Shaping Islam in America: PROFILES OF 10 YOUNG VISIONARIES

Shaping Islam in America: PROFILES OF 10 YOUNG VISIONARIES

There is no shortage of discussion about what is wrong with Muslims and the Islamic world these days. From our perspective, it is also important to take time to acknowledge the good that comes from Muslims inspired by their faith. For this reason Islamica decided to profile a series of individuals who, we believe, represent the best that the Muslim community in North America has to offer. The group assembled varies widely in terms of occupation and background, but share in common three key characteristics: visionary leadership, innovative approaches, and a level of success that bodes well for America. The list is by no means comprehensive there are many others who may be equally deserving of wider recognition. What captured our attention in the following group was how their efforts stem organically from both their Muslim-ness and their American-ness without compromising or overstating either. In a time where religion is often the pawn of political ambition, the civic engagement practiced by these individuals is a refreshing example of how faith can motivate all kinds of wonderful things.

It should be clear that this is not a top ten list. It is an attempt to bring attention to the extraordinary efforts of individuals who deserve widespread attention from the community, the media and anyone interested in where Islam in America is headed. Our hope is that by drawing attention to these individuals, and the compelling stories they represent, we will provide another platform for them to inspire others to not only participate in their efforts, but also build upon them.

Eboo Patel – The Bridge Builder

With the exception of a few littérateurs, not many of us read Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, Rumi’s Mssnaw and Tagore’s Gitanjali side by side. Our tendency to neatly categorize ideas and objects based upon differences leads us to place these writing in their own realms as, to us, each work stems from three apparently distinct traditions. For Ebrahim “Eboo” Patel, a social entrepreneur and cultural visionary born and raised in Chicago, this is not the case. He calls it the jazz approach: The traditions from which each of these authors stem American, Islamic and Indian – are interconnected in their values, resonating with one another. As literary masterpieces, Patel finds each of these works “playful and profound.”

Such recognition of unity through diversity is simply one instance of Patel’s remarkable vision for changing the world. While an undergraduate atthe University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), Patel found that he did not quite fit the lifestyle of an activist, professional or academic, three groups with which most students were associated. Rather, he saw pieces of himself in each of these spheres. After graduating from UIUC in 1996, Patel became a teacher in Chicago, and then wentto Oxford University on a Rhodes scholarship. There, he earned a doctorate in the sociology of religion. Inspired primarily by Nobel Peace laureate Dr. Muhammad Yunus, an economics professor in Bangladesh who pioneered the field of microfinance, Patel came to recognize that he could make his innovative ideas a reality in a way that could help change the world.
Patel calls himself a social entrepreneur, someone who instigates long-term change by coming up with new ideas and building them into something concrete. With such a focus, Patel founded the Interfaith youth Core in June 1998. Diversity, Patel argues, is often discussed in terms of racial and ethnic differences, but seldom in regard to religion. Also, interfaith conferences nowadays rarely include the leaders of tomorrow- today’s youth.

His Chicago-based organization brings religion into the diversity movement and young people into the interfaith movement with social action at the crux of each endeavor. Defining an essential linkage between pluralism, faith and service, the Interfaith Youth Core provides opportunities for young people to work together in service and action programs now at work across cities in America and other countries.

With the next generation of the world’s religions interacting with one another through service projects, for Patel, the experiences that emerge are priceless. For this visionary, each social action project is more than just an activity: it is a crucial step in changing the world through the nurturing of religious understanding and mutual respect among the leaders of tomorrow.

By Sabahat Ali

Diversity, Patel argues, is often discussed in terms of racial and ethnic differences, but seldom with regards to religion. At the same time, the interfaith conferences that are happening nowadays rarely include the leaders of tomorrow – today’s youth

Omar Amanat – The Philanthropist

“The problem that Muslims have today is essentially one of branding. ” The proposition sounds jocose at first, but Omar Amanat explains the idea with absolute confidence: “In business, part of what makes a brand successful is the story behind it. As Muslims, we have a compelling story to share with the rest of the world, but we’ve allowed other people to speak on our behalf. We’ve been reduced to looking at caricatures of ourselves. We need to reclaim our stories and have the courage to tell them.” Amanat is where entrepreneurial finesse meets the global challenge of raising a religious community by its boot straps.

