Alamdar Murtaza, a recent graduate of the University of Rochester, has earned a second place finish in the 2009 Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics Essay Contest. Murtaza, who graduated this May with a bachelor of art degree in religion with a minor in philosophy and Arabic, will receive a $2,500 reward. He is the first University of Rochester student to place in the nationally competitive contest.
"Placing as well as I did is incredibly rewarding," said Murtaza of the prize. "I'll have the opportunity to meet Wiesel in October during the awards ceremony and that is the real honor."
The Ethics Essay contest is open to full-time undergraduate juniors and seniors at accredited four-year colleges and universities. Students are required to write a 3,000-4,000 word essay, choosing among several suggested topics. Murtaza's essay, titled Mohammed is Not, deals with the freedom to pursue religion without persecution.
During his career at Rochester, Murtaza, a native of Islamabad, Pakistan, was active in the Muslim Student Association and worked in the Interfaith Chapel. He was also a three-year member of the University's squash team.
Elie Wiesel and his wife, Marion, established The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity soon after he was awarded the 1986 Nobel Prize for Peace. The Foundation runs multiple programs both domestically and internationally. In the U.S., the Foundation organizes The Wiesel Ethics Essay Contest, which is sponsored by E. Billi Ivry & The Thaler Family.