Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha an Iraqi immigrant and Director of the Residency Program, Hurley Medical Center helped raise awareness about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan in 2016 .
Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha an Iraqi immigrant and Director of the Residency Program, Hurley Medical Center helped raise awareness about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan in 2016 .
Afsha Ahmed, a teacher at the Army Public School in Peshawar, Pakistan heroically stood between her students and Taliban militants who stormed her classroom on Tuesday December 16, 2014 and gave her life to save the lives of her students.
Tugce Albayrak, a teaching student at Justus Liebig university in Giessen. On November 15, 2014 she rushed to the aid of two teenage girls being harassed at a McDonald’s bathroom. She heard the screams of two teenagers trapped in the corner of the toilet of the restaurant by a man who had been threatening them and confronted the man. Later, the man attacked Tugce in the parking lot of the McDonald’s striking her unconscious.
She was later put on life-support, but at the request of her family she was removed from life-support due to doctors saying she did not have after doctors had told them she was brain dead and would never recover.
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.”
Sadia Saifuddin (BA ’14) has been 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.
The mission of MakeSpace is to serve as an inclusive, responsive and transparently-managed hub for the Washington Metropolitan area Muslim community, with a strong focus on youth and professionals, to grow spiritually, intellectually and professionally and to develop an American Muslim identity rooted in the values of balance and compassion through educational programs, civic engagement initiatives, community service projects and recreational activities with the aim of making the timeless message of Islam relevant to the lives of all community members.
Kübra Gümüsay is the co-founder and press-officer of the Zahnräder network for active, creative and intellectual Muslim entrepreneurs in Germany (ranked amongst the top 20 visionairy ideas in 2011 by Generation-D and financed e.g. by the European Union Youth in Action Programme) and am involved in various social projects on areas such as social blogging, diversity and feminism.
According to Germany radio , she is one of the most influential minds of Islam in Germany.She is also the first Hijabi Columnist in Germany.
Hammad Aslam was set to start medical school in Augusta in the fall of 2009 when a car accident almost took his life. But paralysis from the chest down only delayed his plans by one year. Hammad has overcome many obstacles and is now pursuing his doctorate at the Medical College of Georgia.
MH: You overcame a pretty serious life-changing event in your life. Can you tell us more about it and how you overcame it?
I was in a car accident with my family in May of 2009. Our SUV hydroplaned off the road and hit a tree. The tree fell on top of my corner of the vehicle, crushing me under the roof and glass. Thankfully, no one else was seriously hurt. My dad fractured a bone in his forearm and had a small neck injury. My mom had a minor injury to her ribs. My younger sister broke her leg and my youngest sister was untouched. My older brother was away at the time.
I am just blessed to be alive. I received a traumatic brain injury with a skull fracture and bleeding in my brain, nerve damage in my right arm, and a complete spinal cord injury. I spent a few weeks in an unconscious and semi-conscious state. I do not recall anything from this time period and I do not even remember getting into an accident.
I came consciously aware of things a few weeks later. At the time, I was in the traumatic brain injury unit of the Shepherd Center because my brain injury was so severe that the doctors all predicted that I would be permanently inflicted with mental deficits on top of my physical handicaps. I spent a few weeks in that unit before I was transferred to the spinal cord injury unit. I spent three months as an inpatient at the Shepherd Center and continued to come there for therapy for several months after I was discharged and living at home.
MH: How have friends and family helped you overcome some of the challenge you’ve faced?
I had and still have a very strong support system consisting of my family and friends. They have always supported any and all goals I have had. They have been there in my darkest of times, when I have been let down, when I have fallen and when I have failed. Thanks to my family and friends, it has been much easier adjusting to this new life and new circumstances. I was never really allowed to consider myself different from anyone else and I was never really given the time for any self-pity.
My parents and friends never let me feel that I was any different. I knew that I was placed in that situation for a reason. In fact, I was thankful to be the one lying in the hospital bed and not any of my family members or friends.
MH: Did faith play a role in overcoming your challenges, if so, how?
