Kadra Mohamed became the first Somali woman in the United States to become a police officer in March of 2014.
Kadra Mohamed became the first Somali woman in the United States to become a police officer in March of 2014.
As Boston police Captain Haseeb Hosein, a former science teacher and a firm believer in the power of reading, assumes leadership in Mattapan as the department’s first Muslim captain, he plans to have his officers walking not only the streets, but school hallways.
“I want my guys to go into the schools and spend 30 minutes and read” with a child, said Hosein, 52, who received his captain’s shield Wednesday in a ceremony at police headquarters. “I hate that police officers are always the bad guy. We should be an asset.”
Dr. Saud Anwar, a Democrat, was elected as the first Muslim mayor of South Windsor.
Sadia Saifuddin (BA ’14) recently was confirmed as the 40th student regent to sit on the University of California Board of Regents. She became the first Muslim to join the board.
MH: Congratulations on becoming the first Muslim member of the UC Board of Regents! What made you want to pursue the position?
Thank you! I applied for the position because I know what it is like to be a struggling student and worry about how you will make ends meet. Between rent, tuition, books, and food, there is very little wiggle room. Every penny counts. When my financial aid was stripped from me during my sophomore year, I worked three jobs during the day and tutored in the evenings so that I could make enough money to pay my rent. It was stressful and made my grades suffer, and that should never be the experience of any UC student. When the application was released, I thought for a long time about whether I wanted to pursue this position, and then decided that I would give it a shot and see what would happen. I didn’t think I had a chance; many more qualified and experienced people from around the state applied, but alhumdulillah it all worked out and now I’m here.
MH: What do you plan to do as a member of the UC Board of Regents?
I have two priorities on the Board. First, I want to fix the Financial Aid system to be more student friendly. Right now, its a quagmire and navigating the system is extraordinarily frustrating. I’ll be working with students and administrators to identify the gaps in the system and then submit policy recommendations to the campus and UCOP. Second, I want to bridge the gap between students and the Regents so that their policy decisions can be more informed by the student experience. I will be bringing different student communities together to meet with the Regents on a biannual basis so that they can speak about their concerns and experiences.
MH: You seem to be quite the activist on your campus, which stirred up controversy when it came to your appointment on the board, how did you overcome the negativity and backlash towards your appointment?
You know you are doing something right when you have haters. Haha, but in all seriousness, you have to believe in yourself. Integrity is HUGE for me, and I knew that as long as I was staying true to myself and my value system, I would be okay. The only person i have to be accountable to is myself, and as long as I knew that I was better than the person I was yesterday, I was doing my job. I also have the most supportive friends, and they surrounded me like a shield when things became difficult. Its thanks to the wonderful people in my life that I was able to overcome this obstacle.
MH: Many of the individuals who spoke against your appointment cited anti-Semitism as their main concern for your appointment. How did you deal with the fierce criticism of individuals? How did you respond?
It’s so funny to me that people called me an anti-semite. I’m anything but. I’ve advocated against hate of any kind for all communities. I’ve worked closely with the leaders of the Jewish and Israeli communities, and have very close personal relationships with them. I’ve been to Tikvah (the pro-Israeli organization on campus) and Hillel events. I’ve invited them to our townhalls and had open and honest conversations with them so we could learn from one another. I know who I am, and the people that have worked with me know who I am as well. I don’t need to respond to those allegations because my work speaks for itself. Many of my Jewish and Israeli friends wrote letters of support and op-eds in support of my appointment, and that was testament to the fact that the cries of anti-Semitism were unfounded and grounded in ignorance.
MH: Some of your supporters include Simone Zimmerman who is a recent graduate of UC Berkeley. And currently serves as the president of the J Street U National Student Board and wrote an article in the Haaretz in support of your nomination and wrote that those opposed to your appointment did not speak for her or the Jewish community. Have you received similar support from other organizations and individuals either on campus, in California, or other organizations outside of California?
