Hopkins SAIS
Ambassador Shirin Tahir-Kheli participated in an author discussion moderated by Professor Joshua White on her new memoir, Before the Age of Prejudice: A Muslim Woman’s National Security Work with Three American Presidents.
Tahir-Kheli introduced the book by looking retrospectively on her early childhood memories of being a Muslim in pre-partition India. She reflected that as a Muslim living in a country where the majority of people are Hindus, learning to accept people with different beliefs was central to her upbringing.
Tahir-Kheli emphasized that her story of becoming a US citizen in 1971, going to work for the Secretary of State in 1982, and then being appointed ambassador to the United Nations in 1990 could only happen in the US. “My story is not easily going to be duplicated” she said, adding that her decision to write this memoir was encouraged by Condoleezza Rice who believes that her extraordinary journey is a testament to the promise and delivery of the American dream in another era.
The book provides insights on working as a Muslim woman for three presidential administrations on American foreign policy and national security. “There are many times when being a Muslim and a woman was tricky but I found that more doors were open than not,” said Tahir-Kheli.
Questions from the audience ranged from where she obtained the inspiration for her book title and how the 9-11 terror attacks changed the equation of American people’s attitudes toward Muslims.