It’s very easy to blame and be angry at God or other people when we are in disadvantageous circumstances. It would have been way too easy to ask, “Why me? Why was I chosen for this?” Instead, I have been thankful. No one else who was in vehicle at the time was seriously injured like me. None of my friends have been injured like this. Thank God. I would never want to see any of them in this situation. I believe there is a reason for everything and that we are given only as much as we can handle. Therefore, I am thankful that I have been put in this situation and not anyone else. I know that this is all part of a plan that none us can foresee and that in the end, things will be alright.
MH: What inspired you to pursue medical school?
I have always wanted to go to medical school and become a doctor. After my accident, though, I knew I wanted this even more. It became even more apparent to me that my true calling was in the relief of the suffering of others. I have suffered a lot and I do not want anyone else to suffer like I have or suffer in their own circumstances, whatever those may be. Medical school was also a big challenge. I knew that people doubted me with many things so I wanted to prove to them—and to myself—that I could do it.
MH: What challenges did you face and have you faced on your road to medical school?
The first challenges in medical school included just adapting to living completely alone. I was stubborn and I somehow convinced my family to allow me to move away to a different city and live by myself, without any roommates or helpers. This was only a year after my accident and I was still adapting to my disabilities. Doing everything in a wheelchair for the first time took longer than I expected.
On top of adapting myself both physically and mentally to these new circumstances, I also found myself struggling in medical school. I was quite timid and had a significant inferiority complex. I felt like everyone was smarter than me. I was afraid to speak up during our discussions. I also found myself studying harder I ever had before and harder than anyone else in my class, but I was barely getting by. This was extremely frustrating and I was very upset about this. But I adapted. I knew I could do this, one way or another, so I adjusted by study habits to study both smarter and harder than ever before.
MH: You certainly have remained active in the Atlanta Muslim community. Tell us more about your work and what motivates you to serve others?
The first year after my accident before I started medical school, I knew I had to do something productive. I knew that it would be selfish of me to try and work hard only for the benefit of myself. So, I decided to immerse myself in different volunteer activities, especially since I wasn’t doing much at home. I knew that doing things in the service of others would in turn benefit me more than anyone else, in both the short and long term.
MH: What advice would you give to others facing the same challenges you’ve faced on pursuing their dreams and goals in life?
First off, I wish and pray that no one faces the same challenges I have faced. That being said, many people face their own challenges in their pursuit for accomplishing the tasks that they plan or of which they dream. As I stated earlier, it is too easy to blame our circumstances on God or on other people. It is too easy to simply accept our circumstances as “just the way God wants them to be”. Instead, I feel like people should not look at different situations as something from God and that must simply be accepted, but these situations should be looked upon as challenges. It is these challenges and the way we react to them—or fail to react to them—that define us.
MH: What advice would you give to those seeking to pursue medical school?
I hear all the time about people who have plans to go to medical school. To these people, I propose that they do some self reflection and contemplate upon why they want to purse this profession. Are they doing this because their parents have been telling them their whole lives that this is a good idea? Are they doing this because they feel like it’s a noble profession? Are they doing this for the job security?
I knew that this was my calling and I knew the disabilities that I had been given would only help me and help others in the long run. Therefore, I was willing to work harder than anyone else I knew.
I suggest others really “get their hands dirty” in terms of learning about this profession. Learn about the ups and downs. Learn about life. Perhaps more importantly, learn about death. I have faced my own mortality and it has given me a completely new perspective on life. It was only after I had almost everything taken away from me that I was able to think clearly.
You can follow Hammad here on his blog: http://mindofhammad.blogspot.com/
Yassin Alsalman, better known by his stage name The Narcicyst (or Narcy), is an Iraqi-Canadian journalist and Hip Hop MC.
MH: Tell us about how you got into rapping? What inspired you? How’d it start?
It really all started with a Wu-tang Tape. That eventually became an obsession with Hip-Hop culture and its ability to mix and match independent experiences into one ‘brand’ or movement. My life has been a jumbled traveller experience, so I went from there and started just documenting the culture. Back in the 256K modem days, I would go online and download images and create folders of my favorite artists with their lyrics, album covers, just anything I could find. Eventually I started recording in my room flipping segments of instrumentals I would find online and looping them. I would record to that on a two-tape Sony stereo with my boys. Writing took over for years. I moved back to Canada in 2000, hit the studio with my brothers-from-another-mother SandhiLL and started recording. The rest, as they say, is mystory.