A graduate of University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, Amanat is a pioneer and stalwart of the electronic brokerage industry. He is founder and CEO of Tradescape Corp., a company that- before being sold to online broker E*Trade for $280 million in 2002- had its largest branch office on the 83rd floor of the World Trade Center. Struck, like so many, by the surreal events of the Sept. 11 attacks, Amanat devoted himself to discovering the roots of “Muslim rage.” He was looking for what was contributing to e motions of humiliation and shame dire enough to lead individuals to commit suicide or take innocent lives.

His research led him to Grier and Cobbs’ Black Rage, a book that detai led the Af rican American experience with extremism and violence, highlighting the critical role of the media in fueling it. “Would the Rodney King video have caused nearly as much destruction and anger if it was not televised? What if it was not even taped?” Sensing a parallel between the African American and Muslim experiences, Amanat argues that the media plays a germane role in crafting individual identity and affecting the self-esteem of each community. As a natural entrepreneur, this is where he hopes to add value.

For Amanat, the key is to harness the massive power of the media to create something that is distinctly in-house: derived from the stories, cultural traditions and experiences of the 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide. He envisions using airwaves to heal rather than humiliate, to inform rather than inflame. To promote this effort, he has created a $1 00 million Hollywood Film Fund and Production company dedicated to producing films that will “help tell the stories that need telling.” He also personally commissioned Harvard Medical School to research the physiological effects on minorities who watch images of violence being perpetrated on fellow minorities.
Amanat’s solutions may be unconventional, but perhaps this is precisely what Muslims of the media-saturated, 21 st century need . “We’ve reached an age where Spielberg is more i m portant than Stanford, where McDonald’s is more important than M. I. T. Millions of individuals take their behavioral cues from TV shows. Businesses and the media have an extraordinarily powerful effect on shaping individual preferences and perceptions. And perception is reality.”

By Sulman Bhatti

“Businesses and the media have an extraordinarily powerful effect on shaping individual preferences and perceptions. And perception is reality”

Manal Omar – The Humanitarian

Most people would find that Palestine and South Carolina have little in common. For Manal Omar, they are both in some ways home. Omar, a Palestinian who grew up in South Carolina and speaks with a trace of a Southern drawl, remains as attached to her American roots as she is to her Palestinian ones. She considers herself an American whose patriotism fuels her desire to assist the disadvantaged, marginalized and overlooked ofthe world. Omar is the Middle East Manager for Oxfam-Great Britain – part of a network of organizations that comprise one of the largest development NGOs in the world.
The world of global development and humanitarian NGOs is an insular one. Although well-intentioned, some projects lack the requisite cultural, religious and political knowledge necessary for effective interventions particularly in the Muslim world. At the same time these organizations, such as Oxfam and CARE, are frontline players in the interaction between the people of the Muslim world (not the politicians) and the West. This makes Omar’s inroads into this community that much more important.

For years Omar has been a passionate advocate for change and development, with an eye toward protecting the rights of minorities and women around the world. She established the Women for Women International office in Baghdad during the war and remained there for several months doing what she could to help normalize the chaos around her. With that first-hand knowledge, she speaks of Baghdad as a beautiful “bride widowed on her wedding night.” Her life was on the line, and at times, even she wasn’t sure whether she was making a difference. But she would silence that gnawing whisper inside by a stronger feeling: honor. She was honored to be among Iraqi women, whom she sees as her “sisters.”

Although she speaks of “being caught in a revolving door between hope and despair,” she manages to recharge her spirits and head out for another day, be it at the World Bank, meeting with country directors from Women for Women, or simply on the streets of Baghdad risking her life. One way she recharges is by celebrating International Women’s Day. “No matter what obstacles I have faced, for some odd reason, I always feel optimistic and re-energized on March 8,” she says. She even admits to “falling into the comfortable shadows of denial” as a means of coping to continue her relief work.

She now hopes to focus her efforts in Dart ur, another area where politics, money and oil have combined to make life miserable for the people. The effectiveness of her efforts and the efforts of NGOs in general to alleviate suffering and improve the lives of the dispossessed depends on their ability to understand and empathize with the people they help. Omar’s background lends her that ability to understand. We can hope that NGOs find more Manal Omars who can do the same.