I’ve received an enormous amount of support from UC students from all backgrounds. Like I mentioned earlier, students from all backgrounds wrote to the Regents in support of my nomination, urging them to confirm me. It was beautiful to witness so much solidarity, especially because we disagreed politically but they still believed that I would represent their interests. Simone is actually a good friend of mine that falls into that category. In fact, an old friend of mine from high school who was heavily involved in StandWithUs wrote me an email and said that she didnt believe what the media was saying about me and that as someone who knew me personally, she believed that I would be a great representative. I’ve had people recognize me on the street and say that they are Jewish and support my appointment, and I’ve even received mail with cards and letters of congratulations and support. It was heartening to see so much unification, and I am forever grateful to those folks that stood up for me, even if it was against their own community (shout out to my girl Simone, i love you!)
MH: Many Muslim college students and their parents are skeptical and scared of becoming political activists or advocates. In your own experience how have you dealt with this fear or skepticism about activism from Muslim parents and some Muslim college students?
In all honesty, it is scary to live in the current Islamophobic environment and be an activist. I commend all of those people that have the courage to do it, because following your heart and doing what you believe is right is usually coupled with a massive public smearing campaign (I can testify to this). In my experience, I learned to play the game and learned to play it well. Thanks to organizations like CAIR, I learned so much about the political system and what skills I needed to excel. At the root of all of that, I internalized the belief that when you fight for justice, Allah is ALWAYS on your side. There are so many times I have fallen to my knees and asked for a miracle, and I’ve gotten one. We are stronger than we think we are, and the moment we are too afraid to speak up is when the opposition has won. Truly, the only thing to fear is fear itself.
MH: In light of the NYPD spying on MSAs in New York, has there any drop in activism amongst Muslim college students at UC Berkeley or local California colleges?
Thankfully, there hasn’t been a drop in activism. In fact, organizations such as MSA West have grown and taken political stances to encourage activism (the theme for the 2012 MSA West Conference was #OccupYourself)
MH: Some MSA leadership argue that MSAs should remain silent on political issues to avoid scrutiny by media or local student groups or university administration. What are your thoughts on MSAs taking a more political role on college campuses? Should they take a more political role on campuses?
I believe that MSAs should absolutely have a political arm. At UC Berkeley, we have the Cal MSA Political Action Committee that handles all of the sit-ins, demonstrations, protests, political khateras, etc. We need to understand that the Muslim community is under attack. We need to get smart and learn how to take our place in our political system. We cannot sit quietly as our brothers and sisters suffer abroad and here in the states. The mission of the MSA is to provide Muslim students with a holistic college experience, and I think understanding our political system and having the opportunity to participate in it is a part of that. At the very least, it is an avenue to educate our communities and ourselves about issues facing Muslims in the US and abroad, and how we can craft solution to address them.
MH: Many college campuses are susceptible to Islamophobia and outside organizations causing problems for Muslim students on campuses. How would you recommend Muslim college students prepare themselves against the threat of Islamophobia on their campuses? What proactive steps can Muslim college students take?
I’m glad you asked this question, because battling hate of any kind is important. The first thing to do is to build coalitions. If there is any kind of incident that threatens other student communities even if they aren’t Muslim, we need to be there to stand with them and vocally express our support. This will ensure that when we are under attack, they will be there for us as well. Second, we need to call attention to these situations and bring them to higher levels, whether it is administratively or politically. When an Islamophobic lecturer at UC Santa Cruz was making inflammatory comments against the Muslim community, I wrote a bill condemning Islamophobia and citing specific incidences (including NYPD surveillance of college students) and it passed unanimously in our Senate. I then had that same bill passed at UC Irvine, UC Davis, UC Santa Barbara, and a few other schools. This called media attention to the situation and the ways this was negatively impacting campus climate. It also made it clear to the Islamophobes that we weren’t kidding around about fighting for our rights, and that we would not be bullied into silence. There are serious consequences to their actions.