MH: What topics or issues guide inspire your music?
At first, I was very influenced by politics. I would spend hours digging the past and how it has affected the present, then write songs. After 9/11, we really started defending our origins, religion and distancing ourselves from senseless acts of violence and speaking out against the unjust invasions of the early 2000s. As of late, I’ve been digging into my personal past, and taking from day to day experiences in Canada and building narratives that are relatable. We are an international population, that of the Diaspora. I believe that this shapes my new music more than anything; the people I meet at shows and around the world on my travels, that belong nowhere and everywhere at once. The limitless immigrants.
MH: Your music style is unique—what influences the sound of your music? Your cultural background? Your faith? Your life experiences?
I am heavily influenced by classical music, layering different genres and sounds. I can record a sound from the streets and use it in my music. I think definetely the ‘ethos’ behind my music comes from my religion, but it isn’t the main body of influence to my work. Like I said, I am an amalgamation of so many cultural by-products, and so is my music. I get bored easily, so I like my music to be rich and push my own boundaries, as well as those that the public expect of a “hip-hop artist”. It’s all about jumping through boxes. and back out of them.
MH: Are there any artists who inspired you or influence your style of music?
So many……I also consider writers and ‘intellectuals’ artists. They have a way of presenting thoughts that make you want to learn more. That is an art in itself. My influence grows daily, so there isn’t one specific person. The world is the best place to find inspiration.
MH: What role does hip hop or music play in educating listeners about topics and issues not usually spoken about?
I think hip-hop is one of the most versatile artforms and cultures. That is both a gift and a curse. A gift because it can directly transport someone to another experience, another world, another reality. It serves as a document of the juxtapositions you can experience in modern society and its pitfalls/achievements. It’s a curse because it can be a self-destructive form of music as well, which can be blamed on an industry, or the individual. At the end of the day, Human nature, as a practice, is both self-involved, destructive and beautiful and community driven. Hip-Hop has no inhibitions, it is a place where you can be yourself, or be someone else.
MH: What has the response been to your more critical lyrics about political and social issues?
I never worry about peoples reactions. You are always going to have the good and the bad. But what I did notice about being uber-political at all times, is it invites that destructive and divisive energy into your home. We, as Hyphenated-Arab artists, are learning to channel those emotions and experiences to share them as growing experiences, as opposed to defensive stances. I think, once we learn that art, we will thrive internationally. It’s still early but I think we will get there in the next couple of years.
MH: How do you balance your Western identity with your Iraqi identity?
Like a Juggler! I’m split in half, I really don’t think about it anymore! I love it!
MH: Do you feel there’s more of an appreciation for hip hop with meaning and positive messages or is there still a long way to go for artists like yourself to get your message out to more mainstream listeners?
I think there is a balance. I am not a preacher, nor am I a politician, nor am I perfect. I think being self-aware, critical and at the same time funloving, is the best way to approach creativity. That way you grow, the viewer grows. It’s a beautiful transformation.
MH: There are some people who say that hip hop has a negative influence on the youth and encourages the wrong values and lifestyle for the youth and overall is a bad influence on the youth. What are your thoughts?
I say those people have a one track mind. Music in general has the ability to sway people in two directions. It all depends on the people taking it in, and their circumstances. I think we should blame violence on our societal values and how its reflected in our media and arts. TV is the most violent medium on the mind, so I would look at CSI and stuff like that before I would look at music. Violence is perverse, people are attracted to it. It’s hard to blame one genre for it. I also believe that justifies the outside worlds actions against people of ‘ethnic’ origin. It’s a way of demeaning the power of the displaced. Because we are truly free, devoid of the boundaries of the programmed world.
MH: If there were a mainstream artist you’d like to do a collaboration with who would it be with and why?
I don’t really believe in mainstream vs. underground. Success is deemed by your actions and how far you can take it. I would love to collaborated musically with Kanye, lyrically with Kendrick Lamar, Lupe, Sade, Erykah Badu. There are so many, the sky is the limit. I’ve been blessed to have met and hung out with some of my favorite artists, and I would rather share a meal with someone and talk, then to only work with them.
MH: What’s your favorite song you’ve produced and why?