By Hana Bushnaq

Her life was on the line, at times when even she wasn’t sure if she was making a difference. But then, she would silence that gnawing whisper inside of her by a stronger feeling: honor

Murad Kalam – The Novelist

“There will always be novels – books to sit on our laps with pages to be turned. No blinking screen, no gadget will ever replace the novel.” Can Muslims make sure ofthat? Can we contribute to a global civilization that simultaneously seems intent on sidelining us? Murad Kalam has already served notice with Night Journey, his spectacularly well-received novel. “Remember also that many, even well-meaning people in the West, think that Islam is no longer compatible with civilization – that we cannot produce art. Prove them wrong.”

For going where few Muslims remember how to tread, Kalam is no remnant – buta pioneer of a better way. Though for a while, he might find things lonely. His award-winning novel – the New York Times hailed Night Journey as “a kind of beautiful anachronism: a confident, poetic novel” – centers around Eddie Bloodpath, a boxer caught in a swirl of humanity never watered down. Rather, the worst tendencies in humanity drive Eddie to seek some manner of salvation. Is that belief, expressed with raw, uncomfortable optimism, not too lacking in Muslims today?

Booklistcalls the work “remarkably assured.” Publishers’ Weeklycalls it “blistering. ” I found it honest, like blunt words in the raw air. “To be any good,” Kalam tells me, “a writer must have something of great urgency and significance to write about. ” Writing that’s recalling an Islam that will not become the vehicle for boot-stomping contentment- filled with mere adherents to a vapid pride that can quickly be mobilized in the service of everything thattrue art must stand against. In Arabic, his chosen name equals athousand words – “the seeker after the pen.” For Kalam, writing is believing: “The responsibility of the Muslim artist is to affirm our humanity to the world and to ourselves and also to turn a mirror to ourselves.”
Months spent in Egypt convinced the young convert that “lslamdom” was no utopia – many of the same ills that menace the West have long infected the East. All the same, he never gave up. “It was impossible,” Kalam insisted, “to ignore the sincerity of the poor and righteous and the depth of the belief of Muslims and Copts alike. I studied Islam with a village sheikh from Giza; I watched shop owners feed strangers during the nights of Ramadan; the local beggars, men who should have lost all hope, prayed each day without fail on tattered sheets of cardboard.”

By Haroon Moghul

“Remember … that many, even well-meaning people in the West think that Islam is no longer compatible with civilization – that we cannot produce art. Prove them wrong”

Rami Nashashibi – The Activist

It’s 6 a.m. and a chartered bus waits outside the office of the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN). A troupe of sleepy-eyed Chicagoans spanning all ages and ethnicities file onto the bus and are welcomed by an energetic voice.The journey is to Springfield, Illinois. The reason: alternative sentencing for low-level, nonviolent drug offenders. It is part of a greater effort led by IMAN to make activism and the plight of America’s poor a natural concern of American Muslims. And the voice belongs to IMAN’s intrepid executive director, Rami Nashashibi.
Nashashibi exudes charisma, which is rooted in his vibrant and visible passion for his faith. Nashashibi came to Chicago for college, receiving his undergraduate degree from DePaul University. There, he saw parallels in unlikely places: between the African American civil rights movement and the Palestinian struggle for freedom, between Islamic imperatives and activism, and between the priorities of the immigrant and indigenous Muslim communities of America.

Nashashibi and a dedicated team founded IMAN in 1995. He helped shape IMAN’s vision through his study of the life of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. In particular he reflected on how the Prophet’s service to the poor could be emulated in downtown Chicago.

From its headquarters on Chicago’s South Side, IMAN began serving the inner-city community with a series of projects funded by private donations, including a food pantry, GED classes and a free health clinic. These efforts have since expanded to include campaigns for legal reforms, regular outreach and awareness events, and issue-based community mobilization. These projects bring IMAN’s passion for social justice and mutual understanding to places as diverse as jails, churches, courthouses and coalition meetings. IMAN also works in the struggle for immigrant and day laborer rights, coalition building and has created public forums. Called Community Cafés, these forums are one of IMAN’s most popular endeavors and unite artists, activists and religious scholars.

IMAN celebrated its 10th anniversary with a festival “Takin’ it to the Streets,” that brought thousands of people from the greater Chicagoland area to the South Side for a day of service, learning and entertainment. For Inner-city residents, the event was a chance to break down social , cultural and religious barriers. For Nashashibi, it was another milestone in his efforts to reshape how we think about the intersection of race, religion, culture and service. By Inextricably and successfully linking local community service and activism with Muslim identity, IMAN is treading a path few other Muslim organizations have treaded.