MH: You’ll be graduating soon, what are your plans after graduation? What are your career goals?
After graduation, I would like to work for a couple of years and then get my MBA. I’m really interested in social innovation and design thinking, and McKinsey & Co have some amazing global consulting projects. I’m interested in development consulting, specifically for multinational organizations operating in developing countries, and how we can change their day to day operations to become more socially and environmentally friendly. Eventually, I would like to open my own consulting firm for corporations operating in developing countries so that they can contribute to their development in more positive ways.
MH: What advice would you give to Muslim college students who would like to get more involved on their campuses in their university administrations, student governments, boards, etc.?
My advice would be to branch out and step outside of their comfort zones. We need Muslims in all fields, and that takes courage. Find the courage in you to pursue your goals and always renew your intentions so that you are working for the betterment of the Ummah. Network with different communities and learn where the gaps are so that you can fill them. I happened upon the office of the Student Regent Designate when I was applying for jobs, and I got to know more about the job when I served as the previous Student Regent’s Chief of Staff. Look for out-of-the-box opportunities to flex your activist and leadership muscle, and don’t be afraid of doing something different. After all, the entire point of life is to learn as much as we can, and sometimes that requires jumping into the pool and learning how to swim.
Ehab Sadeek, an Egyptian Muslim American decided to give 100-percent of the profits from his retail bagel business to the One Fund Boston, will keep it up until the last victim of the Boston Marathon bombing (that occurred April 15, 2013) is out of the hospital.
MH: Your profession is not a very common one in the Muslim American community, why did you decide to get into art?
Well, I’ve always been naturally inclined towards the arts, and it was only a matter of time that I recognized the best thing I could do for myself was to use my gift in the best way possible — to create more opportunities for reflection, gratitude and beauty.
MH: Where do you find inspiration from for your art work?
Life and all the awesomeness of it. Ever since I can remember, I have been reflective of the human experience, from its chaos and despair to its magnificence and beauty. I’m always searching for insight and understanding and any simple event or moment can lead to the concept for my next painting.
MH: In Islamic history, there used to be a deep appreciation for art and it would have great significance to the degree that it would make a huge impact on the architecture of mosques, government buildings and household items. Today there seems to be a lack of appreciation of art and architecture in the Muslim community. As an architect and artist, how do you feel we can revive that appreciation?
Well, two things — First, I think the depreciation of arts in the Muslim-American community has something to do with the immigrant generation that came before us. Their focus wasn’t to bring about identity and change through arts and culture, but generally speaking, it was one of assimilating into American society, seeking higher education and creating financial opportunities for their families. Leading to my second point, I feel it’s up to our generation to use the privilege of our higher education and the roots that our parents laid down to integrate into society in such a way that we employ the arts to further refine and revive our cultural and religious identity. What does this mean in practical, tangible terms? For starters, it means that we employ and support in every way the talented professional Muslim artists who have been trailblazing the movement of bringing change through the arts for years now, even, and especially, if initially it was to just start beautifying their own personal worlds. If you need proof, just look up some of the great projects and work that some of these Artists have been creating and working on: El Seed and Karim Jab going global with their calligraphy graffiti and light calligraphy; Mustafa Davis and Ridwan Adhami — two of the most prolific photographers and talented brothers I know; Maryam Eskandari, a graduate of the Aga Khan Program in Islamic Architecture at Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology runs her own architecture business — Miim Designs; Tamir Diab, a Lighting Technical Director working in Visual Effects at WETA Digital, Ltd. has worked on two of the highest grossing films in Hollywood; Australian designer Peter Gould and typographer Tarek Atrissi have created award-winning designs with high profile clientele; Mark Gonzalez and Omar Offendum — two of the most remarkable spoken word and hip-hop artists and performers of our generation, and the list goes on. This is just a tiny drop in the ocean of talented Muslim Artists that exist who are dedicating their lives to the revival and recognition of the arts.