I would say, my favorite song would be something coming up on my next album. The best feeling is finishing a song and saying “wow, where did that come from”. The new stuff is alot different to my old work. I love and hate everything I make. haha!
MH: What advice would you give to individuals who want to pursue a career in hip hop or music like yourself?
Be Yourself. Realise you are not the best, but strive to be the best you can be. Don’t compete with anyone but yourself. Don’t follow trends, set your own standard. And always think about the repercussions of your words. How will you feel about this music ten years from now? Short term solutions can lead to long term problems.
MH: How can we keep up-to-date with your music and support your work?
Follow me at @TheNarcicyst on twitter, look up ‘The Narcicyst’ on facebook (https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Narcicyst/90624925723) and join my page. Soundcloud me. All that! Follow my crew @WeAreTheMedium on twitter and facebook as well. We have some really really really fun stuff coming up this year! LOVE!
Yusuf Misdaq is a multimedia artist, writer, creative consultant, and is founder of the arts website Nefisa, which also doubles as an independent media label- Nefisa UK.
MH: You’ve got a pretty unique cultural background, can you tell us more about your unique cultural background?
My parents are Afghan, from Afghanistan, and I grew up in a beach town called Brighton in England. It was a nice place, and we were the first Afghan family there.
MH: How does your faith and cultural background influence your work?
Well I’m not unlike lots of Muslims raised mostly in the West in that my faith and even cultural background have been blurred slightly by echoes of displacement, and all of the insecurity that comes with that. You find yourself in a constant state of searching and yearning and trying to find out what is authentic, what feels real and true, in both the cultural and spiritual aspect, and of course this path is one that can be walked parallel with the path of artistic expression. I think taken as a whole, the Muslim community also doesn’t really know who it is at large, and that’s reflected in the disunity we sometimes see creeping in. Everyone is claiming to be the middle way and the voice of reason, but claims are one thing.
MH: What role do you feel art plays in the world? Can it be a tool for education? Social change?
Yes it is, all of those. It can also be a tool for ego and selfishness too. So as artists we have to constantly keep ourselves in check, and be around others who keep us in check. We’ve got to make sure we remember that our goal is no different to that of a taxi driver or a ticket salesman, i.e. to constantly serve other humans.
MH: In recent times, Muslim artists have been primarily defined by calligraphy. What other forms of art do you feel are becoming more appreciated and recognized in the Muslim community?
Any forms of art that are wholesome are quickly accepted by the community. A community is just that, a community. It’s easy to be in the comfort of your own home and make art, but that’s also not very conducive to getting other people to invest their time in your work. I spent far too long isolated and working on my own art when I was living in the UK, simply because I didn’t feel there was a community for me at that time, and I suffered a lot because of that. But the beautiful thing about America is that the traditional community spirit is very much alive here in many ways, and so, if you know someone from your community, and they are given the chance to display their talent, it is usually appreciated and potentially supported too.
MH: In what ways can we educate the Muslim community about its artistic history, increase its artistic innovation and creativity?
Muslims can read more hadith and the quran instead of relying on the conjecture of others, doing so will also lay the foundation for them to be far more educated about art, art history and positive innovations in creative, social spheres (all things which tend to thrive when traditional Islam is being implemented); likewise, when a distorted or muddled Islam becomes the norm, those are usually the first things that get wiped out. Being an Afghan, I have seen this quite starkly in my own country. Regarding music, the most contentious issue, we have to be brave enough to face it fully, to face ourselves honestly, and understand the issues fully, at least to the best of our abilities. The unexamined life isn’t worth living, and if anyone out there has ever found themselves feeling conflicted about whether music is okay or not, they should put down whatever they’re doing and look into it. I did. Al-Ghazzali is probably the most reliable and trustworthy source to read regarding the permissibility of music, so my recommendation would be to use him as your starting point. What he says is both uncompromising, incredibly enlightened and subtle at the same time.
MH: As a Muslim artist you have quite a unique direction—you’ve done writing, film making and art. What out of those three is your favorite and why?
Those mediums are all just different strands of life; life is my favorite :) I’m very grateful to be alive and to have fingers and a voice that I can use for good. There’s nothing unique about making art, pictures, or writing (or rather, there shouldn’t be) – I think the wider ones eyes become to life, both the inner and outer forms of it, the more one is compelled to write and sing about it. It’s brilliant.
