Student from Pakistan wants to protect U.S. freedom

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Muzna Bukhari, a Latter-day Saint student from Pakistan, has loved the United States, the U.S. military and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since she was young.

Muzna Bukhari, middle left, and her family.
Muzna Bukhari, middle left, and her family.

When she was 1, Bukhari’s father received a copy of the Book of Mormon from a friend because his friend knew he liked to read about religious topics. However, the book sat on his shelf for about a year until he went on a three-day business trip to Islamabad.

Bukhari said her father read the Book of Mormon on the six-hour bus ride into the city and was impressed by the introduction.

“In a country that is so strict about religion, people do not encourage you to find out for yourself if the religion is true,” Bukhari said. “My dad was impressed that this book encouraged you to find an answer yourself.”

When he got to Islamabad, his meeting was cancelled, so Bukhari’s father called the missionaries, who taught him two discussions on the first day. By the end of the third day, he had heard all six missionary discussions. Knowing he would not be back in Islamabad for a few months, he decided to get baptized.

He returned home and told his wife about what he had found. One month later, she decided to get baptized as well.

Bukhari was baptized on her eighth birthday.

Bukhari first moved to the United States from Pakistan in 1999, but her family moved back to Pakistan in 2005. They then returned again to the United States in 2007, and came as refugees. They obtained green cards in 2008, and are currently waiting to be granted citizenship.

As a public health major, Bukhari is in the health-promotion track and said she is planning on pursuing a career in international humanitarian aid because she wants to go back to Pakistan someday to serve her people.

After graduation, she plans on joining the Air Force. Bukhari participated in ROTC for a semester and plans on applying for officer training school after graduation.

“I think I could be a huge asset for the military because I can speak three critical languages,” she said. “Who knows, maybe I could do intel — I think that would be really fun.”

Apart from English, Bukhari can speak Urdu, Punjabi and Hindi. She said her love for the military came from working at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif., with her dad for a summer.

“I worked and talked with the officers there everyday,” she said. “Every day it just made me love the military more and more.”

Theresa Rather, one of Bukhari’s best friends from high school, said one trait she admires most about Bukhari is her patriotism.

“(Muzna) loves this country, and she loves the military,” Rather said. “It’s incredible to see that anymore. She’s not even a citizen yet, and she wants to be in the military so badly.”

Rather met Bukhari at the Meridian School in Orem when Bukhari moved to the U.S. in 2007, at which point the two became instant friends.

Rather said Bukhari has always been dedicated in school. Rather talked of a high school chemistry class she took with Bukhari, saying (Rather) would misbehave because the class and the teacher were terrible.

“Muzna was so good though,” Rather said. “She did her homework every night, and she fought through the class to get an A. After I started being disrespectful, the whole class was disrespectful, but Muzna never was. When I saw her good example, it made me want to get my act together.”

Rather described Bukhari as courageous, humble and a good example and leader to her younger siblings.

“When she wants something and sets her mind to something, she’ll go get it,” Rather said. “She is a little shy and quiet, but she won’t be pushed around. She’s very articulate, and she can kill people in arguments.”

Bukhari is the oldest in her family, and her siblings said they admire all that she does for them. Her 12-year-old sister, Sheza, looks up to her and values her help when it comes to homework.

“She is very smart,” Sheza said. “Whenever we need help with homework, she helps us, and she explains things better than the teacher.”

Bukhari comes from a family where her parents are first-generation scholars, so education has always been a main focus. Her father was the first on his side of the family to go to school past the third grade, while her mother was in the first generation to attend college.

Bukhari said she admires her parents because they have done so much in their lives to overcome adversity, and this admiration inspires her when she sees all they do.

“Through my parents, I’ve learned the importance of getting an education, following the commandments, doing what’s right and staying on the straight and narrow,” she said. “Watching them has helped define who I am.”

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