MH: Do you feel there is a revival in appreciation of art in the Muslim community?
Absolutely. I remember being at Islamic Conferences and being the only Artist present with a booth or an exhibit ten years ago, but now you go to these events and you have Artists headlining and giving speeches, and booths representing the creative fields all over the bazaar. My clientele population has changed drastically from parents and friends of parents commissioning me for work as a favor, to young professionals hiring me to design their marriage certificates, eid cards, or making custom paintings as gift or to be placed in their own homes, for example. Although our community has a long way to go, I’ve definitely seen a shift in mindset where art is being seen and appreciated less as commodity, and more as a service to society. If this much has changed in ten years, it’s pretty exciting to think of what the next ten years will bring on. I’m optimistic, and it’s a good time to be an Artist (though honestly — any time is a good time to be an Artist).
MH: What types of mediums do you most enjoy working with and why?
I love all mediums of paint — oil, acrylic and watercolor, but my absolute favorite is oil. I’ve found oil paints to require a lot more patience in the process of using them than other mediums, and each color mixes with the other — nothing is independent (at least the way I use colors). Each color informs the next one. I find there’s a lot of discovery and time for reflection instead of a focus on the end product because of this, and the painting gradually comes to reveal itself in the end. In fact, when I approach a painting, I never know what the end product will look like; I try to remain solid in my intention throughout the process and have faith that the painting will reveal itself in the end, inshaAllah.
MH: Your artwork can be described as contemporary. Are there elements within your artwork that draw inspiration from classical art or calligraphy?
Of course, any form of art really stems from an understanding of the traditional arts. I’d describe my work as conceptual, actually, and it stems more from my discipline and appreciation of proportion and structure because of my architectural background, and less from calligraphy, per se. When I first started painting, I drew very representational and literal works of art, and I was interested in being able to render a scene or image exactly as I saw it, and less as I experienced it. Over the years, however, my view of the world inevitably changed, and my experience in the architectural field led me to become more conceptual with my work. In other words, skill, technique and a good foundation in color theory were still vital to making a “good” painting, but a great work of art for me became one which mastered an expression of an idea from start to finish, on every level, instead of accuracy in visual depiction of a subject. If I captured my experience, then I considered my painting successful and complete (as much as one can be).
MH: Some say art is a way to express emotions and feelings. Has your artwork done the same for you? How has your art allowed you to express yourself?
Absolutely, all of my work is very personal to me, and essentially, it is my soul coming through. I learned how to express myself with colors and forms before I did with words, so painting and drawing have really just been a natural extension of my hands and my inner workings. Articulating emotions through words is an entirely different challenge. I think my work has evolved into more abstracted work particularly because of this — expression is so incredibly unique and personal, ambiguous and ever-changing, so all I can really expect is to be able to share it and hope that the viewer will bring his or her own interpretation to it. The goal isn’t for them to match their expression with mine, but to be catalyzed to express their own reaction in their own way.
MH: Some Muslim artists make the distinction between being a Muslim artist vs. an artist that just happens to be Muslim who is inspired by his/her faith. In your opinion is there a difference?
That’s a really great question — there’s really no wrong or right, but my opinion is that there is a difference. I attempt to live my life with the most consciousness that I can, so I try not to do or be anything just by default. While making “Islamic art” or paintings with Arabic calligraphy is not my focus as an Artist, I would most definitely call myself a “Muslim Artist” because my inspiration stems from my spirituality and consciousness of God. Having said that, I also don’t separate my identities of being Muslim, an Artist, or even a woman — they are all inherent to who I am and I don’t feel I’ve ever had to censor or filter myself because of any one of them. Alhamdulillah, my parents raised me in an open and nurturing enough environment, and although I experienced the typical American-Pakistani-Muslim identity conflicts from time to time, I never felt the need to express one identity over the other. I was always encouraged to be close to my heart and express my own ideas of who I was.