MH: How did you learn all of your different modes of artistic expression? Were you self-taught or did you have formal education in film, writing and art?
I have an MA in documentary filmmaking, although I have been writing and making music for far longer. Painting and writing and music have all been learned through great masters that I loved, observing their work, imitating it in some ways, and then just carrying on. I wish I had more time to spend with each of them in my week but life pulls you in so many different directions.I was recently fortunate to stay with two amazing wood-carvers in New Mexico for some weeks, Binyamin van Hattum and Omar Cashmere, both of whom are masters of their craft who contributed significantly to the famous Mosque in Abiquiu (they’re both Muslim too). I was really just blessed to be able to watch them, each in their own workshops, doing what they do for somewhat extended periods of time, and I did my best to pick up some of the very basic fundamentals. So, I have been delving much more into wood sculpting and also clay sculpture in the last year or so, which has been a lifelong ambition and one I’m really grateful that I’ve been able to start at such a young age.
MH: What type of art do you feel personally helps you best express yourself, your ideas and your thoughts?
Any art that comes from the heart. Art and heart rhyme :)
MH: Tell us more about Nefisa. What is it?
Nefisa-UK, in its current form, is a media label that I originally founded in 2002. It’s a small company that publishes books, novels, poetry, and releases and distributes music as well as other artworks. This year we had our very first American intern, Benneh Massaquoi, who has been a real blessing to have on board, and we’ve been working on a lot of exciting projects together, including the new Kindle e-book releases of my first two novels, which just recently came out.
MH: Do you feel there’s a revival of appreciation for art in the Muslim community?
Not really. People like to talk about it a lot, because talking about art and creativity really helps those in authority positions look open-minded and culturally sophisticated. When you start to see really great quality art coming from Muslims as the norm and not the exception, then you will know that both appreciation, good taste, and support for the arts in the Muslim community will have increased dramatically. As it is, artists of real quality are quite few and far between, and most of them are fighting a battle with the scales tipped heavily against them, both monetarily and, from within their own society, culturally. I mean, just imagine if a taxi driver had to carry around people in the back of his car who kept on leaning forward and telling him that taxi-driving was a haram profession, or hinting subtly that what he did was not a real or respectable job. He would still drive every day, because he had to, but it would get him down after a while and make it tougher to do what he does well. As I said before, the Muslim community hasn’t really come to grips with who it is and what it wants to be, especially here in the West. When it does that, the love will be felt much stronger and everyone will benefit.
MH: Tell us more about your book, Pieces of a Paki, what is it about, what inspired you to write it?
It’s my first novel. It came out in 2007 and everyone who reads it really likes it. Go in with an open mind and you will too. It recently came out as a Kindle e-book, which you can get on Amazon.
MH: You have a new album out this year called IF YOU ASK ME, YES! which came out on February 14th of this year, can you tell us more about this album and what it’s about?
It’s about the power of being and staying positive in the face of a crumbling society. It’s music that I sculpted out of love for people, and a desire to see people happy. I have spent a lot of time working in the media, and I’ve seen first hand how humanity is in a daily tug of war between optimism and pessimism. Between faith and what they would call “reality as it is”. I see things a little differently, and so, along with a lot of musical influence from my time in Malawi, I was blessed to be able to make this album to express my ideas. In it, I am telling everyone that it is going to be all right, that love will win, essentially.
MH: If you could work with any artist in any artistic field who would you want to work with and why?
Ishmael Butler, who is the MC for the group Shabazz Palaces. He’s the greatest artist alive in Hip-Hop today and has been for quite a long time. Yasin bey would also definitely be in the conversation too, I respect them both a whole lot. I’d also love to work for Terrance Malick in any capacity, whenever it is that he makes his next film. I like always being a student.
MH: What advice would you give to aspiring artists who would like to pursue the same career path as yourself?
If your will is strong, prove it. If you have the desire, then prove it. Make something, and bring it to the world, if you want to. It’s not easy, but if you can do it, you’ll smile at the end, and all your ends will start to become beginnings.
MH: How can we keep up with your work and support your work?