Credit Nashashibi for launching such a novelty and for blazing a path for similar aspiring Muslim organizations. Credit him also for another blueprint- that of a Muslim leader, social justice entrepreneur and inner-city advocate. He is a role model for aspiring activists of any religion whose passion never ceases to amaze.

By Isra Bhatty

By inextricably and successfully linking local community service and activism with Muslim identity, IMAN is treading a path that few other Muslim organizations have tread before

Shahed Amanullah – The Information Entrepreneur

The Muslim community in America remains gripped by “analysis paralysis,” argues Shahed Amanullah, editor-in-chief of the online magazine altmuslim.com. But he sees a light at the end of the tunnel, and for Amanullah, that light comes from his MacBook laptop screen. The Internet can be a powerful tool for open discussion, criticism, engagement and empowerment. But few efforts from the Muslim community have leveraged it as well as altmuslim.

For now, the American Muslim foray into the fourth estate remains in its infancy. Whether it is the print or broadcast medium, according to Amanullah, the Muslim community has yet to develop a fully functioning and vigorous free press that acts as a watchdog and transparent interface between different levels of the Muslim American population. The consequence of this, he says, is a rather static and seemingly monolithic plane of conversation that does little to address important issues affecting Muslims and their role in contributing to the betterment of American society. In other words, we need to get past “Islam means peace.”

Founded in 2001 after 9/11, altmuslim.com attracts 160,000 unique users and 360,000 page views a month.Amanullah and fellow editors are leveraging the power of the Web to plug in and provide media consumers with commentary barely audible in many publishing comers, be they Muslim or not. Topics vary widely, including family and community, art and culture, U.S. politics and gender relationsJhe Web continues to create ripples in Muslim and mainstream media, challenging society’s traditional gatekeepers of knowledge. Amanullah and his altmuslim colleagues are riding the wave of Internet-enabled community introspection by creating new modes of critique and accountability that circumvent not only traditional power monopolies, but also national borders.
With clairvoyance for coding, Amanullah created several Web sites, including zabihah.com, salatomatic.com and halalapalooza.com, in effect establishing the first “consumer reports” for everything Muslim.Salatomatic.com – “Your guide to the best mosques & Islamic schools in your area” – allows worshippers to rate their mosque experiences and provide information about things such as a mosque’s type of governance and the availability of women’s facilities. In the age of Wiki pedia, who needs experts?

With the Web’s great democratizing and decentralizing effects, something not lost on Amanullah, altmuslim is designed to be an interactive forum that includes more than 1 ,500 registered users with the ability to provide feedback to writers and artists. Interactivity for Amanullah includes using the Web as a facilitator for large-scale collaboration and social networking. Along these lines he recently introduced unitedmuslims.org thatwill include more tools for project sharing and collaboration. As a dynamic platform for greater Muslim activism and participation, major organizations can use it as a way to plug into the average Muslim whose talents and experiences have yet to be tested or utilized. This enhancement, Amanullah says, will help empower America’s grassroots activists working for change.

While most other Muslim information dissemination organizations take the top-down approach, Amanullah empowers from the bottom up. “I think the lay Muslim can do wonders but has never been given a chance.”

By Jordan Robinson

I think the lay Muslim can do wonders but has never been given a chance

Farhana Khera – The Advocate

In America, law and politics have a hard time separating themselves. When it comes to issues of civil liberties and civil rights, you can hardly tell them apart. Enter Farhana Khera, former Counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and co-founder of Muslim Advocates, a legal and policy advocacy organization.
Khera’s six-year tenure on the Judiciary Committee coincided with the tragic events of 9/11, and she subsequently became well-acquainted with the USA PATRIOT Act, racial and religious profiling, and other civil liberties issues raised by the government’s antiterrorism policies. But the events of that day also opened her eyes to a tremendous void in the American legal and political process. Khera’s passion for civil rights took on an urgent objective – making a place for and providing a means by which Muslim Americans could protect America and shape its future.