MH: What advice would you give to those who would like to pursue your career path?
The advice I would give to others, and myself, would be to create discipline in your life and put in the hard work to find your voice. The work that is truly interesting and has longevity is the work that is honest, and authentic, but none of it will come to surface without hard work and commitment to your art.
MH: Where can we learn more about you and support your work?
Mohammad Salman Hamdani was a Muslim American and New York Police Cadet who provided his assistance for those trying to escape the World Trade Center twin towers and was tragically killed on September 11, 2001.
Keith Ellison mentioned Salman Hamdani, as one of the 29 Muslims killed on September 11,2001:
Salman’s mom interview with the New York Times:
The fashion world is getting a lesson in innovation from Islam.
By its very nature, fashion is about interpreting looks from one culture or lifestyle and mixing them with another. Towards that end, Chicago human rights attorney and fashionista Shaz Kaiseruddin may be on to something big by tapping into a $96 billion industry that is covered chic–hijab.
Shaz is spearheading a national contest for aspiring and established designers which will involve them creating their own interpretation of what her company refers to as American Hijab. She wants to dispel myths while at the same time showcasing unique fashions that have their roots in centuries old tradition but are as modern and hot as looks seen on the fashion streets of New York, London, Paris and Los Angeles. Set to launch in November, the American Hijab Design Contest will offer widespread exposure and opportunity for designers to interpret this centuries old form of dress any way they can possibly imagine. And the contest will be open to everyone in the US. Contestants need not be a designer or in design school.
Covered chic has been seen among various celebrities (Jennifer Lopez, Rihanna, Madonna, Angelina Jolie among others) and other high profile women in recent years, but its popularity among mainstream consumers appears to be on the rise as well. “Hijabi” hit the runways of the recent New York Fashion Week, which featured a number of “hijab friendly” looks for winter, including those of well known designer Nzinga Knight. “More and more we are seeing covered chic looks on the streets of major cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas and Atlanta,” says Shaz. “Hijab fashion draws from a forward thinking clientele.
There are many American women, including many Muslims, who wish to wear this style and comprise a lucrative market. American trends tend to spread quickly to other countries, thus expanding that market. And we hope that the more commonplace covered chic images become, and the more such images spread through pop culture, the less pressure all women, Muslim or not, will feel to wear clothing they are not comfortable with.”
Shaz has received sound advice and encouragement for the contest from friends, business colleagues, and even some of the industry’s top young designers, including Jeffrey Sebelia, winner of Project Runway’s third season, and Alexis Bittar, recipient of the 2010 CFDA Accessory Designer of the Year award. She hopes to attract sponsors and celebrity participation, possibly as judges.
What really drove home the idea for a large scale design contest happened after a friend who is blond with blue eyes converted to Islam and began to wear hijab. “Suddenly, the first question from people meeting her was ‘where are you from?'”, says Shaz. “My friend has that All-American, surfer girl look, but the head scarf immediately conjured up misguided impressions, because it is seen as something foreign to America. I’d like to help change that. And instead of taking a more serious approach, I thought we could have fun with it by involving fashion.”
Please take a look at the American Hijab Design Contest – this is an idea born from one woman’s powerful connections between high fashion and universal acceptance of all cultures and religions.
Halim Dhanidina, who spent 14 years as a Los Angeles County deputy district attorney, was appointed to a California Superior Court judgeship May 18 by Governor Jerry Brown.Halim is the first Muslim Superior Court Judge in California.
Muslim Advocates envisions a world in which equality, liberty, and justice are guaranteed for all, regardless of faith, and in which the Muslim American legal community is vital to promoting and protecting these values. In pursuit of this vision, Muslim Advocates’ mission is to promote equality, liberty, and justice for all by providing leadership through legal advocacy, policy engagement, and civic education, and by serving as a legal resource to promote the full and meaningful participation of Muslims in American public life.