A handful of affirming postcards sent from people around the country applauding her courage to speak publicly about her Muslim faith has helped persuade Ambrin Masood to continue her outreach around Montana.
Masood, a faculty member at Montana State University Billings originally from Pakistan, has received postcards from members of the group Postcard Underground, anonymous authors who pen and send postcards to speakers and causes they find inspiring. Some writers use their first name only; others offer only scant clues about their identity, save their handwriting and their postmark.
“It was such a nice surprise,” she said of the postcards, all mailed to her MSUB office. “Who writes a postcard these days? They took the time to write and take it to the post office. They made an effort to reach out, and that matters to me.”
Masood teaches counseling and rehabilitation in MSUB’s College of Allied Health Professions. Last year Humanities Montana selected her to deliver talks around the state, including one last March on the MSUB campus.
She calls her talk “Understanding the Worldview of Our Fellow Muslims,” during which she discusses the welcome and acceptance she’s experienced in a state the Pew Research Center says is 65 percent Christian and less than 1 percent Muslim.
Stops have included Miles City and Sidney, where “I was told the community didn’t want a Muslim to come and speak, especially to the high school community.”
“Be careful,” she was told, “because people might say something.”
Students wrote down their questions on index cards — about 200 of them — and Masood spent the whole time answering their questions.
“They were under the impression I’d be teaching Islam, which I wasn’t,” she said. “They were really kind to me, and everywhere else, I have had a welcoming attitude. I love Montana.”
Each postcard Masood has received features a paragraph or two from a well-wisher. One, noting she has “love in Montana” assures her she “has love coming from Minnesota too.”
A Massachusetts resident told her it made the writer “happy to read of the work you are doing educating people.”
While Masood said the months following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks were difficult for most Muslims in the United States, “now things are a little more relaxed. When the president put on his travel ban, the (MSU Billings) chancellor sent out a (supportive) campus-wide email to Muslim international students.”
“Still,” she said, “whenever there is a shooting or a bombing, you ask any Muslim in America and they’ll say the same thing: ‘Please God, don’t let it be a Muslim.’”
She explains her motivation to travel the state speaking and teaching as “a desire to give back.”
“I am a teacher who has knowledge and experience, and I can help,” she said. “And all these nice people,” she added, thumbing through the postcards, “they have acknowledged that.”