Khera’s legal and political experiences helped shape the mission and program priorities for Muslim Advocates, an organization she recently co-founded with other Muslim American lawyers. As the country’s first Muslim American legal and policy advocacy organization, Muslim Advocates is a pioneering effort in promoting justice and equality for all Americans by providing strategic legal thought and activities. Its efforts have already begun to pay off. Muslim Advocates is a respected voice among federal officials and members of Congress, regardless of party affiliation. For example, in response to the suspected plot to attack trans-Atlantic American jetliners from Britain last summer and its aftermath – with some in the media calling for racial and religious profiling of Muslim air travelers – Muslim Advocates persuaded the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to publicly reject these calls. Secretary Michael Chertoff , in USA Today and MSNBC, called racial profiling ineffective and wrong. Muslim Advocates also recently made its first court appearance when it joined an amicus, or friend of the court, brief sponsored by the Center for National Security Studies and the Open Society Policy Center. The case challenged President Bush’s asserted power to hold individuals indefinitely, without charges or trial, on U.S. soil.

The first step toward reclaiming the civil rights of Muslims is understanding, respecting and protecting the laws that accord those rights. Khera and her team’s efforts in this regard demonstrate that segments of the community are interested In engaging the law and social justice from a broader platform that includes protecting individuals regardless of their religious background.

By Asma Uddin

The first step towards reclaiming the civil rights of Muslims is understanding, respecting and protecting the laws that accord those rights

Zarqa Nawaz – The Director

Her recent work was described as “Saskatchislamic,” her production company is “FUNdamentalist,” and the Canadian TV ratings certify the success of her sitcom as groundbreaking- perhaps even amusingly miraculous – and definitely unprecedented. Canadian trailblazer Zarqa Nawaz has caught attention and praise (as well as her fair share of criticism) with her film work and new television series, “Little Mosque on the Prairie.”

Her initial career in journalism didn’t satisfy her creative impulse. After whetting her appetite in filmmaking one long-ago summer- her first five-minute short titled, “BBQ Muslims”- she began a body of film work that can now boast a full-fledged television sitcom. Inspiration for herfirst film was the prejudice against Muslims after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1 995. Casting her brother and his friends from their neighborhood, the humble film dealt with the subject of racism and profiling in ways that proved humorous, yet truthful. Surprised by the success it had atthe Toronto International Film Festival in 1996, she realized thatthis was an effective means to entertain and inform.

Five productions later, Nawaz is garnering international acclaim for “Little Mosque on the Prairie,” a comedy series airing on CBC that she says “happens to have Muslim people in it.” Thankful for her experiences on smaller projects – including the controversial documentary, ” Me and the Mosque,” which deals with equal prayer space for women (or lack thereof) – which taught her how to better write, direct and produce, Nawaz now has the luxury of working with a full team of professionals.

Reactions among Muslim audiences demonstrate a generational fault line: Canadian-born Muslims are thrilled and have fewer criticisms, while their parents’ generation is squirming and uncomfortable with material that they perceive as pushing the envelope, airing dirty laundry and attracting an unwanted spotlight on the community. Hertake is not to cater to Muslim audiences alone.Therefore her style is essentially an honest, matter-of-fact display of her experiences and observations, no sugarcoating involved.

The sky is the limitas Nawaz carves outa unique role and enters uncharted territory. She plans to continue to make films that include Muslims and feels that comedy is the genre that al lows a positive space to do so in a way that is not exclusive to Muslims and can be enjoyed by all communities. Nawaz’s attempt to shine a positive light on Muslims in a seemingly nontraditional way was a success, if by no other measure than the fact there are probably thousands of newly inspired young Muslim filmmakers. Nawaz may have just made attending film school an acceptable career move in a few North American Muslim households.

By Hanane Korcht
Mansur Khan – The Healer

If streets could talk, those shaping the contours of South Central Los Angeles would have quite a tale to tell. In 1992, they witnessed the civil unrest and destruction unleashed after a jury dismissed charges against four police officers videotaped beating Rodney King. Looting, burning and rage followed. Fast forward five years. Blocks away from the epicenter, like a phoenix rising out ofthe ashes, stands the UMMA Community Clinic. Where hundreds marched in anger, tens of thousands now go to be healed. Where toxins poisoned the soil, children now eagerly line up to receive Christmas and Eid presents.
The story by now is a familiar one in homes throughout America: a group of seven idealistic and passionate UCLA students began knocking on doors. While many of their campus counterparts were landing lucrative post-graduation jobs, these seven journeyed to nearby-but-forgotten South Central L.A. No resume or product to sell, just an idea: establishing UMMA (“University Muslim Medical Association”)- a full-time medical clinic to serve Los Angeles’ poorest residents.

Among the group was UMMA co-founder Mansur Khan, a soft-spoken American Muslim physician who would go on to play a seminal role in the clinic’s growth. Khan attended UCLA in the early 1990s, and along with Rushdi Abdul Cader, was the unmistakable leader of its famed “campus revolution”: UMMA was one of several projects established during this time. Khan commented, “Our Islamic principles were the brick and mortar of this organization. We were a group of young Muslims who were bursting to putourfaith into action to improve society. It wasn’ta PR project.”

Tucked away neatly between these milestones are thousands of quieter stories of hope and healing. Jackie Baker credits UMMA with saving her husband’s life. Now fully insured via Medi-Cal, the Bakers can go anywhere, but continue to choose UMMA. This sense of loyalty – and, yes, love – for the clinic and its staff runs deep. As one patient remarked, “People should give all they have to UMMA. I don’t know how many places in the nation there are like this, but there need to be more. Just walk in here and you’ll see.”

Many have, in fact, walked in – and been impressed by what they’ve seen. UMMA’s efforts have been recognized by numerous publications, the L.A. City Council, and the U.S. Congress, where Maxine Waters addressed the House on UMMA’s 1 0th anniversary, praising its groundbreaking work. Eleven charitable health clinics in LA County have shutdown, making UMMA’s survival – not to mention its continued growth – all the more incredible. With heartfelt intention, perseverance and a measure of grace, Khan and his colleagues may be redefining what it means to put faith into action. “Being made part of something good like UMMA isa blessing from God,” Khan stated, “like all other blessings conferred upon us.”

By Mohamed Marei

Being made part of something good like UMMA is a blessing from God

Saaf ir Rabb – The Community Re-builder

The 4400 block of Park Heights Avenue sits in a dreary corner of northwest Baltimore characterized by boarded up buildings, dollar stores and liquor shops. In a city known for its long stretches of neglected housing and dilapidated storefronts, this neighborhood offers nothing out of the ordinary. But all of that is about to change.

Saafir Rabb is working diligently to revitalize the area. Driven by a desire to serve humanity, he makes due with limited resources by leveraging the creative energy of people around him to turn dreams into tangible realities.

One such reality is “I Can’t We Can,”(ICWC) a nonprofit addiction rehabilitation program created bySaafir’s uncle, Israel Cason, in 1 997. Cason, who overcame 30 years of drug addiction, applied lessons he learned at a rehab program in Philadelphia to help people in his home community who faced similar challenges. With ICWC, he offers addicts a year-long, 24-hour-a-day regimen that remedies not only the physical impact of substance abuse, but also its psychological and social effects. A spiritual message that moves effortlessly between the language of the Qur’an and the Bible underlies the program’s philosophy, recognizing that a connection to God is essential to giving meaning to a life coming out of addiction. On this Saafir cites the story of the Prophet Adam , who after taking from which he had no business taking, was provided with a spiritual path that would lead him back to Paradise.

Round-the-clock treatment does not come cheap.This is why Cason relies on Saafir to raise funds and design the administrative apparatus that has made ICWC a sustainable institution. One unlikely source of funding has come through ICWCs role as an incubator for local businesses that employ, and in some cases are owned, by graduates of the program. Saaf ir also has tapped the public sector, convincing stewards of the five-plus billion dollars allocated each year for development in Baiti more that Park Heights is worthy of a second look. Treading where few Muslim community developers have gone before, Saafir has concrete plans to acquire the hundreds of millions of dollars necessary to rebuild the entire neighborhood one block at a time.

ICWCs annual budget has grown from hundreds of thousand of dollars to several million. Its programs now include facilities for youth mentoring, workforce training, assisting recently released inmates, and there are now more than 70 housing units reserved for recovering addicts. Park Heights has a new adult health and education center, $8 million in funding to renovate 48 low income housing units is secured and a new office park is also in the works.

For Saafir, ICWCs motto of saving lives and winning souls reflects the essence of what it means to be Muslim. Drawing from the teachings of Imam WD. Muhammad, for whom he serves as an adviser, Saafir believes that working to restore a people’s humanity through spirituality and good works is precisely the mission of the Prophet Muhammad. “Doing good for the world and for yourself is a delicate balance,” he admits. Given his efforts thus far, it looks like Saafir has found that balance.

By Aasil Ahmad

Doing good for the world and for yourself is a delicate balance

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